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Why I Stopped Pursuing My Dream After My Illness Made It Difficult

I was diagnosed at age 17 with severe Crohn’s disease. I didn’t realize the huge impact it would have on my life, my relationships with family and friends – even people on the street – and on my own body and mind.

Since my parents handed me a violin at age 4, I’ve always wanted to be a professional violinist. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to carry it out: would I be in an orchestra? A soloist? A chamber music player? My ideas and dreams changed as I grew and learned – but my determination to persevere as a violinist remained steady.

I was accepted on a full scholarship to a top university’s music school with a teacher I admired and respected – someone who knew about my illness and was willing to accommodate me when I was too ill to attend a class, performance, etc. My freshman year was extremely difficult – but I did it! I knew my dreams were just getting closer to being reality.

Then, this past Christmas, I started getting stiffness in my knuckles, knees, toes and wrists. By early March, I was unable to open doors, tie shoelaces, unscrew a jar or open a water bottle without significant pain – let alone play the violin.

As I went through a few rounds of steroids, which did something but didn’t eradicate the problem, I started to slowly realize that my competence on my instrument was deteriorating.

That’s when I made the decision to break free of my childhood dream. Out of respect to myself, I wanted memories of playing the violin to be happy ones – not ones of me screaming and crying out of frustration and pain as I stared at a sheet full of notes I was once able to play without blinking. I wanted to end my relationship with my instrument with dignity and resolution.

And so, just yesterday, I performed for the last time. I performed one of my favorite pieces for a crowd that loved and supported me. It felt amazing.

Although some people might see this as giving up, I don’t interpret it as such. Instead, I see it as me accepting the unlucky genetic card I pulled; I see it as me reaching out towards my other creative interests, such as writing, reading, being involved in beauty, fashion and social media. I see it as me telling the world that I am more than my illness – and though my illness stopped me from making one dream a reality, I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t be able to do a thing about the great things I will speed on ahead to accomplish.

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Thinkstock photo via michelangeloop.