“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – The road not taken by Robert Frost. In this article, Sorcha goes through why having a chronic illness can sometimes force you to take the road less taken to reach your goals. But despite this, she should still always strive to reach them!
Ask yourself this question. What do you want in life?
Living with a chronic illness can make it difficult to set and keep goals, from small short-term goals to long-term life goals. Even without a medical condition, life goals can be scary. How are you supposed to know precisely what you want in life and then know how to achieve it? The answer is…very few people do.
Still, setting yourself goals is a good idea, especially when you have a medical condition. Short-term, long-term, it doesn't matter, but setting goals helps you stay focused and helps you get the most out of life.
When you feel unwell, and your medical condition is causing trouble, it can take up all your energy both mentally and physically. When this happens, it's okay to put your goals on hold and deal with the roadblock because that's what it is. Once that roadblock is cleared, you can slowly get back to achieving your goal in whatever way you can.
That's another thing. Many, many paths can take you to the same goal. It might take you a while to find the one that suits you, but if you keep looking, you'll find it eventually, and when you're on it, you'll know. However, the important thing is you must keep trying.
I wanted to work in the nutrition field from back when I was in primary school. This probably came from all the dietitians I saw at Crumlin Children's Hospital. I can't say why exactly; I just loved learning about food and how it affects your body. This is ironic, seeing as I have Intestinal failure, so food doesn't often affect my body in a good way often!
When I got to secondary school, I learned about the qualifications I needed to become a dietitian, where I could do this course and the points I needed to get in. I would have to move away from home because the course I wanted was only at University College Dublin (UCD), Coleraine, or University College Cork (UCC). I also need to get at least 540 points, which considering I missed on average about 40-50% of the school due to illness and hospitalisation, was a tall order, but in my head, that was my goal. Long story short, I had to alter my path big time..
There was no way I was well enough to move away from my parents at that time. I had just started my new treatment and was only beginning to feel stronger. I was only figuring out what I could do for myself. I went to Letterkenny IT (now Atlantic Technological University), which meant I could still live at home, and honestly, it was the best thing I could have done. I had just enough independence to slowly figure out my limits and push them while still having the safety blanket of my family there to catch me if I hit a wall (and I hit a few!) I still aimed to go to UCD and get my dietetics degree. I started figuring out how I would get there when I was still doing my undergrad - planning is critical. Then I discovered there were A LOT of roadblocks ahead of me, and I mean tons of roadblocks.
The main roadblocks were accommodation. I couldn’t just live just anywhere, I needed to be somewhere near campus where an overnight carer could stay with me. That brings me to the second major roadblock. Living at home I don’t have carers (unless you couldn’t my parents who do not get carers allowance, they care for me as parents would). Moving away from them would mean I would need carers, especially at night which is when I’m most vulnerable. Cost was another roadblock. Tuition fee, accommodation fee etc. I had savings, but I would still need help and because I couldn’t work full-time in a typical job most people my age would take on it took me longer to save up.
There were plenty of times when I felt like giving up, but then I re-centered myself, looked at the roadblocks I had left, and one at a time, I figured out how to get past them. I had loads of help from my family, doctors, nurses, friends and people who had helped look after me over the years. I did have to make one more alteration to my path. After a challenging discussion with my mum, I realised the course would include a clinical placement in a hospital, and even though at this point, the Covid pandemic was settling down, a hospital was not a place I should be going unless I needed to.
I felt lost at that point.
I wanted to help people by showing them the importance of good nutrition! I decided the
master's in Public Health Nutrition sounded like the perfect alternative to the dietetics
course. I wouldn't be a dietitian at the end of it, but I would be highly qualified in Nutrition and more likely to get a job in that field.
It took a lot of hard work, perseverance, and support from others, but I did it! I have just completed my first year at UCD and loved every minute of it. I still aim to work in nutrition and well-being, but I am more flexible. I try not to let my illness get in the way, but I also make allowances for the fact that I have this illness, and I just have to deal with that.
It doesn't mean I can't reach my goal and be happy.
Goals are important, but don’t be frustrated if you have to change them.