Life Is One

Sometime in the past 5.5 months since my initial surgery, I saw a story on ESPN about a kid named Jake Olson, a blind football player.  (Even though you may think the Falcons were so bad this year, they must have been blind, this is the real deal.)  What amazed me the most was his drive to do what he loved to do, to accomplish a goal so young in life that would keep regret at bay.  He learned how to long snap, he worked hard, and he was eventually long snapping for his high school football team.

A humbling story, to say the least.  So much is taken for granted.  So many people don’t take an opportunity at hand.  Or take a risk to do what they truly love to do.  Jake gets it, and at such a young age.  It’s very hard to describe, and it’s something we have to realize on our own.

I actually began writing this blog the day before my second surgery, but I just wasn’t in the mood to complete it.  Maybe it was the lack of not having real food that day; I’m not sure.  I’m not exactly sure what shape this entry will take, but I just feel the need to type.  I’ve been having some anxiety issues lately, and I just finished typing a long email to a friend, which I found therapeutic.  So here I am.  I’m just going to type.  Doubt I even proofread (shout out to my fellow grammar nazis…have a field day).

After my initial surgery, it felt great to be able to live life again and not have to worry about the bathroom or if I should eat before going somewhere or whatever other problems I used to worry about.  I was able to hang out with friends when the Saints played prime time games.  I drank beer.  I drank rum.  I drank scotch.  I ate what I felt like eating (after 2-3 weeks of course).  I was able to walk around the French Quarter without feeling fatigued when Laura came down for Christmas break.  I was able to play poker without fearing I may have urgency issues in the middle of a big hand.  I can’t even think of an adjective to describe how I felt; I was living again.

My second surgery was February 11th.  The surgery itself went well; the doc removed most of my rectum, and he created the j pouch from my small intestine.  I still have an ostomy bag, so nothing changed there.  Unfortunately, I did contract a nosocomial infection (a risk with any type of surgery), which resulted in two separate hospital stays after my initial stay.  I ended up spending half of February in the hospital, along with the first two nights of March.  Eventually, the infection was gone, and, thankfully, it didn’t turn into something very serious like sepsis.

Since then, I’ve been recovering, albeit slower than what I did after the first surgery.  I feel better now, but before, I would get fatigued fairly easily, feeling out of breath with just a trip down the stairs.  Time is important, and so is staying active, which I’ve been moving around as much as I can.  I’m not sure when my third surgery will be; I’m sure the infection pushed back my recovery at least a little.  I have a follow-up appointment next week, so I’m hoping for the best.

I can’t express enough about how happy I am to be living life again.  I still feel as if there’s room for improvement, and I’m hoping that’ll improve once I have my final surgery and being to recover.  I’ve traveled up to visit Laura in Carbondale, taken a trip to St. Louis, where we ate the best BBQ ever, in the ghetto.  I’ve been able to try new beer (which I’ll eventually post pictures of).  I’ve become turned on to scotch, having tried Glenfiddich 12 and 15 recently.  I’ve done well in a couple of poker tournaments, 12th place in New Orleans out of ~480 and 75th in Biloxi out of ~2000.  I’ve just been having fun, and I wake up excited to see what will happen next.

I was planning to write about poker.  I wrote these paragraphs about a month ago, and I decided to keep them in:

I’m passionate about two things:  helping people and poker.  The second one may sound silly to some people, but I would tell those people to look deeper than just the surface.  Sure, it’s a card game that can be played with your buddies while having drinks, talking, and having a guys’ night.  But for me, and for lots of others, it goes deeper than that.  I’m addicted to the logic behind the madness.  Puzzles and logical thinking are both extremely attractive to me.  I assume this is what attracted me to the medical field and athletic training, and I know it’s what attracted me to poker.  The money aspect of poker is great; I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t.  But to sit there and figure out the best line to take versus specific opponents who are all playing differently, while keeping in mind the various dynamics you may have with each player, past history, and the overall flow of the current game…it’s just tons of fun (and obviously nerdy after reading it myself).

While that’s all fine and dandy, and what you see of TV poker is a lot of glitz and glamour, it’s nothing like that when playing full time as your source of income.  It’s stressful.  It’s a grind.  And you actually have to work hard at it (shocking!).  I can’t just show up to a poker room or tournament and expect to be paid.  I have to remain focused, humbled, and be ready to play my A game for as long as my brain will allow me.  It’s a delicate balance that relies a lot on your brain’s ability to almost constantly process information and then use that information to exploit your opponents.

And, just like a “conventional” job, if you want to improve and get promoted (play bigger games), you have to work hard.  There’s no alternative for hard work.  The only difference is, I can decide when to promote myself.

I’m not sure how long I’ll attempt the full time grind for, to be honest.  I’d like to see how I’m feeling after these surgeries are complete, where my mental state is, and go from there.  I’m being smart about it from a financial standpoint.  I’m confident it’s something I would like to attempt.  I don’t want to regret not making an attempt, but I’m also going to be smart and realistic about everything.  I have multiple backup plans, so I’m not overly stressed about it.  But I’m letting myself feel a small amount of stress/pressure to keep myself motivated.  It’s a mental battle, and that’s something I plan to touch on in more detail at some point in the future.

I wouldn’t have been able to write a better description today.  Poker can serve as a metaphor to life, but it shouldn’t ever take over your life.  There should always be a balance in your life, whether you’re playing a game for a living, working a 9-5, or going to school.  There should be something that allows you to relieve stress:  meditation, working out, hanging out with friends outside of work, whatever works best for you.  It may sound tough to balance work with fun and family; there are only so many hours in a day.  But it’s one of the keys to success.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work hard, but you should also live your life.

I’ve been moved emotionally by a lot since my second surgery, from the hospital stays, to finding out someone close to me has cancer at such a young age.  The thing about him is…you’d never be able to tell.  He has this happy-go-lucky attitude about it.  He realizes he has to have surgery, but he’s not afraid.  He would get it done tomorrow because he realizes it’s something he has to have done.  We view life in a very similar way.  We realize what’s important, and that’s what we focus our energy on.  We don’t let things out of our control stress us out to the max.  It feels free.  It’s what motivates me.  It’s what makes me want to go skydiving, travel the country and the world, learn as many languages as I can, create an awesome app people can use or have fun with, help the world as much as I can.  Because as he says:

“Life is one.”

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