Roll outside. Put my headphones in. Press play. Recline back. Turn the volume up. Sit and watch the people walk by and think what I’m going to write about today. I listen closely to the lyrics of every song and hear the same message over and over again. All these artists that I look up to started from the bottom with a dream and worked relentlessly to achieve their goal to reach the top. They believed in themselves and didn’t care if others did not see them reaching the top. So all I have to do is believe in myself and keep pushing myself until I climb back up to the top and not care what other people think about my destiny. I have a vision in my head and all I have to do is get it out and put it on paper.
I used to sit outside and just wish that I could trade shoes with anyone of those people walking by. I’d see a kid on a bike and imagine what that used to feel like. I’d see a kid on a longboard and remember back to the days when I would ride all over Columbus in search of the perfect parking garage. I remember how free I felt during those days. Riding around in a wheelchair does not give you that feeling. You don’t feel the wind blowing through your hair. It’s too slow for me and I miss that fast-paced lifestyle. At times I feel trapped and everything just seems so far away.
No longer do I look at those kids walking by and I think about trading places with them. I think about how much I can help those kids. Shortly after my accident I was told that God never gives you too much to handle. Well I think he put me in this position because I can handle it. I can use it to positively influence all of those kids I see walking by. So when I look down at my feet now I know that I am the only one that can fill these shoes. I was chosen for this and now I know that I’m supposed to be in this position and I’m starting to love it. The feeling I get after giving a speech and hearing the applause and then having numerous people come up to me and tell me how grateful they were to hear my story is indescribable. Having someone read my blog and reach out to me and tell me how much impact I had on them is a remarkable feeling. I never got this feeling from waterskiing so writing and speaking fills that void.
I’ve always had a plan for my future even before my accident. Before my accident I chose to be a civil engineer so that I could build waterski lakes throughout the country. But now my plan has changed and my vision of the future could not be more clear. I was so lost during that 1st year but now I know exactly why I’m alive. I’ve said it 1,000 times before but I want to publish my book this year. Finally I can say that the end is in sight and I’m very proud of everything I put on paper. This blog does not even touch the surface of my story. I’ve got so much more to share and I can’t wait to release my story. What I’ve lived through is miraculous. I’m currently working with some people to create a video to share some of the details of my book and explain why people should donate to me to raise money for the publishing and editing costs of the book. We are going to put this video on Kickstarter.com in March to reach out for donations.
I’m going to continue to do public speaking for free until I publish my book. I currently am reaching out to high schools. If I make too much money now my rent will go up and I will lose Medicaid . I will have to pay out-of-pocket which I do not think I could afford by just doing public speaking alone. So once I publish my book and make some money I plan to start charging for my speeches and hopefully travel throughout the country. Over the past couple months I have been meeting with professional public speakers to get advice on a successful speaking career. They have all thought that I have the perfect message and story to be very successful in this field.
I have also met with grant writers as I look ahead to my future after the book. I hope to raise awareness about spinal cord injuries through my book and explain to people how much more the world has to do to accommodate us. I live at a place called Creative Living which is for people with physical disabilities. It is a one-of-a-kind place that the world needs more of. Most people with spinal cord injuries end up living at home for the rest of their life and never find any sense of independence. It’s just my luck that this one-of-a-kind place was right on the Ohio State campus. This gave me the opportunity to finish school and live independently back in Columbus.
Creative Living provides handicap accessible housing which includes one-bedroom apartments that have everything you need such as a roll in shower and raised countertops. The unique feature here is that there is a resident assistant program where all you have to do is press a call button and they will come and help you with whatever you need. A resident assistant is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you look around at the houses around the rest of campus there are literally stairs going into every one of them. This makes it impossible for me to get inside. So without this facility I would never have been able to return back to Columbus.
The world needs more places like this which is exactly what I’m going to set out to do. I want to make this world a better place for people with physical disabilities. So in the future I want to get into grant writing to help build more places like this so that more people with physical disabilities can live independently. I want to build these around universities so that these people can have the opportunity to get the degree that they dream of.
It is also very difficult for people with spinal cord injuries to travel. Most places will say that they are handicap accessible but they are far from it. I want to build places like Creative Living in vacation areas. I’ll provide things like shower chairs and handicap accessible vans so that people can get around. I’ll also provide information about handicap accessible activities that these people can take part in. I’ll hire nurses and personal assistants to help these people while they are on vacation. If I build places like this then I will also benefit because I will be able to travel around the country and stay at these facilities.
Those are my plans for the future and I have no intention of changing them. I do not care about making money I just want to help people. A lot of the luxuries in life I can no longer use. I have no use for a Ferrari or a ski boat. No longer do I want my own personal waterski lake. The only thing I want is my own handicap accessible house designed by me. If I were to make a lot of money I would do a lot of philanthropy events. I would use the money to help others and that is how I would find the most happiness.
My accident was truly a blessing in that it allowed me to find myself and to envision a meaningful future. I believe that everything I’ve gone through and that I continue to go through will be well worth it. God left me on this earth for a reason and I’m thankful that I have found my path so quickly. I’m excited to work towards achieving these goals. My life has more meaning now than it ever did and I believe that I’m a much better person. I don’t take anything for granted anymore and I feel that I can overcome any obstacle. I now know what I’m truly made of and I have confidence that I can accomplish everything I plan to set out to do in the future. Wish me luck!