My name is Dan. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about me to warrant a website, yet here we are.
I spent my early adulthood complaining about all the money and opportunities I didn’t have. I had big dreams, but no idea how a relatively underprivileged and resource-deprived kid was supposed to make them happen.
Then in late December 2013 I had what was later confirmed to be a stroke, despite the fact that absolutely everyone was of the opinion that I was too young to have a stroke. Christmas in the hospital sucked, and then the doctors discharged me without any answers. After two weeks in a nursing home, I returned to work, barely able to function, because I couldn’t afford to take time off unpaid.
I spent a lot of time thinking and sleeping in the months after that. In those days I had no idea what had happened to me, and no idea if it could happen again at any moment. I was seeing some recovery though, and after forcing my doctor to refer me to a neurologist at a different hospital (Vanderbilt <3), I finally got the diagnosis all my previous nurses and rehab workers had (in retrospect quite obviously) been tiptoeing around: I’d had a stroke. I had legit brain damage, and apparently pretty extensive damage judging by my neurologist’s reaction to the MRI images. And if the stroke had happened at a different time and place than it did, I might have died, or worse–been left unable to take care of myself.
Of course I was terrified, and I dealt with some serious anxiety afterward that resulted in several unnecessary ER visits accompanied by ridiculously patient friends. But I realized that I had a decision to make: I could either moan about my misfortune and limitations and accept hopelessness, or I could fight back.
I’m naturally inclined toward sarcasm and gloominess, thanks to the pesky mood disorder that I’d apparently been living with my whole life (but that had only been brought to light by my anxiety attacks), but I decided to fight back however I could. And I decided that my desire to travel would be a prominent battlefield.
I’d always dreamed of seeing the world, but aside from a few long drives within the U.S. and a couple teenage missions trips, I’d had little opportunity. And now I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to explore, especially since my travels would likely need to be solo. But I went anyway. Creation is too big and beautiful and magnificent to ignore, and it would be better to die trying to see it than to live a fearful shell of a life.
Getting out there was certainly humbling–I learned to boot my pride and ask for help whenever needed–but I made it. And I proved to myself that I didn’t need to live in fear, focusing on what I’d lost. With a little shamelessness and preparation, I embarked on a series of trips that were progressively more challenging, and in doing so I felt more alive and more joyful than I’d ever felt before my stroke.
I also found that I could still participate in the creative activities I’d loved, with some adjustments. The stroke had affected my ability to reliably control my right hand, or to think quickly and consistently, so I decided to put musical performance on the back burner for the foreseeable future. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t still compose. And the stroke had made it harder to concentrate my thoughts into a cohesive and concise narrative, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t keep challenging my brain to do the work of organizing the ideas in my head into words on a page.
So here we are. I’m creating this site to collect in one place the things that keep me fighting. I feel like I’m living on bonus time now, and I don’t want to take one minute of it for granted.