I had two choices on how to live my life after I left the hospital. The first was to live in self-pity and to focus on what I can’t do and not what I can do. To live in the past and to forget about the future. The second was to move on and to embrace everything that God had left me with and to just be happy that I was alive.
For that first year I took the first option. I did not realize what God had left me with. I still had an incredibly supportive family, incredible friends, and most importantly I had my mind.
It was so hard to say goodbye to all of the physical things in life that I loved. I got through life by crying to my mom every day about all of the things that I could no longer do. I cried so much that first year. She always reassured me that everything would be okay but I never believed it. All that was left of me was my right hand and a mind that was clouded with emotions. The guy who always had a plan for his future was now lost.
Have you ever wondered how you would handle being in my situation? Think about it. Would you still want to be alive if you could no longer do the things that you love? Some people live their life and never find any of their true passions. I was introduced to my greatest passion by my father when I was just three years old. I was lucky to find waterskiing so early and to hold onto it for so long. Now think about all of your greatest physical passions and what you would do if you had to say goodbye. What would you have left? I couldn’t think of many either. But I found it and it is what I am doing right now.
The best feeling every day is when I get out of bed, where I was unable to move for eight hours, and I get in my wheelchair and I’m free to move about. I hate that feeling of being stuck. It’s hard to explain the feeling of being paralyzed unless you’ve actually lived a day in the life. I’m sure some of you would think that it would be the scariest feeling in the world but I’ve learned to grow used to it. Even though I was the type of person that used to never be able to sit still. I pretty much forget what it’s like to walk. I’ve adjusted to this new life and this is my new normal.
The biggest tip I have for the newly injured is that you have to keep your mind at ease. Just relax and let your body go and let your mind take over. Don’t make a list like I did during that first year of all the things that I missed. It was over five pages long. I hated to hear this because there were so many things that I could no longer do but focus on what you can do and not what you can’t do. Try to be as independent as possible but ask for help when you need it. I’m not embarrassed when my leg spasms and my shoe falls off and I have to ask a random stranger to put it back on. Find a cute girl and they will think it is adorable. Be sincerely thankful to your family and friends who are helping you by going out of their way for you. Don’t ever think that your life is over and realize that there are more opportunities out there than you can ever imagine.
As for the rest of you you can live by my epitaph.”Here lies a man who truly found happiness. He tried what he thought he’d like and pursued only what he knew he loved.” I’m sure there’s something out there that is missing in your life. So try new things and find it.
I just had the opportunity to speak in front of 750 people at the TEDxOhioStateUniversity event. It was a moment that I will never forget. I sat there nervous in the crowd awaiting my turn. Then when I sat in the tent and prepared to get ready for my speech there was a mirror in front of me. I stared at myself in the mirror and smiled and all of my anxieties went away. Then it was my turn to head up onto the stage.
I started talking and all eyes were on me. I looked around at the crowd and it started to calm me down. These were just college students and it did not intimidate me. I did not panic when I realized they forgot to give me the clicker to change my slides. I did not panic when the girl handed it to me and knocked my mic off my shirt. I now had one hand to hold a mic, control a clicker, and to reach for a bottle of water. I did not panic when my mouth became so dry that I could no longer speak. I paused and took a sip of water and moved on.
I know that I could’ve done better but I got my story out there and got my message across. This was confirmed when a lady came up to me during the intermission and told me that my story gave her so much hope for her son with bipolar disorder. Then after the event was over I talked with a kid who was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My story made him realize the importance of staying on your medications. Then a group of middle schoolers came up to me and asked me if I could talk at their school because they were so moved by my story. I gladly accepted the invitation and knew that I had accomplished something that day. My goal was to change one life and I think I did just that.
I express myself better through my writing than I do through speaking. But my speaking skills are getting better. I spoke to a group of 40 college students last night and it went extremely well. Afterwords a majority of them came up to me to shake my hand and thanked me for sharing my story. One guy said that he could totally relate to my story because his brother was suffering from depression. He wanted to share my blog with him.
It is times like these when I am truly thankful to be alive. I am more thankful now with my disability than I was before my accident. The next that is to get this book published. I can’t wait for everyone to hear the entire story.
I’m sitting here on top of a parking garage on a beautiful sunny day writing this on my iPhone five. I guess I’m speaking from the rooftops.
We all have our own problems and struggles that we deal with every day. Keep a sound mind and persevere over everything you are going through. There is nothing that we cannot overcome.