for those who don’t know me, i’m christian may, also known as maison21. maison21 is both my interior design business name and my nom du internets, because if you google “christian may”, you get inspirational bible quotes or a creepy UK politician. so please, call me maison21. everyone does. or m21. or hey you. i’m not picky.
i’ve been an interior designer for the last 20 years of my life (and a product designer and sometimes an artist when the creative juices are flowing). i’m also a former minor internet celebrity (sort of, in a very small corner of the design internets) having started my blog “maison21: decorative but not serious” way back in 2007, when there were only like 6 interior design blogs on the internet, and i was one of them.
i started my social media presence because the economy was collapsing and i needed to drum up business. then i discovered i liked being a public figure, and so just went with it. until 2015 when the wheels came off my bus, and things ground to a screeching halt- my business, my social media… my whole life, actually.
i was battling back and neck issues at the time, as men of my age are wont to do. it was recommended that i have surgery to replace the disk in my spine that was causing issues, and fuse two vertebrae together. pretty common stuff, done arthroscopically via a small incision on the front of my neck. wouldn’t even leave much of a scar. but as they will tell you before any surgery, there are always risks. i just wanted the pain to go away, so wasn’t remotely worried . maybe a little bit, but my worries centered on the operation not relieving my pain and it would all be for naught. on the morning of the surgery, i was excited to be getting it over with and was in a hopeful mood as they rolled me into the operating room. the next thing i knew, i was awakened from the anesthetic to sound of my surgeon’s voice telling me the surgery was a success, and they tested my reflexes while i was under, and all was good.
except it wasn’t. i had no feeling from the neck down. nothing. the operating team initially thought i was joking. i was not. everything is sort of a blur from that point on, except for the looks of panic on everyone’s face as they realized i was in serious trouble- those i will remember forever. i was fucked, and everyone in the room knew it. my very first thought was “i can’t even kill myself because my hands don’t work”. not a good moment to relive, but i do often in my dreams.
they ended up doing a 2nd, very invasive surgery through the back of my neck later the same day to relieve pressure of the swelling on my spinal cord. when i awoke from the second surgery, they asked me to wiggle my toes. i couldn’t. they asked me to wiggle my fingers. i couldn’t. but there was a tremor- an almost imperceptible movement. the surgeon, with tears in his eyes, told me this was the best possible outcome, that if i could make that nearly imperceptible movement, there was very good chance use of my limbs could be restored.
needless to say, this was not a positive outcome on my part. i still wanted to die. literally. but something inside wouldn’t let me do that, so i fought. a month in the kaiser ICU, then months in the rehab unit at glendale adventist hospital. i had to relearn things we all take for granted- standing, walking, holding a spoon,buttoning a shirt, wiping my own butt…
i could go on and on about the struggle life has been for the last 3 years. the pain. the drugs. the exhaustion. the tears. the triumphs. the setbacks. the eventual acceptance that this is as good as it’s going to get (part of my spinal cord is dead, and will never come back), but i’m going to save that for my memoirs. right now i’m grateful i can walk, drive, and live independently. i’m grateful to my friends and family for sticking with me through this ordeal. i’m grateful for the design community for coming together to support me during this journey via multiple gofundme’s.
so what does my future hold? honestly, i really don’t know. as i’ve been doing for the last three and a half years, i’m going to have to figure things out day by day. but it’s time to re-engage, so i hope you’ll join me on my continued journey. i know many of you have stuck with me via instagram (thank goodness for pet pictures) and facebook so i’m very appreciative to have you all still in my life, and i look forward to making new friends as i relaunch my blog and website. relaunching my design career is going to take a minute. it’s taken me 3 years to even envision it, so i am taking the tiniest of baby steps. starting work to expand my wallpaper collection with black crow studios. working out a few ideas for how to make art with my new sometimes non-cooperative hands and body (hey, matisse did it from bed when he could no longer hold a paint brush, so i can too). clients may come eventually, i don’t know. for now, i’m doing things i can do around the limitations of my physical body, from bed, with the occasional adventure outside to the los angeles design world i miss so much.
so come with me and let’s see where things go? it’ll be an adventure! as with much of my new life, the old blog is officially dead, so please follow along here (you can view the corpse here, as i don’t have the heart to pull the plug on my baby yet).
here’s to new possibilities!