I loved every moment of seeing “Frozen 2” in the theater, from the visually stunning scenes to the songs that prompted a dance party with the children sitting behind me. But most of all, I enjoyed seeing a new chapter of Queen Elsa’s journey unfold.
Elsa, the magical ice queen, has always been a character near and dear to my heart. I can relate to her need to hide away to protect others and her journey of learning to accept who she is — magic and all. In some ways, she has inspired me to embrace who I am and put myself out there, juvenile arthritis (JA) and all.
In “Frozen 2,” while Elsa has opened up the doors, she’s happy in a kingdom of people who love and accept her. When she hears a call that she knows will take her far away, she wants nothing to do with it. She’s fearful and rejects the call for as long as possible.
Once again, I find myself relating to Elsa
While I’ve described the inconsistency of my condition and the importance of rolling with the punches, I have never addressed my JA comfort zone. Juvenile arthritis has made me fearful of trying new things, visiting new places, and taking part in activities with new people. What if a new pursuit causes me to flare? Will new friends understand my need to rest? What if a challenge is too much for me to handle comfortably? I’m scared of causing myself pain or my disease to worsen.
Just like Elsa, I fall into ruts of safety. She has her gloves and castle gates, and I have a template for “Sorry, I can’t make it” text messages. Some things aren’t a big deal, such as turning down plans with friends to go hiking. But still my comfort zone has had a significant impact on many aspects of my life, from education to employment.
Taking the leap
Just as Elsa’s sister Anna urged her to follow the call, I’m thankful for the encouragement that others have given me. I’m grateful for all the times my friends and family members told me that I was capable of achieving amazing things, even with JA.
Without a push, I don’t think I would have had the courage to leave home, where I always had someone to help me. I might not have gone to college because I was afraid that the classes would drain me. I might not have taken on many internships because I feared the physical effects of the commute.
That’s not to say that those things were easy; they were some of my hardest challenges. Even with accommodations and support, I had days where continuing felt impossible. But I’m glad that I went outside my comfort zone because I realized how much I could achieve despite the pain.
Listen to the call
Kids with JA should be encouraged to listen to the call of their dreams, even if they are outside their comfort zone. Of course, it’s not reasonable to push boundaries that you know will make their condition worse. But I believe that every young person should have opportunities to try new things, even if they’re scary. Young people with arthritis are capable of amazing things: going off to college, starting careers, and investing in their passions. Accommodations, family support, and tools can make these milestones possible — working up the nerve to make a change is the hardest part.
But it’s critical that as you encourage your children to follow their dreams, you let them know that it’s OK if things don’t work out. It’s better that they give it a try than wonder if it’s possible. They should be proud of their efforts. While I couldn’t handle the commute of one of my internships for an entire summer, I was proud of what I accomplished.
But even now, after all those new experiences, I’m still afraid sometimes. Many activities make me nervous about causing a flare or injuring myself. And I think that’s natural for someone with arthritis. It’s essential to be aware of my limitations. But it’s also important to follow your passions: Where there is a will, there’s a way. Elsa eventually listened to her call, and only good came of it. I’m glad that I listened to my past calls. I will do my best to keep following my dreams.
Note: Juvenile Arthritis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Juvenile Arthritis News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to juvenile arthritis.