Go Bulldogs!

I thought that by heading down to Georgia for the weekend I would be escaping the cold weather and snow in the Northeast, but turns out I was just ditching my mild Northeast winter for snow in the south.

On February 7, I flew out of Newark to Atlanta to enjoy a weekend with one of my best friends, Megan. Megan and I have a very special friendship and great how-I-Met-You story. Back in 2003, my family headed down to Key Biscayne, Florida for a nice spring break vacation. Little did I know at the time that on this trip I would meet a lifelong friend. Megan and her family were also headed to Key Biscayne that same week to see their friend Dwayne Wade play his first game for Miami Heat. Our families happened to stay at the same hotel, The Ritz Carlton in Key Biscayne.

One day while I was playing at the hotel pool, a girl approached me and asked if I wanted to play with her. Megan had seen me reading poolside and playing mermaids with my sister. She also loved to read, and so we bonded over our shared interest. For the rest of the week we spent time together reading, playing mermaids, and enjoying nachos and virgin daiquiris at the pool. We had a spectacular time, and when our vacation drew to a close, we decided to remain friends.

And so we kept in touch the old-fashioned way, through letters. For a long time we remained penpals, sending each other letters and books to read for our own book club. All throughout middle school before either of us had cellphones and could text, we would call each other on the landline and chat for hours. I visited Megan in Wisconsin while her dad was the basketball coach for Marquette, and again in Indiana when her family moved there for basketball. Megan has come to see me in New Jersey, down at the beach, and our families vacationed together in Delray Beach, Florida. Megan is one of my longest friends and I am so thankful that we have stayed in touch through the years.

Megan lives in Atlanta now, and her family is a quick drive away in Athens, as her dad is now coaching the basketball team at the University of Georgia. It is his second season, and I had been saying that I would go catch a game, and so this past weekend I finally did.

And so, after a half day of work on February 7, 2020, I grabbed my suitcase and headed to the Newark Airport to catch a flight down to Atlanta. I was feeling tired after a long work week, but I was so excited for this trip and really looking forward to spending time with Megan and her family. I needed this, and as I was scheduled for a bilateral strabismus surgery the following week, I wanted to have as much fun as I could the weekend before my operation.

I was so excited, but let’s just say that the trip down to Georgiadid not go as smoothly as anticipated. I called an Uber to take me from my house to the Newark Airport. Thankfully my driver was able to help me put my luggage in the trunk. I took off my backpack and set it next to me in the car. My Uber driver was from the Dominican Republic, and so we chatted in Spanish the whole way about the beautiful country. And when we arrived at the airport, my Uber driver gave me his business card. I enjoyed our conversation so I pocketed the card in case I ever needed to reach out. I grabbed my suitcase from the trunk and headed in to the airport to check my bag.

In planning this weekend away, I had decided that I would pack a suitcase and check it for the flight so I wouldn’t have to worry about managing a carry-on. I wasn’t sure I would even be able to lift a carry-on to stow above my chair. I figured checking a suitcasethis would be much easier for me. Unfortunately, when I made it to the kiosk and turned around to reach for my backpack and grab my wallet, I realized that my backpack was not on my back. Which means I left it in the Uber.

Thankfully, I had listened to my mom this morning and put my wallet with my credit card and ID in my jacket pocket, because it would be easier to access there than if it were in my backpack. I didn’t want to reach around into my backpack and hold up the security line, shuffling around until I located my wallet. And thank goodness I listened to my mom, because I didn’t even have my backpack with me to check even if I wanted to! I remained calm and opened my Uber app to try and find a way to get in touch with my driver. When I was unable to do so, I remembered that he had given me his card, and so I reached into my pocket to find my wallet, my phone, and my Uber driver’s business card. It pays to be friendly with your drivers! I dialed both numbers on the business card and finally got in touch with him, only to discover that he was with another passenger en route to New York. Since I had my wallet in my jacket pocket, I knew that I technically had everything I needed to fly down to Atlanta. My backpack had my chargers and AirPods, but that was about it. I could get by without it. So I proceeded to check my bag and head through security.

When I made it through security, I called my Uber driver again and he offered to drop off my backpack at my house when he was done with his ride. It’s moments like these where I feel especially grateful that there are kind people in the world. He was such a nice guy, and graciously offered to drive my backpack from the Bronx to my house in New Jersey, where my mom would be able to receive it on my behalf. The whole situation was a s***show, yes, but with the best possible outcome. My mom got my backpack, and I made it safely to the Atlanta airport, where Megan was waiting to greet me.

My weekend was off to a rocky start, but at least I had my wallet and my suitcase. Megan drove us to Athens straight from the airport. I was upset by my backpack mishap from earlier that day, but in the car ride over to Athens I made the active decision to not let it ruin my trip. I reminded myself how excited I was to get to spend time with Megan and her family. After all, I had the most important things I needed, mainly my suitcase and wallet, so I would be totally fine for the rest of the weekend. And my Uber driver was nice enough to drop off my backpack at my house so I knew it was safe.

I knew that we had a fun weekend planned and I was very excited for the basketball game and to see the town of Athens. So I put the backpack out of my mind and committed to enjoying my time there. After a good night’s sleep in Athens, I woke up to snow fall. Not a ton of snow – it was more like a flurry, but what I remember from my days of living in Atlanta is that the south can’t handle snow, and the state shuts down in a panic at the slightest bit of snow. It was flurrying, but luckily the restaurant that we were planning to go to on Saturday was still open. So we headed into downtown Athens for brunch and shopping, but most of the shops were closed due to the weather. Brunch was delicious, but the walking around made me tired, so I was thankful when Megan suggested we just head home because of the weather and rest up before the basketball game that night.

When we got home, I passed out hard. The nap was much needed. I am making an active effort these days to not overexert myself and really be in touch with my body and understand my limits. I was tired from a hard week of work and welcomed the opportunity to rest in between our activities that weekend.

After my nap I got dressed and we headed over to the game. Georgia played Alabama, and it was a really close game, but with Alabama ultimately winning 105-102 in overtime. After the game, we went out to enjoy some margaritas and Mexican food with an Asian flare. I was happy I had taken the time earlier to rest so I could handle our outing.

I was having a blast this weekend, but the fun wasn’t over yet. My flight home wasn’t until Sunday night, so on Sunday morning I said goodbye to Megan‘s family and we drove into Atlanta. We met one of Megan‘s friends for brunch at Barcelona Wine Bar and then walked around Little Five Points, did some shopping and got tarot card readings.

After, Megan and I drove to Ponce and did some more walking around and shopping. Since I had left my AirPods in my backpack (which was now at home, thank goodness), I bought myself a book to read on the plane ride home. When Megan dropped me off at the airport, I checked my luggage and got through security in no time. Because I wear a brace, I typically get patted down when going through airport security. For some reason, on my flight from Newark to Atlanta, I didn’t have to remove my shoes and no one stopped me to pat me down. However, on the flight from Atlanta to Newark, I was stopped because of my brace. It’s annoying constantly explaining to people that it’s just a leg brace and I need it to walk. inevitably I always end up getting a pat down. And it’s not always a quick process, either. That is part of the reason why I started arriving extra early to the airport when I have a flight. I never know how long security is going to take, and things generally take longer for me now. But this time, it was a fairly quick process and I got home all in one piece.

While I had packed my Bioness unit to wear that weekend, I ended up not wearing it because I didn’t want to deal with the stress of having to re-wet my electrode every four hours. Who knew if I would be at a place where I could run the electrode under water? I didn’t want the stress, and so for those two days I just wore my brace.

My trip to Georgia was fun and a much-needed escape from my busy day to day. Although I misplaced my backpack, and although it snowed, I kept a positive attitude and tried my best to not let the bumps in the road get to me. In recovery and in life, the attitude we choose to have can completely alter our trajectory, for better or worse. By choosing to stay positive about the weekend and not get down on myself, I ended up having a great time and enjoying myself. Life is too short to give in to negativity. Every single moment of every day we have a choice to make of how we want to live our lives. Will we choose positivity or give in to negativity? It’s up to us.

Now when I travel, I try to not set crazy expectations, because things can easily go awry. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned. Maybe we lose our backpack, or get tired early in the day and need to head back for a nap. Whatever it is, it’s important to remember to listen to our body’s cues, understand our limits, and take breaks when needed. There’s no shame in resting if that’s what we need to better enjoy ourselves later. The important thing to remember is that we (quite literally) only live once, and our life is happening now, so how are we going to make the most of it?

Stay tuned for a post in the coming weeks on my experience with bilateral strabismus surgery to correct my double vision after stroke. The operation went smoothly on February 12 and I look forward to sharing the experience with you all in the coming weeks. Onward! 💪🚀

Megan and me at the Georgia basketball game

Megan and I in Atlanta

2 thoughts on “Go Bulldogs!

  1. I loved this story about your trip to Georgia! With work I’ve fallen so far behind on my personal e-mail so I hadn’t seen it right away. The security thing with a brace had recently come up for me. I was inside the gatehouse at a prison where I set of the metal detector even though it has only very small metal rivets. I explained to the guard it was essential for walking and that I had never been told it was anything to be concerned with when I registered with the state of NC D of C. I think it was actually the screws from my craniotomy. A female guard approached and asked if I would just agree to a more thorough examination and that turned out to be all but yeesh!!

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