By Christy Sillman
21 Oct

Investing in my Future

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ever since I was a little girl I have had this idea in my mind that I wouldn’t live past 30 years old. I’m not sure exactly why, but the catchphrase of “Doctors said she wouldn’t live past three days old and she ended up living 30 years” kept entering my mind. You see, I’ve been living my life on borrowed time. Every year feels like a gift or another year of defiance, and my pure focus has been on surviving.

This isn’t the first time I was convinced I had an expiration date. When I was 13 years old, a Ouija board “told” me I would die when I was 18. When my cardiologist gave me the option to schedule my open heart surgery the summer of 1998, when I was 17, or wait until the following summer, it was a no-brainer. There was no way I’d voluntarily go under the knife during the 18th year of my life.

When I turned 19 years old I felt as though I dodged a bullet, but instead of focusing on my future I just reassigned my expiration date for 2010. I partied and abused my body like I only had 11 more years to live. Then in the month of my 30th birthday I was diagnosed with postpartum dilated cardiomyopathy, a sure sign that my death prediction was correct.

Last month I turned 31.

It was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. It also confirmed to me that I’m quite a silly person. The fact is–we’re all going to die. No one can predict when it will happen. No one can even predict how it will happen. I’ve realized on this birthday that I have been living my life all wrong–instead of enjoying the moment, preserving my health for the future and investing in a full lifetime of experiences, I’ve been living “pay-year to pay-year.”

Birthdays have always felt strange–like my luck in living must be getting close to running out.

I'm stopping this survivor mentality today. Yes, it’s a miracle I’m alive, but I AM ALIVE.

I’ll stop feeling superstitious every birthday and start recognizing that I’ve earned another year.

I’m tired of feeling like I have a lease on life–everyone is lucky to be alive. Anyone could get hit by a car tomorrow. Our congenital heart disease flaunts our mortality in our face and although it stings, at least we acknowledge the preciousness of life.

From now on I’m committed to enjoying my life. I’m also committed to taking the necessary steps to ensure I have many more birthdays. I want to live now more than ever because I have a husband and a son for whom I’m living. Taking care of myself is becoming a top priority.

No matter what happens today or 50 years from now I can't change the fact that I will die someday. I can only hold my son a little closer, leave him love notes to always have, and fall into my husband's arms until my heart is so full of their love that I stop trying to predict the inevitable and start enjoying the present.

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