As much as I hate to admit it, my mom is (almost) always right. Since I had my stroke, I’ve been living back home with my parents, undergoing all sorts of intense rehab and taking baby steps towards independence. My ultimate goal is to reach a point where I can move out and live successfully on my own. I’m not sure when that will happen, but I feel quite confident that it will happen. I’ve been working diligently towards this goal, achieving a series of smaller recovery milestones on the path to ultimate independence.
In October of 2019, I hit a major landmark: traveling for the first time post-stroke without my parents accompanying me. And it was an international trip too. Granted, I was traveling with my brother, so I wasn’t completely alone, but still… Little victories. There’s a first time for everything.
Then in February of 2020, I traveled alone alone down to Atlanta, Georgia, to visit my friend Megan. This was an exciting trip and a big deal for me. I’ve flown multiple times since my stroke with my parents, but I hadn’t flown by myself on an airplane without anyone to help me manage my luggage. That trip was a success, and proved to me that I could handle more than I previously thought I could. I was anxious for another opportunity to test my independent travel capabilities.
But then COVID-19 struck. And suddenly I wasn’t traveling anymore. But then again, no one was. Fortunately my whole family stayed home, healthy, and safe. Much as I wanted to travel places and exert my independence, there was nowhere to go with travel restrictions and state-wide shut downs.
Fair enough. So one aspect of my independence journey had to be put on hold for a bit. I wasn’t taking a step back in my recovery (a lateral one, maybe), so I began using my newfound time to make progress in other areas. But I’ll dive into that in another blog post. Back to travel.
A couple of weeks ago, I was FaceTiming a good friend from college, Jade, and by the end of our chat, I had made the decision to visit her down in Puerto Rico. I was ecstatic; some of our other friends were coming too, so it would be like a little Georgetown reunion. It had been way too long since I’d seen all these people together in the same place.
The whole trip was very last minute, but I managed to book a flight and a hotel without too much of a hassle. The following two weeks went by very quickly, and all of a sudden I found myself a mere two days away from my trip.
If you’re anything like me, planning and organizing post-stroke can sometimes be difficult. Ever since I decided to go on the trip, my mom had been pestering me to create a checklist of things I would need to pack to go to Puerto Rico. “Ugh Mom” I moaned. “It’s literally just clothes, bathing suits, and toiletries. I don’t need a checklist.”
But my mom had a point. “Things are different for you now, Maddi,” she said. “Remember that time that you left the charger for your Bioness at your friend’s apartment and then he had to mail it home to you? You don’t want something like that to happen again, because it’s going to be much harder to mail something back from Puerto Rico than it is from New York City. But if you make yourself a checklist ahead of time, then when you’re packing to head home you’ll have something to look back on to make sure you got everything. You really don’t want to leave something behind there.”
Ok, I had to admit, she had a point. My judgment isn’t the same as it used to be, and I could definitely see myself forgetting something important like my brace or my bioness charger at a hotel in Puerto Rico. And so, as much as I did not want to admit that my mom was right, I agreed to make a checklist of everything I would need for this trip.
I organized my checklist by priority level. I started with the items I could definitely not go without: my brace, my Bioness, my nighttime splint, my weight-bearing splint, etc. My list continued in descending levels of priority: bathing suits, enough clothes for the trip, toiletries, makeup. If I left behind an article of clothing or makeup oh, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but what would be the end of the world would be leaving behind my brace or my wallet.
As annoying as it was to devise this master checklist, it was a great exercise in planning. My cognitive therapists would have been so pleased. If only they could see me now.
And so, I feel inclined to share this lesson with all of you. I’ve learned to not rely on my memory, or rather, what my memory once used to be, because I am a different person now. Sure, the old Maddi did not need to make a packing checklist, but Maddi 2.0 does. It’s unfortunate, sure, but I’m a different (better) person now, and I want to do whatever I can to make my life easier for myself. If that means making more lists, so be it. There are worse things.
And on that note, I need to go. I’ve got some packing to do.