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Poll: Would You Change “It” If You Could?

Days and days on end

Days and days on end

Ten years of my life flew by while I tried to figure out how to deal with Tourette’s Syndrome.  That’s 3,650 days, not counting leap years, which I’m not smart enough to figure out.

And now, even though unhelpful wishful thinking is threatening to overtake baseball as America’s favorite pastimes, I find myself wishing I’d caught on sooner.  That I’d moved quicker, sooner.

But I didn’t.

At the same time, there are things I wouldn’t change.  Someone recently asked me what I would do if I could suddenly choose not to have Tourette’s.  Their jaw hit the floor when I said that, given the choice, I would keep it.  It has been a merciless teacher, and I’m better for it.

Pain gives perspective.  Even though TS has been the hardest thing in my life, I don’t wish that I’d never had it.  I just wish I’d handled it better, sooner.

So here’s the question: think about the hardest thing in your life.  You don’t have to say what it is if you’re uncomfortable with it.

Would you change “it” if you could? What would you gain if you got rid of the hardest thing in your life?  How might it affect you negatively?

Or, if you find these questions asinine, hack into the system and delete this blog.  I can start another one.


PS: Did you get a guest post from me yet?

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  • Pete | The Tango Notebook October 3, 2009, 4:12 am

    My hip surgery 8 years ago changed my life. Its effects influenced me to go back to school for massage therapy (in an attempt to fix myself) and even switch from Kung Fu fighting to Tango dancing.

    Would I change it, Josh? No!

    It’s taught me how to solve problems and not make excuses for myself. That’s more valuable than having all the joints of my hip working at 100%, in my opinion.

    Way to make me reflect at 6am.

  • Josh, no one in their right mind would delete your blog. Let’s just get that on the table. Your posts are the best part of my inbox.

    Yes, pain gives perspective and in my opinion, it also gives us empathy. Through various ‘hard’ experiences in my life, I’ve seen that my critical side has diminished (it’s still there sometimes, I’m only human). Also, I hope I can help give a voice to others who’ve similarly struggled. Just my two cents on this Saturday morning.

  • Greg October 3, 2009, 7:53 am

    We are, each of us, the sum of all our experiences, both good and bad.

    I hear people talk about how they wish they could go back and change this, or that, but I simply can’t relate. Those events are what make us who and what we are today. One can never predict how the simplest change might have left us without the blessings that have also been bestowed upon us.

  • Gayze October 3, 2009, 9:57 am

    Woah. This post literally set my hands shaking. What a question, Josh. I don’t think anyone here has probably ever been asked a question that could cause more indepth thinking and self-examination.

    The hardest things in my life to date have been the death of my Mom in 2006, and the beast I refer to as “the monster under my bed”: pyoderma gangrenosum. The former was a very fast story, unexpected, shock-inducing, grief that goes on forever generating. But I would not ask her to come back … even though I miss her every single day and still pick up the phone to call her at least twice a week, I know she had her own destiny to fulfill. It would be incredibly selfish of me to ask her to change that just for me.

    And pyoderma gangrenosum … though the original lesion has scarred over, it still continues to plague me with setbacks and mysteries. I’ll take two steps forward only to fall back one, two forward, back three, two forward … you get the picture. Yet, even though there are days I don’t think I can take it any more, days where I scream out to end it all simply from the pain and frustration … would I change it?

    Although I desperately want it to finally be a part of my past, once and for all, no. I don’t think I’ve changed it. Although I’m still asking my Creator what it is, exactly, that I’m supposed to be learning from this mess, I know that there *is* a reason, and eventually I’ll find it. Maybe I’ll somehow be able to help others through my own experiences. Maybe I’ll be one of many people who’ve been totally healed by faith and believing. Maybe…. I don’t know what the maybes could be, though I’m sure their numbers are infinite.

    I guess life really isn’t a goal reached, but the adventure of reaching for the goal. Life is, after all, but a dream … a dream made up of infinite maybes.

    Thank you so much for asking this question. Today was one of those days where finding something to be grateful for has been a stretch. You’ve stretched in my direction, as well, and suddenly the Thank Yous are right in front of me.

  • George Angus October 3, 2009, 10:02 am


    A thought provoking point to be sure.

    I’m fortunate enough to not have much in the way of major hurts. I’ve got a pile of little things and I guess I may change some of those little regrets, but I’d keep most because they have all made me who I am today – for better or worse…


  • Julie Goodale October 3, 2009, 10:07 am

    Eight years ago (and counting) I was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer which had already spread to most of my lymph nodes – bummer! I was just in my 30s, a kid by BC standards. Yes, there were/are times of heartbreaking, unbearable pain. But in a way, I now think of it as my greatest strength. As I often tell people recently diagnosed: yes, cancer is a drag, but it’s not all bad. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but I’m not sure I’d give it up – OMG, so weird to say that!

  • Michele | aka Raw Juice Girl October 3, 2009, 10:18 am

    I know what you’re saying, Josh. I’d have to say that it’s domestic violence. I’ve always been slightly torn on wishing it had never happened. For one, I may never have known I had a backbone. And two, I’m not totally sure I’d be as empathetic as I am today. Yes, I’m compassionate by nature. I was raised to go the extra mile and to be a good, helpful person. But I now have empathy on such a deep, amazing level. I truly feel others’ pain – even if it has nothing to do with abuse. Of course, I’ve also lost over 100 pounds and have overcome numerous health obstacles. So, even if I had dealt with obesity and severe illness without domestic violence being a “cause,” I still don’t think I’d have been as empathetic toward others who are suffering with horrific health issues, and who are struggling to lose large amounts of weight. I think I’d have had compassion on them, yes, but the magnitude of empathy I now have in my heart wouldn’t be there if I hadn’t walked such a long, dark, hopeless (in my eyes) path of horrible abuse.

    So, for me, it’s domestic violence. No, I wouldn’t go back and change it. It’s made me who I am. And I can now share my heart through words and testimony and inspire readers and give them hope that, they too, can overcome the obstacles in their life – or at minimum learn to be thankful for them and how to live with them and be a shining light in the darkness.


  • Lori | Jane Be Nimble October 3, 2009, 10:20 am

    Hi Josh,
    This is deep.

    I must admit that I typed out a comment, erased it, typed a new one, then erased it again.

    You’ve hit upon a really interesting point, and I’m going to have to chew on this for awhile. (And, no way I’d delete this post, either!)

  • Jessica Marie October 3, 2009, 1:49 pm

    I have to agree with Laura. My pain and experience have given me empathy. When I meet someone who has had a small child taken from their lives through disease, I can better relate and help them instead of not being able to think of anything to say. Through the diseases, the heartache, and obstacles I have been shaped into the person I am today.
    The things that I want to change are not the things that have “happened” to me but my own behaviors. I regret harsh words and actions that I ever thought I had the right to inflict on another human being. Those are the things I wish I could go back and change.

  • Daisy October 3, 2009, 2:18 pm

    Would I give up something in my life to have perfect hearing? My hearing loss makes it tougher to teach, tougher to face life in general. But in all honesty, I’d rather be a force for change in the world: push for hearing aid accessible cell phones, understanding from colleagues, and a more diverse and open-minded world.

    • Josh Hanagarne October 3, 2009, 2:42 pm

      Wow. You’ve all written some humbling, beautiful responses. There is nothing less comfortable than really taking a look at yourself and your intentions. I would also suggest that there is nothing more productive if you can do it honestly. You’re all to be commended, applauded, and you deserve trophies. Thank you all for making this a brainy Saturday, rather than the brain-dead affair I was planning on my couch:)

  • Michele | aka Raw Juice Girl October 3, 2009, 2:49 pm

    The things that I want to change are not the things that have “happened” to me but my own behaviors. I regret harsh words and actions that I ever thought I had the right to inflict on another human being. Those are the things I wish I could go back and change. — Jessica Marie (from above)

    That’s a perfect quote. I totally agree, Jessica!!!! I feel the same way. Totally.

    And, Josh, this is WAY better than couch surfing – so glad you ventured over to the computer and posted this. 😀

  • Sami - Life, Laughs & Lemmings October 4, 2009, 3:28 pm

    A fantastic topic Josh and some amazing comments.

    For me, it was an unwanted divorce. Funny thing about divorce when you don’t want it; it’s like being told the love of your life has died but with the added layer of rejection. Having said that, whilst it was a very painful experience, I am now eternally grateful for it.

    It has resulted in some life changing and amazing experiences for me, the fulfillment of some major dreams and living my purpose. They are some pretty heavy duty outcomes and I have no doubt that had it not been for the divorce, they wouldn’t have happened.

    So the answer to your question, no, I wouldn’t change it.

    • Josh Hanagarne October 4, 2009, 3:43 pm

      Sami, I think that’s a 100% rejection rate for the people that have commented so far. How fascinating.

  • Beth L. Gainer October 4, 2009, 8:14 pm


    Your posting is not asinine, and in fact, like your other postings, it gives lots of food for thought.

    As people know, I’m a breast cancer survivor, but what people aren’t always aware of is that the treatments have taken a toll on my health. I’m overall healthy, but the chemo has put me a notch away from osteoporosis and I have to take Fosamax, the chemo has also caused infertility, the double mastectomy with reconstruction has resulted in a hernia resulting in almost never-ending back pain, I have physical and emotional scars I still cry about, and I live with a fear of recurrence.

    Although I do feel sorry for myself from time to time, I would say, I wouldn’t change a thing. I do wish I weren’t in pain, but I am grateful for all of the above:

    1) The threat of osteoporosis has made me keep fighting to take care of my health, and I will start to do some light weight training soon.
    2) Although agonizing at first, the infertility was a blessing because I would’ve never adopted my beautiful, wonderful girl from China, nor would I have learned Mandarin.
    3) The double mastectomy with reconstruction has taken a long time to recover from, but had I not been proactive and insisted on this preventive surgery, I would’ve had a recurrence, according to my oncologist.
    4) It’s OK for me to cry and have those moments. Like a wound, they heal over.

    That being said, the best part of having been through the breast cancer experience is the impact I try to make on others. I help others and offer education in public and private venues.

    I wouldn’t change a thing.

    • Josh Hanagarne October 4, 2009, 8:24 pm

      Beth, I just like the word “asinine.” I don’t get to say it often enough. Thanks for a thoughtful comment.

  • Stephanie Smith October 5, 2009, 5:51 am

    You are a blessing. This question stopped me in my tracks. It was a very tough one to answer because I have been through many tough times, many of the toughest all occured during a 2 year period: divorce, bankruptcy, loss of job, and being convicted of indecent exposure, even though I was in my back yard.
    Would I change it? Prison is no joke and I was ill prepared for how to cope, never having been in trouble with the law, but I survived. Some of my dreams were shattered, but I got back up. Life went on. If I had not gone through all of that, I would not be married to the wonderful man I am lucky enough to call my husband.
    So, long story short, I would not change it because even though I will always carry this label, my mantra has become that even though I did not go where I intended, I ended up where I needed to be.
    Funny how many of us would not change the most heart wrenching of circumstances. Survivors know that we are who we are because of what we went through. I shall cease this rambling, but you always deserve a comment when you have provoked such intense introspection.

  • Beth L. Gainer October 5, 2009, 6:15 am

    Yes, “asinine” is a pretty good word. One of my favorites is a less useful word like “epinephrine.” It’s so rhythmical, it just bounces off the tongue!

    Thanks again for starting a thoughtful forum.

  • Mary007 October 5, 2009, 3:35 pm

    This post hit the heart. I read the post a couple a days ago and I was too emotional to post anything. I was about 15 years old when dark spots (like bruises) started to show up on my legs (from my knees to feet) and on my arms. The doctos that I saw had never seen anything like it and after multiple blood test and medication (that never worked), I gave up and stopped visiting doctors. I have not visited a doctor in maybe 9 years at least not for this problem. I don’t even have a name for this “disease” but it has something to do with white blood cells. I have not worn shorts, short skirts and dresses in 10+ years for this same reason. Even though I’ve lived with this condition for such a long time I still struggle with it almost everyday. As a woman it has signifficantly affected my self esteem and my life overall. If I could would I change this? Honestly, YES! I feel that If I didn’t have this, I wouldn’t have the self esteem issues that I have now and my life would be a lot better, I wouldn’t be so shy to socialize and best of all I could wear shorts, skirts and dresses especially during my fave time of year summer. Now don’t get me wrong…I’m grateful to have legs and the ability to walk and run. But we live in a country where body and beauty are glorified…

    • Josh Hanagarne October 5, 2009, 3:50 pm

      Mary007. Thanks for the response. If you’ll start wearing miniskirts, I will too as a show of solidarity.

  • Oleg Mokhov October 20, 2009, 7:52 am

    “Self improvement is masturbation. Now self destruction, that’s progress.” -Tyler Durden, Fight Club

    Hey Josh,

    Personal growth happens through struggles, not pleasure. You grow and become more conscious during tough moments, not relaxing under the sun.

    The “It” isn’t pleasurable, but the result afterwards is what’s awesome.

    When you work out, you don’t enjoy sweating, burning, exhaustion. But the boosted strength afterwards is sweet, and why you keep working out.

    I’ve had very difficult people in my life who were close to me, and during those times I wished they were completely different – or that I didn’t even know them. But what I noticed later in life is that they were like training for me to grow as a person and get better at relationships with others.

    I had shortcomings of my own (temper, closed-mindedness, no patience), and being thrust into those situations turbo-boosted my working on them. Like an intense bootcamp on self and relationship building. I now appreciate having those difficulties earlier, because it let me grow and become a better person faster.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with Tourette’s, and how you actually appreciate it for the personal growth it gave you,

    • Josh Hanagarne October 20, 2009, 7:54 am

      Oleg, great points all around. I, sick man that I am, do enjoy the sweating, burning exhaustion, and also the strength afterwards. But I’m a junkie.

  • Devon Perkins November 17, 2009, 3:32 pm

    Hello I am doing a report on tourettes in biology and wanted to know if there was anything you could tell me that any other website doesn’t?

    • Josh Hanagarne November 17, 2009, 5:01 pm

      Devon, there are lots of things, but you’ll need to ask me some questions. I can’t go out and see what’s on every other website, than type of everything but:)