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Posted on 27. May 2022

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

By Abbie Cornett

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Have you ever heard the phrase “two steps forward, one step back”? It is intended to mean things are not going well. The phrase is an excellent way to express how you feel when your efforts do not seem to be getting you where you want to go quickly. For me, the phrase is a great way to describe life with a chronic illness. I have been fortunate enough to complete an undergraduate degree and an advanced degree, and I am currently working on another. But my educational experience has not gone like other people’s.

From the time I was very young, I missed significant amounts of school every year due to illness; sometimes, I missed entire semesters. In my senior year of high school, I had to transfer to the homebound program to complete my credits. I did not get to walk at graduation because I was in the hospital. College was the same, but at least I got to walk in both ceremonies.

Even though I graduated with an excellent GPA, my transcripts are riddled with medical withdrawals and incompletes. Rather naively, I thought my next degree would go easier since my health had been good for a long time. But, as anyone with a chronic illness knows, that thought was just plain dumb.

Chronic illness means forever. That beast is just waiting for you to let your guard down and start making plans like a normal person. Let's just say I had to take a medical leave again and sit out two semesters. While this does not seem like a long time, it puts all my plans on hold — again!

It dawned on me that the motto for people with a chronic illness should be “two steps forward, one step back,” not because our efforts are not yielding results, but because it just takes us longer to accomplish our goals. The secret, though, is that we can’t give up. We must keep taking those two steps forward even though our illness knocks us back one step!

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