And Away We Go

 

Welcome to the blog! As I prepare to set off on the adventure that is my junior year of college, in Spain and Ecuador, I will be posting pictures, thoughts, and all kinds of good stuff on here for whomever is interested. Please follow me, leave comments, and I will update it as regularly as possible.

To begin, I thought it would be fitting to begin my blog with an update on my life, for those of you both intimately involved and unaware with what has transpired over the last six months. Sitting here today, I can confidently announce I am back to normal, and am excited to get out, study abroad, and see what the world has to offer outside of Boulder, Colorado.

During the spring of my sophomore year, I encountered and battled some of the greatest challenges that have appeared in my life up to this point. The past six months have been a struggle academically, socially, psychologically, spiritually, and physically, presenting a dynamic hydra of obstacles to overcome, with new symptoms seemingly appearing out of thin air to replace or complement existing barriers to overall health and sanity. To begin, one’s sophomore year in college is never an easy one, and I do not mean to imply this by any means. However, an interesting confluence of events resulted in the most trying time of my life. A now semi-diagnosed viral infection crippled my physical and mental capabilities, overwhelming my immune system and throwing my system completely into turmoil. Symptoms included 35 pounds of weight loss, a 50% reduction of functioning white blood cells, severe damage to my bone marrow, and extreme fatigue that invaded every wake of my being. While I am still on the road to recovery battling this mysterious assassin of an ailment, I am that with the crucial aid of countless supporters, I was able to complete the semester and squeak into a hot Boulder summer looking to recover in time for my impending junior year abroad in Spain and Ecuador.

Initially, I was told to persevere through the fatigue that set in the beginning of January, and I’m sure that depression was a common first diagnosis for the dearth of energy that had set in, fogging my mind and dulling my body. My doctors, parents, and friends alike definitely noticed changes in my behavior and began treating me with care, hesitant to say anything to upset the new fragility that encompassed my personality. As the days ticked by, my condition deteriorated while my obligations increased. I fought through a class load of upper division courses, endured long nights of work refereeing basketball, and tried to stay engaged with the clubs and volunteering I was involved with, in addition to working out and staying as active as possible. Work was especially trying, as Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights involved trips to exotic locations such as Strasburg and Fort Morgan, CO as an official for the 3A Patriot League, this year featuring the league champion Brush High School Beet Diggers. I would leave class around two in the afternoon, hop in a car either by myself or with two other refs, often fairly profane, grizzled, middle-aged men, drive across the agricultural hinterlands of northeastern Colorado, work consecutive varsity games (boys and girls), and be home before midnight. The strain of life quickly escalated, and I retreated to my parents’ house more and more, seeking some semblance of calmness in my life.

Finally, return trips to the doctor yielded a presumptive diagnosis of Mononucleosis while I was in Las Vegas for the PAC-12 tournament in mid-March. The news was a massive relief to me, because I didn’t feel depressed, yet the looming proposition that mental angst was causing some pretty significant symptoms was certainly wearing on me. My social life had all but disappeared, as I was often asleep by 9 pm, and it was becoming harder to get through the day with dwindling amounts of energy. My extracurricular involvement had decreased significantly, and I was just trying to complete my classes and finish the semester. Following a permanent move home I was able to do so with the aid of extremely generous and caring professors and the unyielding, amazing efforts of my parents and sister. However, my fatigue persisted admirably, and medical care increased as a result; my family team of doctors joined forces (somewhat with permission) with the Kaiser staff, and a bevy of blood tests followed, as well as a biopsy of my bone marrow. Today the hesitant diagnosis remains an undetermined viral illness of some kind, and my spirits have improved dramatically following a couple months at home. I am still working towards regaining full strength and health, but I am certainly in better shape than I was a month ago. I have resumed hiking, running, biking, lifting, and am feeling every day more and more like the old me!

The past semester revealed capacities of mental fortitude and will within me that, while requiring significant adversity to harness and in addition to the crucial support of my community, give me confidence moving forward with my life. Every adversity in life can be approached in one of two ways, and treating everything as an opportunity offers the greatest ability to be positively affected by the whimsical randomness present in nature. In addition to the personal characteristics that kept my mind sharp while my body withered, however, the loving kindness, generosity, and genuine concern exhibited by dear friends and family and new acquaintances alike continually surprised and invigorated me to push through the impediments that became commonplace in my life. I am extremely proud in what I accomplished during the semester, including a strong semester academically, the completion of my first season as a varsity high school basketball official, helping plan the Conference on World Affairs, and time spent volunteering as a tutor as well as my participation in a few student clubs and organizations, including Student Ambassadors, Norlin Scholars, and an international affairs honors society. However, I cannot stress enough that everything would not have been possible without the backing of the community present in my life. I am forever grateful to all those who stuck by my side during this dark stretch, and look back on the past six months as yielding many positive outcomes that will prove to be invaluable as I regain strength and rehabilitate from this debilitating episode.

In addition, I would like to thank a few particular individuals for their outstanding support and exhibitions of amazing and unabated love and kindness. This semester would not have been the same, and my recovery not even close to its current point, without the efforts of my parents, my sister, bruzins, cousins, roommates, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. You all know who you are, and please know that I sincerely appreciate every second you have spent with me, thinking of me, or on my behalf in some form or fashion. The true sense of support I have retained from this episode will certainly remain forever, and I cannot express how indebted I am to you.

In particular I would like to thank a few individuals for their support during this period:

To my father, thank you for the many bike rides and culinary adventures. To my mother, thanks for putting up with my moods, and for being the best friend I could ask for. Izzy, thanks for the calls from Israel, and for making me miss you more than ever. To my uncles Mark and Alex and my grandfather, I appreciate your time and effort spent medically on my behalf, and for inspiring and encouraging an onslaught of Jewish family angst and concern on my behalf. To my beautiful aunties, thank you for countless hours spent counseling me on issues ranging from food to family and for committing unbelievable amounts of effort and time to cheer me up – it did not go unnoticed. To my grandmothers, thank you for your unyielding, unfiltered, and unabashed love. To my dearest cousin Sophie, thank you for being my PIC throughout everything, and for well-placed, cutting, and very honest attempts to lighten the mood. Benny, thanks for a 24-hour open door full of good food, sports, and the best barbershop in town. Rebecca Lea, thank you for checking in on me when you could…seriously. The phone really does work both ways. To my roommates, thank you for not making too much fun of me going to bed at 9 every Friday night, and for most likely exacerbating my illness due to the general lack of cleanliness and hygiene throughout the house. To Philip “Holz” Greenholz, thanks for continuing to get girls and for looking incredibly tanned, even during the winter. Flip, thank you for being the best roomie I could ask for, including providing the soundtrack of a snowplow every night while I was trying to sleep. To Eric “Robino” Haines, thanks for “deciding” to stop playing lacrosse so that you were home more often and I could help you with papers. To Drew “Nools” Noolas, thanks for just being you, seriously. To my am”badass”adors, thank you for the constant smiles and laughs needed to get me through the day more often than not. Humor truly is a universal, failsafe cure to any disease. Zach “Airball” Wilson and Willy “Goalsman” Husted, thank you for checking in from across the country and for always keeping me grounded. And finally, last and certainly least (well-behaved)…to Griffin and Joe, te amo.

Another overarching takeaway I have drawn from the past six months is a reinforcement of my perception of the raw vulnerability that exists in the human natural existence. Whether shown by a natural disaster; by a cyclone affecting thousands halfway across the globe in Bangladesh, an exhibition of the natural order; with the cyclic tendencies of ecosystems and the bareness of natural selection, or on a personal level; unexplained disease afflicting the healthiest among us, our world is a fickle one. It is imperative to recognize this fearful beauty that creates the unpredictable events determining the course of human life on Earth. The best thing to do in the face of such uncertainty and powerlessness is to simply control the things one can control, starting on a personal level with a positive attitude, and maximize life to the fullest, appreciating every opportunity available and truly living in the moment.

As far as the next month goes, I am flying to Zurich and meeting up with a couple good-looking Bohm brothers. We will be spending a week in Switzerland and most likely Slovenia before heading to Zagreb, Croatia. Cooper will be flying back to Boulder and Griff and I will spend a week and a half with big Loren Ban, for those of you who remember his smooth jump shot and even smoother good looks. Croatia will be followed up by Budapest and finally Prague, from where we will depart for our respective semesters abroad (Griffin in Istanbul). Of course, this entire plan will most likely fall apart instantly – the sooner the better in my mind. As I leave the States behind, I am grateful for everything I have experienced, and look forward to the future with nothing but joy in my heart and clarity in my mind.

Go Broncos.

Max

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2 thoughts on “And Away We Go

  1. Dearest Max,

    I just received your “blog” and am blown away by your thoughts. Tears appearaed on my face as I felt so close to you , yet so far away (in miles). You are truly a delight in my life and am anxious to hear about your adventures throughout the months, days and minutes. You deserve only the best of times!

    Love always,

    Nana

  2. Thanks for making me cry in the middle of a crowded caffe. As always, amazing writing. I feel like I am there with you three gringos. Also, honored to be in a class with the one and only Griffin Bohm.

    Love ya,
    Joe

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