1. Fall down on the filthy New York City sidewalks, twice in one month. The first time, land directly on your face. Get a tetanus shot, which actually hurts more than the injury that required it. Heal remarkably quickly, even though a faint rosy spot on the left side of your jaw remains. The second time, execute a swift half-barrel-roll, landing on the back of your left shoulder (much better than your face). Realize, several months later, that these incidents were cinematically-perfect foreshadowing.
2. Stop getting so drunk. Even though you were sober for the second fall. You need to have all your bearings just to stay upright, and alcohol can’t be helpful.
3. Be diagnosed with a mysterious medical condition. Feel confused, disbelieving, frightened, angry, unlucky. Offer up abundant quantities of your blood to make your doctor triple-check. Receive the final results and burst into tears at a coffee shop.
4. Remind yourself that it could be worse. Hear your obnoxious inner monologue say, “Yeah, but it could also be better…”
5. Watch the guy you liked walk away. Know that your pain is not about him, but the weight of a pile of rejections; don’t feel any better. Start crying and don’t really stop for most of June.
6. Sink into the deepest depression you’ve experienced in years. Wake up and cry. Walk to the subway while crying behind your curtain of hair. Cry and sleep. Focus all your energy on not crying at the office or in public.
7. Be the flattest, minimally-functional version of yourself. Hibernate in your apartment; it’s the only safe place. Avoid other humans because you don’t want to get your sadness on them; they might catch it. Send text-message dispatches from your self-imposed prison to gracious friends. Feel completely bewildered, like someone snatched your Life Roadmap from you and tore it to bits, then flushed it down the toilet. Unable to take another step with your newborn foal legs, wish that your mother could pick you up and carry you around in a papoose for a while. Barely eat as your stomach forgets to feel hunger.
8. Lose 15 lbs. Be glad you can fit into your jeans again but feel like you failed because your profound sadness is the only reason you reached your target weight.
9. Move forward with the sinus and nose surgery you’ve been planning to have for a while. Refuse to read or hear anything about what exactly the doctor will be slicing and dicing in your face, so you don’t throw up or back out. Focus on the appointments, blood tests, paperwork and CAT scans that it requires, like it’s a craft project. Feel the sadness loosen a bit.
10. Undergo surgery and let your mother take care of you while you recover like a helpless child. Experience the metaphorical papoosing you wanted. Focus on your physical discomfort more than the emotional. Look as hideous on the outside as you’ve been feeling on the inside. Don’t leave the house for two weeks straight. Give immense thanks for your parents. Watch marathons of Undercover Boss and almost-cry.
11. Be hurt and watch your parents be hurt by someone you all love. Let yourself get angry and say how you feel. Feel betrayed as he spews the darkest words you could ever imagine. After a decade of torment, finally put up a wall he can’t climb over.
12. Comfort yourself with the thought that you’ve received your fair dose of misfortune for now and it’s not likely to get any worse.
13. See your father taken away in an ambulance. Face the reality of your parents’ aging and mortality and cry. Visit him in the hospital three days in a row. Hate seeing him in a flimsy gown, taped up with wires, and know he hates it, too. Admire your mother’s strength.
14. Remind yourself that it could be worse; no one died (yet?). You still have all your limbs (for now?).
15. Return to your real life after surgical sabbatical, facing it with a renewed face. Get a tiny foothold and climb. Pour yourself into the things that make you feel safe and confident: your friends, your work, your apartment. Let your silly manicures give you an absurd amount of joy. Daydream about Iceland.
16. Coaxed by friends, tell the tale of your tribulations over brunch and drinks. Absorb their expressions of horror and empathy. Laugh, because what else can you do?
17. Immediately after one such brunch, get shat on by a bird. Laugh harder.
18. Face forward, move slow, forge ahead.
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