“Follow your own path.” I have that posted in my living room and it reminds me every day of this journey. I want to do something extraordinary with my life. Never once in my life did I want to be working towards someone else’s dream. Never did I dream of climbing that corporate ladder in hopes of one day reaching the top. So now I work for myself but I feel in that way I’m also working for you.
I pray every night to make me stronger the next day than the day before. I ask to help me to reach out and help as many people as I can. I’m far from perfect, and everybody is, but our flaws are what make us perfect. They make us stand out and be different from one another. I’m not afraid to share mine. I’m not defined by a car accident or my injury or my bipolar disorder. I’m happy the way my life has played out. I’m happy that I made so many mistakes along the way because I’m stronger from what I learned from them.
I love being different and I know that there is no one out there like me. There is also no one out there like you. I embrace the wheelchair and the attention that it draws because people know there’s a story behind it and it sparks curiosity. My disability is very visible but there is also the other side which is the bipolar disorder that is invisible. It was what led to the disability in the first place.
So this journey is the climb. A climb up from the bottom where I thought life was no longer worth living. The climb has helped me to realize how much there is worth living for. I’m staring at a beautiful blue sky and sitting at the heart of the Ohio State campus at Mirror Lake. What do I have to complain about? I’m the only one sitting here in a wheelchair but that does not bother me. A friend of mine, who is also paralyzed, told me that it is a waste of time to dwell on walking because it would be the same thing as if you could walk and all you dreamed of was being able to fly.
I had a couple copies of my book printed last Friday. It was an incredible feeling to have a physical copy in my hands. It made me feel that much closer to my dream. I hope that one day I can go around campus people recognize me for my book. I want to hear someone say that, “because of you I did not lose hope.” I want to help people find that inner strength that makes them feel that they can accomplish anything. To make them forget about mistakes that they have made and to move forward. To make them realize that their mistakes just built a solid foundation of who they really are from what they learned from them. Because to achieve success you must first fail along the way.
I do not hold anything back in my book. I explain to you what it’s like to be at your very worst. To actually think that you would be better off dead. But it comes full circle in the end when I realize that when I woke up in the ICU that it was only the beginning of a new life. A life where I realize how strong my family is, how strong I am, and how great the friends are that I have in my life.
I can’t believe what I put myself through and everyone else. Some of you may have thought that it was over for me and that life would never be the same. Maybe you never thought that I would have the same sense of humor. Maybe you thought that I would be devastated because I would no longer waterski again. But did any of you ever think that I would realize that life now is better than it ever has been? A tragedy is what helped me realize how great this life really is.
Your life is what you make it and how you perceive it to be. I never now look at others and wish that I could trade places with them. I doubt there is anyone that looks at me and wishes that they could trade places with me. I bet a lot of people look at me and feel bad for me. But I wish that they only know how bright I know that my future will be. I was put on this earth to be myself and no one else. No one can be me better than I can and no one can be you better than you can. We are all individuals and we are all unique.
We all have our own story to tell and our own path to follow. So follow the path that you know will make you truly happy. Your parents do not know what that path is. Your friends do not know what that path is. Only you know which path will make you truly happy. So follow your own path.