I never would’ve thought that I would’ve made it this far in such a short amount of time. I thought life was over but really it had just begun. The things that I’ve done since my accident have brought more joy, happiness, and purpose to my life than ever before. I once thought that it was the physical things that made me happy but I was wrong.
Before my accident I was diluting my mind with drugs and living in a false sense of reality. I thought that I was truly happy but why did I have to rely on marijuana every day to put a smile on my face? Waterskiing was healthy but even doing that I felt that I did better when I was high. I felt that everything was better when I was high. But looking back on it I realize that smoking tore a lot of my relationships with my friends apart. The only people that I was hanging out with were those people that smoked. I did meet a lot of really good people through smoking. They are some of the best friends that I have today. But I feel that I messed up a lot of the relationships that I had with those people that did not smoke. I spent less and less time with them and more time with the people that smoke. I think that I drove some people away from me.
So smoking marijuana was my escape. But what was I escaping from? I had everything going for me but sometimes I felt like I had my hands in too much. I needed something to cope with the stress. So I relied on self-medication. I feel that I drove away my best friend. I feel that I messed up my relationship between my twin brother and I. But now that I’m sober we are closer than ever before. I’m a lot better person now that I’m sober. I think more clearly and I do not do irrational things.
I am very happy with the person I am today. I spoke to a group of fourth graders this past week and they asked me some very good questions. One girl asked me if I regretted anything that I had done. I told her that I think that I am a better person because of what happened to me. I have a closer relationship with my family and friends. I think that I will be more successful than ever before.
The two speeches that I gave this last week were more rewarding than anything I had done in my entire life. I first spoke to 400 high school seniors at my high school for their senior sendoff. I did my TED talk but this time around I did it without notes and I did it without stumbling. At the end I got my first standing ovation and people were yelling, whistling, and cheering. It was such an incredible feeling. The mayor of Stow also spoke and I got to sit down and talk to her and tell her a little bit about my story. I feel that I truly made a difference in these students lives and that I sent them off to college with a message that anything is possible no matter what your circumstances are. They even wrote about me in the Akron Beacon Journal yesterday.
I had more fun speaking to fourth-graders then I had any other day since my accident. I did not scare them and show them pictures of my accident. I did remind them to wear a seatbelt and I also taught them about spinal cord injuries and how to treat people with disabilities. When I asked them if they had any questions I swear that all 100 of their hands went up in the air. They really had some great questions. One girl asked me what it was like to go from being a very good waterskier to being in a wheelchair. We could not have scripted better questions.
We played some games with them and then afterwards they went back to their classroom. When the teacher asked them what they learned one kid raised his hand and smiled and said that, “you just have to keep going.” Another kid who she said did not get excited about anything said that it was, “amazing.” They said that when they see someone in a wheelchair at a restaurant they will move chairs out-of-the-way for them and open doors for them. I still have a huge smile on my face thinking about that day and about how excited the kids were.
The principal told me that he would like me to do more speeches and he said that I could get paid to speak to Dublin city schools. This is something that I love to do for free but if I could make a career out of it I would absolutely love it.
I can’t wait to have kids of my own someday. For a long time I did not think that it would be possible for me to have kids. I never asked the doctors if it would be possible. But a girl that I know is an occupational therapist in school at Cleveland State and they did a case study on a waterskier who was in a car accident, dislocated his elbow, suffered a spinal cord injury at the C6 and C7 vertebrae, and had two collapsed lungs. Sound familiar? They talked about how I could still have children. When she told me this news at the time I was not that excited because I did not believe I would be able to raise a kid. If I cannot even take care of myself then how can I take care of a child? But I’ve realized that my nephews still love being around me. My nephew Zach always gives me the biggest hug when he sees me. Keller loves to sit on my lap and drive my wheelchair around. My niece McKenna just interviewed me about my accident and is putting my story to a song. My niece Morgan wrote about how I am her hero. I have always been great with kids and I still am and I think that I would make an excellent father. I will not be able to help with a lot of the physical things but I can teach them so much from what I’ve learned throughout my life.
This past week has been one of the best weeks of my life. I saw my best friends get married. I gave back by speaking to students by sharing my story. I have everything in life I could ever want right now except for one thing. I still need to find that special someone. But I now realize that girls are still interested in me even though I am in a wheelchair. I thought that girls would be turned off that I do not have a sex drive and that I cannot have sex. But a lot of girls are happy with that because it means that I am not in it for the sex. I want a relationship for love and for a family. So I will keep searching until I find that special someone. I think that living on a college campus is the perfect place for me to find someone.
So I have found my true passion and calling in life. I am now searching for love and I feel that I will find that soon. I’m excited about my future and I grow happier each day. I hope that I have made a difference in your life because you all have made a difference in mine! Thank you for all of the support and for your continued support in the future!