The anchor I needed for my self-exploration in 2024

How I've found a way to remember my teenage sense of magic

Sherry Toh avatar

by Sherry Toh |

Share this article:

Share article via email
Main graphic for column titled

I used to have this bracelet I loved. My dad bought it for me on a whim on my 16th birthday. We were walking through a high-end department store where he spotted a Swarovski counter. He immediately went up to the salesperson and said, “I want to find something for my daughter.”

I was mortified. Swarovski jewelry is expensive. Every piece we laid eyes on was over $100. I knew my dad loved me, but he and my mum had raised me to know the value of money well — especially since SMA is an expensive disease to manage. It was an extravagance for my dad to buy me this jewelry.

“You don’t have to buy anything, Daddy. We can go,” I told him.

“It’s OK,” he insisted. “It’s your birthday. Come here and let me see your wrist.”

We spent awhile looking for something suitable. The salesperson presented us with multiple options. Because of my SMA, we had difficulty finding something that wouldn’t slip easily off my small wrist.

Then my dad spotted a beautiful rhodium-plated bracelet. Half-bangle and half-chain, it wrapped around my wrist almost perfectly. In the middle of it was a ring-shaped ornament set with small crystals, with two large crystal shards perched on the sides that reflected light enchantingly.

Recommended Reading
A Top Ten illustration highlights nerve cells.

Top 10 SMA stories of 2023

I fell in love and thanked my dad. It became my favorite piece of jewelry, particularly because it reminded me of Disney’s 2015 version of “Cinderella,” my favorite film. Sandy Powell, the film’s costume designer, had partnered with Swarovski to design her version of Cinderella’s iconic glass slipper and ball gown, along with several other costumes.

So the part of me who still wanted to believe in fairy tales, whimsy, magic, and make-believe at 16 liked to pretend I had a piece of the Fairy Godmother’s magic with that bracelet.

You can imagine how devastated I was when, at 18, I lost the bracelet in the hospital.

New year, new and old me

Over the past seven years, I’ve thought of that bracelet on and off. I considered replacing it, but I didn’t feel it’d be the same. It wouldn’t have been a gift from my dad, just a shallow replacement that reminded me of what was lost. Not to mention its price; I couldn’t afford to buy it without a job.

But at the end of December, I decided to hunt down a replacement after all. I was lucky that I once sent the bracelet’s name to a friend, and I managed to find a handful of sellers.

Why the 180-degree turn? Well, it’s a yearlong story.

Basically, while 2023 was a fantastic year for me, it was also a year when I was on the brink of losing myself to the several jobs I was working, the anxiety over my career, my crowdfunding effort for the disease-modifying therapy Evrysdi (risdiplam), my romantic relationship, and changes in my family’s dynamics as my brother and I further embraced adulthood.

It was a year of celebrating my expansion into new territories. But with them came new boundaries that necessitated testing. I had to learn my limits the hard way, with tears, burnout, and regrets over mistakes and wasted time. To accommodate everything that was happening to me, I had to change a great deal. The girl I was at the start of 2023 wouldn’t have recognized the girl I was at the end of it. I grew busier and harder, and I took people around me for granted.

I decided I needed an anchor, something to remind me of my past selves and how they should influence who I’ll become, lest I lose myself to the events in my changing life. Thus, armed with the knowledge that the bracelet wouldn’t cost too much of my earnings, I bit the bullet and bought it on eBay.

This new bracelet can’t replace the one I lost in sentimental value, unlike Cinderella’s glass slipper. But it can gain new value to me as it helps me write my story.

I want 2024 to be a year of self-exploration, of figuring out who I am now as a 25-year-old navigating the world and discovering new places. I can’t do that if I forget who I was before: a girl who loved fairy tales for their whimsy, magic, and belief that the world can be kind, good, and loving if you play your part to make it that way.

Note: SMA News Today 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 SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.