Day 342 - Emily (1st person I approached)
December 08, 2014 - When I left home today I didn't take my umbrella, and I dared it to rain while I was out. Of course it rained. I had a doctor’s appointment. My doctor’s office is in a large building that is full of medical offices. The lobby of the building is spacious and has several couches and groupings of chairs. There is usually always people sitting there, quietly, waiting to go to their appointments. Perhaps they're sitting digesting what their appointment has revealed, before heading back out into the world. It’s library quiet. After my own, unremarkable appointment, as I rode down in the elevator, I hoped there’d be someone in the lobby willing to chat with me. That way, I wouldn’t have to wander in the rain as much.
Emily was sitting on one of the black leather couches, or I should say melting into, one of the black leather couches. She said she wasn’t feeling too well, and that she was waiting after her doctor’s appointment, before heading home. We didn’t shake hands.
I described to Emily what I'm doing with this project. Looking around, everyone in the lobby had a device in their hands. I said we all spend so much time looking at our devices, and not connecting with people around us. Emily didn't have a phone in her hand. She told me she was in no hurry to go anywhere, and that she'd be happy to chat.
“I was born in Vancouver at the Children’s hospital, I think. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that's where. I grew up in Richmond,” she said, sitting up.
“I’m an only child. I was adamant that I didn’t want my mother to have any more kids. As children, our primary focus is pretty much on our own wants. I didn’t want to share my mother,” she said, smiling. Her father was a drug addict, and her parents separated when Emily was seven years old.
“My father was addicted to speed. I saw things, as a kid,” she said. “It was just me and my mother.”
“I liked elementary school a lot. We were all just kids, and everyone seemed to get along and liked one another, for the most part. In high-school that changed. There was the bullying and picking on kids. I didn’t experience any bullying myself, but I saw it first hand,” she said. Emily had only a few close friends, by choice.
“They knew why my father wasn’t around. Everyone has there own thing growing up," she said.
"My mother and I have always gotten along well. She’s been a great mother and she’s stern. That confuses people. They’ll say ‘how can you say she’s great, if she was stern?’ I appreciate that my mother was always watching out for me. I wouldn't have done nearly so well in school if it hadn't been for my mother. I guess I was somewhat afraid of her, or the consequence of failing. But afraid in a good way,” said Emily, with a warm tone in her voice.
“After graduating, I didn’t do anything,” she told me.
“I went to work in retail. I worked in a department store for four years,” she said. I commented that that was hardly ‘doing nothing.’
“I went back to school and took a course to become a Medical Office Assistant. I went to Vancouver Community College,” she said.
Emily says she has always had an interest in health and health care.
“I probably will go back to school, maybe nursing. I’m not sure. I like learning about health, and helping people. I enjoy helping the Doctors. We did training in school to look for signs of anxiety, or stroke, to be able to help someone as soon as they get into the office. We had to learn terminology as well. Often people won’t go to the hospital if they’re dealing with an anxiety issue. Knowing what to look for can really make a difference. Or if someone's having a stroke, so we can get them in to see the Doctor right away,” she said.
'I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)," she told me. Emily is currently working through that.
“It’s ironic, I know. I have health phobia, and I work in a medical office. Health phobia is a part of the anxiety I’m dealing with. Learning to understand that it’s just the anxiety and not worrying about it becoming anything else. Like when my heart rate goes up, learning to stop and just breathe, so I don’t make it worse. I can get worked up so much about anxiety that it brings about symptoms of other things,” she said.
“I was seeing my doctor today because I have tachycardia. That's an increased heart beat - it's over one hundred beats per minute. It’s been like this since last week. That’s why I’m sitting here resting. I’m just too tired right now to make the trip home,” she said. I thanked Emily for her openness and honesty. We talked about how her own situation is making her more empathetic when talking with others. As well as being more compassionate with patients who come into her place of work.
Her father has recently come back into her life.
“I hadn't seen him for a long time. He had bladder cancer. He had surgery to remove that and some other things happened. A lifetime of drugs and now, the consequences of that,” she said.
“I had told my boyfriend, who I’ve been with for five years now, I had told him that my father was dead. It was just easier than going through all of the story. Then I had to tell him that my father was going to be back in my life. My boyfriend is remarkable. He was so supportive and understanding and loving. I’m very fortunate.”
I took Emily’s picture. She didn’t like either of them, so I had to take the photo again. I told Emily that I really didn’t think the second picture I took was bad at all.
“I look like awful,” she said, throwing herself back into the couch, and laughing.
“Fine. You choose then.” I promised I’d mention that she is under the weather.
I said I was really grateful for Emily chatting with me, even when she wasn’t feeling so great, and for being so willing to be open and honest.
"I think you’re doing something really great,” she said.
“What you said earlier is so true. Everyone spends so much time looking at their phones and on social media and people can’t even make eye contact anymore. I mean, even spiritually, I don’t know if you have spiritual beliefs, but our very core need is to connect with other human beings. And it’s not happening purely through social media. We need to talk face to face.” Yet another day I’m grateful to live in a temperate rain forest. #notastranger