How Living in New York Taught Me to Face Migraines With Bravery

When I was 18, I moved to New York. I had lived in the same mid-sized, Michigan city for my entire life (why is it that 18 feels like an absolute eternity when you’re that age?) and I felt this electric pang in my ribcage to leave my family’s comfortable grasp and take a chance on myself. To explore the slate-gray sidewalks and pre-war walk-ups that I would soon fall in love with, adopt and forever consider home.

It’s not so important that you know the ins-and-outs of my time there, but here’s a Tweet-worthy synopsis if you’re curious: one hellishly satisfying degree later, infinite all-nighters, five months abroad, three Manhattan apartments and one very lovable Brooklyn house. I drank a lot of coffee and ate my weight in everything bagels, too.

new york city

What is notable, to me at least, is that I was brave. I spent six years with no vestibular system, bouncing vision and almost daily migraine pain, in a constant state of “You will not break me, New York!” And while I have since moved back to the achingly comfortable grasp of my life here in the Midwest, I am reminded of a time in my life when I wasn’t afraid to stand up to…my life.

When you’re sick, every day feels like an illogical obstacle course. On some mornings, I actually fight myself on if I have to brush my teeth or not. I kid you not, this is a thing that I do and I apologize to my mirror (and dentist) for everything I’ve ever said when my entire body felt like quicksand. It’s not you, it’s entirely me.

But the tricky thing about life is that – no matter whether you are fighting an endless battle with your body or not – every day of the week feels like a magnet. A dichotomy of push-and-pull, attraction and irreversible repelling.

Whatever your feelings on faith and the universe, I think we can all agree that we have very little control over what happens to us. Opportunities fade, love grows and people walk in and out of our life – sometimes without reason. But what we can control is our reaction to it. How we choose to feel, how we choose to rise and how we choose to be brave.

When I look back on that decision that I made over a decade ago, I am flooded with hope. I am comforted by the fact that if I was once that brave, I can be so again.

I am still figuring out a lot of things about how to embrace my new life of slowness – it’s like crystallized honey at times. Embarrassingly, it does include a lot of mirrored pep talks and inspirational fireside chats (sponsored by my laptop and Netflix). But I refuse to believe that our circumstances solely dictate our stories.

Sometimes you just have to push the magnet back, dig in, and brush your teeth even when every fiber of your being says today is not your day. It is. Do it anyway.

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