If you would have told me that within a few short weeks near the time this photo was taken I’d be getting a divorce from my childhood sweetheart, going into entrepreneurship full time, burying my dog, getting hit by a car, losing my hearing and getting my head shaved, I would have told you that you were an idiot.
Clearly I was the idiot.
For the past few months I have had trouble focusing. My mind was wandering a great deal and I couldn’t seem to get going. I was tired and I attributed it to stress. I took more naps, got fewer things done and tried to pace myself to the best of my little Type A abilities. I’d go for runs to clear my head and find myself falling over and fainting for no reason. I went to the doctor’s office and she said my blood pressure was low and that I need to eat potato chips. (Now that sounds like a prescription I can get behind!)
After ending my full time job as a magazine editor, I took a trip and explored the oceans up and down the east coast thinking a little R and R would feel pretty good and I’d come home refreshed.
I’d go for runs and faint. I’d walk into the kitchen and faint. I’d dust myself off, clean up anywhere where I scraped my body, and would move on with little complaint. I just figured I was a little Tennessee Fainting Goat, and I’d be alright eventually.
However on July 4, I woke up with an excruciating pain radiating from my head down through my tongue. Having had ear infections before, I realized I needed to go to the ER because, left untreated, chronic ear infections can lead to Bell’s palsy. I marched my little ass into the center, got some antibiotics and pain killers and made an appointment with my ENT.
I figured he’d just say I needed tubes put in my ears and that would be it.
I had no clue when I entered his office that he’d be telling me:
“Jasmine, we’re going to have to shave your head and remove a piece of your skull.”
“Excuse me?” I said.
He proceeded to explain it again but I stopped listening and interrupted him.
“My shoes are dirty,” I said. I was in shock. I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“You need to focus,” he said. He explained to me that I had mastoiditis which is a result of an infection that extends to the air cells of the skull behind the ear. First he was going to put tubes in my ears, then clean up the infection with antibiotics and then–to my horror–shave my head and remove a piece of my skull.
“You’re going to drill into my nugget?” I asked. “Why would I let you do that? There are important, squishy things in there.”
“Because if you don’t it could lead to serious, even life-threatening, health complications, including hearing loss, blood clot, meningitis, or a brain abscess.”
“So you want to shave my head?”
“Yes. It won’t be much.”
I kept thinking about images I had seen online of TBI patients with large scars mapping their skulls. I was horrified.
“First tubes,” Rosie said, “then we’ll get you a CT scan and if you have mastoiditis we’ll operate from there. You’ll be in the hospital but you’ll be fine.”
I stumbled out of the doctor’s office in shock. I know this sounds shallow and superficial but I like my hair. I didn’t want it shaved. I didn’t want to feel ugly and I thought I’d feel that way if my head were removed.
I did the only thing I could think: I packed my bags and headed to the beach to clear my head. There my hearing became more and more muffled and I remember walking along the beach and pausing to listen to the waves lap against the shore. It was the last sound I heard out of my left ear before my hearing slipped away. I chewed pain killers like Pez and slept when I wasn’t sitting by the shore.
When I came back, I found loud noises would knock me over. I felt like every animal I encountered was from Disney’s Bolt and their bellowing would make me hit the floor.
I went into my first surgery unafraid. I’ve had tubes before. I thought it would be an in and out process. So did Rosie, my doctor. So he was surprised to discover a tube that had fallen in my head that had been causing the symptoms all along. He also found and began to remove a series of Cholesteatomas which are destructive and expanding growths in my middle ear.
No biggie, I thought.
We scheduled a CT scan and the second surgery. I wasn’t exactly afraid but at the same token I wasn’t all hunky-dory either. Luckily I had a few family members and loved ones come to the hospital with me who made me laugh before they put me under. Before I went under the knife I walked into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I thumbed the hair on the side of my head, knowing they were going to shave it. When I got back on the gurney, they gave me a shot of something awesome–a little cocktail to chill me out–and then my memory goes blank. I woke up a few hours later with what appeared to be a giant jock strap on my head.
I felt like Van Gough minus the whole prostitute thing.
Friends heckled me on Facebook.
Jeremy Tolliver You needed that surgery like you needed another hole in your head.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-7pTQx6d3UWe can encase your skull fragment in clear epoxy and turn it into a keepsake pendant that you can cherish forever.
I could have been horrified. I could have cried. But I didn’t.
I stood tall like a champ.
I just realized you can take my skull but you can’t break my spirit.
Here’s ultimately what I learned about entrepreneurship and confidence.
- You’ll be surprised with what gives you confidence. I felt more confident and alive than when I saw my hacked up skull than I have at any other time in my life. Why? Because it doesn’t matter if you have hair or you don’t. It doesn’t matter if you can hear or if you can’t. It doesn’t matter if you soak the floor with your tears. What matters in life and business is that regardless of the obstacle, you realize that if you just keep going, you’ll persevere. Sure, you won’t look the same at the end, but who cares? Let go of the old–whether it’s hair, people or things and become who you’re meant to be.
- I realized success and failure are the exact same thing: it’s just perspective that frames it. Some folks might think I look like the Bride of Frankenstein. Some folks might think I’m weak. Some folks might think I’m ugly or have a bad haircut or somehow don’t measure up to them. Oh well. To hell with them. What they say or think doesn’t matter and doesn’t change the course of my history. What I say matters. What I think about me matters. How confident I am regardless matters.
- You’re going to be hit hard in business and life. Take the knock, cry about it, dust yourself off and keep going. Sure, you’ll fall thousands of times, but–just like when I was fainting– but you can’t stay down forever. Yes, you’ll probably have a few scars at the end of it and yes, people will think you’re nuts for persevering but do it anyway. It’s worth it.
- Just because you think you can do something doesn’t mean you can or can’t. You’ve got to act on it. Try it. Test it out. Don’t just think about it–run even though you fall. Listen even though you’re deaf. Explore even when you’re unsure of the future.
- Not everyone who says they’ve got your back will have it. Expect this. Don’t let it cripple you and know that when you’re crying in the hospital all alone, it doesn’t mean you’re lonely or weak, it just means that you’re by yourself. It doesn’t diminish you, your capabilities or your vision at all. You’ll get to where you’re going and the ones who really love you will be there in the end.
- Sometimes you’ve just got to put everything else no hold. So often we run around in a flurry of activity trying to be successful. Oddly enough when I stopped, took care of myself and took a good hard look at the adversity I had overcome, I felt successful without having to lift a finger.
- Some days you can’t call people back, some days you can’t answer every e-mail, some days you can’t meet everyone’s needs. If it’s really a need you’ll do it when you have time. The frivolous stuff in business and life will fall to the wayside if you just focus on what’s important.
- Just because your skull gets removed, you stop working, you lose something, you run out of energy or can’t get yourself another step toward your vision doesn’t mean you failed in the slightest. It just means the timeline changed.
- Hair grows back, skulls heal, and lessons stick.
- You’re prettier than you think. You’re smarter than you think. You’re tougher than you think. And even with a shaved head, you can still radiate with confidence. (Photo taken five days post op.)