The best thing about my getting older is that I got to start young. Having a moderate case of scoliosis means that I have had arthritis-like pain since I was 15—tiresome stiffness in the morning and intensified dull pain on stormy nights. The pain unfurls from behind my shoulder blades, swells to the base of my skull, and oozes down to my lower back. It hurts when I sleep, stand, move, or bend. When I was first diagnosed, the deformity was heart-wrenching for a self-conscious teenager. The pain made me sad, and then it made me tough.
Now I’m 45. Over the decades, the pain became a part of me and gave me a different outlook. Hardships, both mine and others,’ do not seem so hard. The long-term pain endurance made me much less empathetic. “So what?” I would think to myself when I heard a complaint, though I have learned to keep the judgment to myself. Everyone has the right to experience pain in their own way.
Life will present new pains and losses, and I am more prepared. These facets of aging no longer surprise me. Therefore, the best part of my getting older: becoming unafraid.
- Winnie Nelson (Pharm.D. ’96, M.S. ’03), Whitehouse Station, New Jersey
Photographed by John O’Boyle