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Boundaries and starting over: Haircuts & blood samples

toddler standing in front of stairs

What do they sprinkle on new beginnings to make them so intoxicating?!

Nothing acts as a catalyst of change more than a new start: birthdays, New Years, moving houses, new jobs.

You have the power to change your life at any time, but “I’ll stop smoking in the new year” or “I’m gonna start cooking at home more once I move” does have a ring to it.

In the spirit of transparency, my December 31st-s have included questionable choices.

December 31st, 2006

When I was a kid, I had this friend who got bangs and looked fantastic. In hindsight, we didn’t look alike at all, but back then, we thought we were twins. I figured bangs would suit me well too.

On December 31st, I went to the hairdresser, paid her 200L (roughly 2$), and pointed to my friend: “I want that.”

The hairdresser obliged. She didn’t ask questions like “honey, are you sure?” or “aren’t you like 10? Where’s your mom and where did you get this money?!”.

Besides having diametrically opposed face shapes, I had somehow completely missed another significant distinction: my friend had straight hair, unlike me.

Oh, and I had forgotten to tell my mom I was doing this.

Whenever the topic came up back then, she voiced her disapproval. I’ve always been a “show, don’t tell” type of person. I understood there was no convincing her, so I went and did it as a surprise. She’d love my new hairstyle so much that she’d quickly forgive me for acting behind her back.

However, when I saw my new hair, a wave of sadness washed over me. I hated it. Not just that, but now I had to do the whole “don’t freak out mom and pretend you have a solid plan” thing.

Mom freaked out. It was a combination of “I told you so” plus my plan not being as solid as I’d like (not let my family know I’m sad + I’ll have my hair up at all times until the bangs grow out so it’ll be fine) plus my mom reliving this nightmare. When she was a kid, she had hip-length, healthy, wavy, blonde hair & chopped it all off without grandma knowing.

The hairdresser didn’t ask questions like “honey, are you sure?” or “aren’t you like 10? Where’s your mom and where did you get this money?!”. Mom also hated the end result and her hair was never as healthy again.

 “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

– Winston Churchill

December 31st, 2021

On December 31st last year, I decided to get COVID-19 Antibody Testing. My parents had done it and they were urging me to do it too. If I remember correctly, the medical consensus was that if you had already had COVID without realizing, you were now safe and could socialize and live quasi-normally.

For the test, a healthcare professional takes a blood sample by drawing blood from a vein in the arm. 

My veins are tiny and hard to find. When my mom accompanied me to get my blood drawn once, she almost passed out because the process was so unnecessarily painful. One other time, I wanted to donate blood and even the organization’s staff gave up trying to draw my blood.

There’s only one specific clinic in Tirana with nurses that can get non-menstrual blood out of me. My parents know this. Yet, they insisted that the lady who had drawn their blood for the antibody testing would know how to deal with my little veins. They were sure of this.

Reader, she didn’t.

It was the same thing I’ve experienced so many times: a medical professional who swears they will be the one to be able to draw my blood quickly and pain-free. They’ve done this for many others who struggled with the same thing. They will save me. I will finally be like one of those smiling people in blood donor ads.

This never happens.

I recently saw a Christmas photo I had posted a hundred years ago, captioned: if you don’t sin, Jesus died for nothing. Similarly, if it’s excruciatingly painful, but they are able to draw my blood, at least the pain’s worth it. If not, it ruins my day. But, hey, the power of starting over, right? It was still December 31st. I could easily leave this bad experience behind.

Learning from history & small wins

On December 31st, 2021, I decided I would not get my blood drawn anywhere besides the specific clinic. I would live happily ever after as a non-masochist.

Then I had some pretty severe health issues. I haven’t talked about that on here. I will, but only when the time’s right.

For this story, let’s just say that once I was safe, I had to do quarterly checkups. In the last one, which was months ago, the doctor said:

Hold on, hold on.

Draw my blood? Vous rêvez, Monsieur.

I explained all the above.

He played all his cards: his trustworthiness (“do you not trust me?”), then explaining why I should trust him (“I’ve been your doctor for the past year, I figured out what your serious health issue was”), then explained why he’s different from all the other doctors and nurses who claimed they could draw my blood (“because I actually can”). He pointed to how convenient it was to do it right then and there. Then, the focus was on me, on how I was scared (“you shouldn’t be”) and being stubborn “for no reason.” He almost got my mom, who was accompanying me, to convince me to do it.

But I resisted. I said no and did the tests at the clinic. I know this may seem like an inconsequential win, but a win is a win especially considering the vast doctor-patient power imbalance.

If you struggle with saying no or setting boundaries, remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Baby steps are all it takes even if it doesn’t feel that way. 

Whatever your resolution or wish for this year is, whether it’s something you’re starting, stopping, or continuing, and even if you’ve already messed it up by now, celebrate the small wins. Your progress doesn’t have to be enormous or impressive for it to be real.

Fun fact: When I sat down to write this month’s article, I wanted to talk about my acronym of the year for 2023, MGI. As you can see, that didn’t happen. I respect my hut (heart + gut feeling) and let it run free to express whatever comes up. I’ll talk about MGI next time!

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