sick daze

Sometimes, even when you feel full of vim and vigor, even when you move to a new city and start a new job and feel really gung-ho about Doing Journalism and Living In New York, and even when you live on couches for a week with basically nothing more than a hobo bindle and a banjo and really did intend to write a blog post here about it, you get sick. Life just decides you need a good ol’ elbow to your Grown-Up stomach. Or throat, as the case may be.

I don’t get sick much, because I’m a jerk like that. But the last time I did get sick was a mysterious, RENT-themed and antibiotic-resistant chest cold acquired at the tail end of my previous New York tenure as an intern. Something about that city makes my antibodies get nervous and hide, like they’re Midwestern tourists in town for a youth group trip. But I figured now that I was really a Real Person, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen, like a college diploma is some kind of mystical inoculation against infectious diseases.

Tuesday night, I went to bed convincing myself that the weird swollen lymph node and headache I was nursing were the result of too much couch-sleep and not enough water. Whatever! I am a Grown-Up now! These things happen! Wednesday morning, I woke with chills, a sweaty forehead, and a teeth-gritted determination to get into the office for an 11 AM interview I had scheduled. Because grown-ups with jobs don’t get sick! And definitely not in the summer!

I thrashed about for a good ten minutes attempting to extricate myself from a sweaty tangle of XL-dorm-sheets before cooler heads (literally) prevailed. My boyfriend pointed out that if I my throat hurt too much to insist I could go to the office, I probably wouldn’t give a very good interview. Fair point, I conceded woozily. Unable to talk past the golf ball in my throat, I emailed in sick, accepted two of his roommate’s Liqui-Gel ibuprofen, and mumbled an apology for infecting suite 902 of the NYU Palladium dorm before losing consciousness in a fevered delirium of almost-sleep.

Upon re-waking, I realized the acute problem of being sick as a Real Person: I had no idea what to do. As a kid, your parents can take you to the pediatrician or hospital or holistic-shaman healer. You don’t have to worry about who pays for it. As a college student, you just have to pull on some crusty sweatpants and drag ass to the student health center, where you might have to wait forever in a room with CNN Health Highlights on loop but, eventually, you will get treated by a distracted nurse-practitioner with triple her usual caseload. And thanks to the Student Life Fee, or whatever, you don’t have to worry about who pays for it. But Real People? There’s no familiar doctor. There’s no student health center. There’s just you and your inflamed throat lining and what suddenly feels like the largest goddamned city in the world.

But I’m lucky. I’m a Real Person, but also a Modern Young Adult, which means I have two good things at my disposal: Yelp and Obamacare. My smartphone located a walk-in clinic with good reviews literally around the corner, in the middle of a drug store. This being New York, the place also sells aisle after aisle of store-brand snacks, a frightening variety of frozen food, and beer, on tap, for take-out, 24 hours a day. My parents’ insurance, which otherwise would have been unavailable to me as of a few weeks ago, covered me for a doctor’s visit, a strep test (positive), and a round of amoxicillin capsules half the size of my thumb. And I could go home, just over two hours away on NJ transit, to lie on a familiar couch and watch cable, to let my parents buy me ice cream, to take my temperature and to take care of me.

The point is, Real People, you don’t have to be sick in a vacuum. You don’t have to do any part of Real Life in a vacuum. You can let the people who love you talk you out of going in to work and buy you probiotic kombucha and you can let your interviewees and coworkers and banjo teachers know you’re too busy burning up to come in and infect them and you can let the government give you a break on co-pays so that you can afford not to die. Get some rest. Watch some Netflix. Chug some Nyquil.

But then you’d better as hell get well, because you are way behind on your blog posts.

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