The Generation Next staff comprises diverse high school students, all with different life experiences. Here, they explore the meaning of identity. A couple of them discuss how they’ve embraced the fusion of American culture and that of their immigrant families; one Santa Fe Indian School student talks about the struggles she’s had in rediscovering her Native culture while living in a modern, non-Native world; one expresses fears of leaving behind Nuevo Mexico for an out-of-state college; and another explores how living with epilepsy has affected his approach to life.
“Living with epilepsy is very much a peculiar identity. It isn’t something I have experienced throughout my entire life (at least, I haven’t always been the epileptic one in the family), but it is a challenging part of who I am, and it is something I continually have to learn how to deal with.
I have always had epilepsy at the back of my mind — well, according to my electroencephalogram, the seizures are actually throughout my entire brain, but I digress. My first seizure wasn’t until I was 12, but my father is epileptic and my grandmother works in medicine, so neurology has always been a common topic of discussion. This also meant that I grew up watching someone else deal with epilepsy before I had to. It was by watching my dad persist through his seizures that I really started to understand just what it meant to always get back up. When my turn came to have seizures, albeit of a kind totally different than his, I was already in a position of support and understanding.
I spent three years of my life having nonstop seizures, and it is because of those that I cannot remember much of middle school. For all intents and purposes, I was very much disabled; I could barely attend school, and the thought of getting a driver’s license seemed more like a dream than a reality. Yet here I am, four years later, writing about a time when I could barely remember anything, after a day of driving my brothers around town.
I may not have had a seizure in quite some time, but that does not detract from my being epileptic. I cannot stay up late often or do anything with a strobe light (I still have not seen Incredibles 2). The traditions I developed earlier in my life still hold true: anticonvulsant medicine at 7:15 a.m., trips to my neurologist twice a year, etc. The point here is that I will always be me, and epilepsy, regardless of whether or not I am actively seizing, will always be a part of who that is.
I continue to prepare for the risks that epilepsy brings, and with college on the horizon, newfound independence is going to present a plethora of opportunities for error if I am not careful. Epilepsy hasn’t just made me cautious and wary, however; it’s also given me my die-hard work ethic. The fact that I passed middle school, even without remembering most of it, is because I was able to finish everything I missed outside of class. As my dad taught me, being epileptic is about learning how to keep getting back up, even if you cannot remember falling down.”
By Harvey McGuinness a senior at Santa Fe High School.
SOURCE: Taken in part from an article by www.santafenewmexican.com