Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Boo Radley Emerges from the Shadows

My first year out of college, my friends and I started referring to my extended absences from social life as my Boo Radley phase, in reference to the hermetic recluse in To Kill a Mockingbird. At the time, my lungs were totally unstable and I was in and out of the hospital all the time. Whenever I was home, I was too tired from fighting infections and trying to stay on top of my work projects and grad school assignments to do anything else.

Clearly, it was an isolating time. Despite secondary medical conditions that have sidelined me, my lungs have been much more stable over the past year or so, and it’s been awhile since I cracked a joke about being Boo Radley to friends as I called them to cancel plans.

And yet as Labor Day Weekend fades into the past and autumn is no longer deniable, I find myself feeling a little bit like good ol’ Boo, emerging into the daylight for the first time in a few months and figuratively blinking in the light. It’s the first day of classes at the university where I teach, forcing me to realize just how long it’s been since I’ve had to function in the outside world.

As a writer and a professor, I relish the summer. No student essays to distract me, to trips to campus to meet with students. I can write, write, write (in theory, anyway)—and I never have to leave my home office. Except for intense two-week portion of a year-long fellowship program I am in this July, I haven’t had a set schedule since May. Don’t get me wrong, I did get a lot done. I wrote a ton of freelance articles, I pitched other ideas to editors, and I accomplished the most time-intensive and professionally significant task of the summer, getting an agent for my first book.

But I spent the summer in my gym clothes (which also double as my chest PT clothes). When I didn’t feel well or the humidity got to my lungs, I rested. When my energy levels plummeted—as they often do—I curled up on the couch with my laptop resting on my legs and did my work that way. When I had bad days physically and didn’t feel like dealing with the outside world, I didn't have to. And I never wore heels.

Now I am back in the world of the healthy—at least three days a week, anyway. I am teaching courses about writing for the health professions and how language shapes constructions of health, and the one of the largest roles I play, that of patient, falls all the way to the bottom of the list once the semester begins. Officially, I am an instructor and a writer, and all the signs and symptoms of illness I didn’t have to hide over the summer are back under wraps.

I am really excited and passionate about my content and courses (how could I not be?), and am ready to assume the role of healthy person…almost. I just need a day or so to get used to my September persona..and the heels.

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