A good friend of mine was in a car accident about two months ago that left him with a serious ankle injury. For six months, he is confined to using a manual wheelchair and crutches to get around. When I saw him a few weeks after the accident, it was my first opportunity to ask a usually ambulatory friend how he felt about using a wheelchair. His response was, “It sucks!”
I wouldn’t say it sucks, but it is quite difficult. I know because unlike my friend, I must use a power wheelchair because of a neuromuscular disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which has taken away most of the muscle strength in my body, and almost completely in my legs. I can no longer stand, walk, or crawl to get around; even shifting my weight to roll over at night is impossible. Despite the difficulties of this disease, including reduced stamina in the hands and arms creating terrible cramps, I decided that I wouldn’t let it prevent what I want to do. This positive attitude I have developed since elementary school is the sword I use for conquering the challenges of life.
While in the fourth grade, I joined the school band, first playing trumpet, and then switching to percussion when holding the instrument became too difficult. I chose to stick to that passion of playing music through high school, which brought me new challenges. At first I was skeptical about joining the marching band, but I told myself that I could; my life has forever changed by that decision. The band director chose music that was difficult for the average student to play, let alone one with physical limitations. Fighting fatigue (between band and schoolwork) was my greatest challenge. I stuck with my passion, though, and by my senior year, I was appointed section leader of the Frontline, a group of percussion instrument musicians that does not march, but rather provides supportive sounds to the band from the front of the field. In fact, I took so much pride in playing the “little things,” such as cymbals, wind chimes, and tambourines, that I received quite a few laughs from people whenever I tried explaining how they shared an equal importance in the music to other instruments. By forcing myself to carry that pride, I came to terms with my limitations and realized that I could overcome any new difficulty that faced me.
I am now out of high school and enjoying my first semester of college. Even though I have just begun, my focus is already set toward a doctorate in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, a business degree aimed at working in Human Resources for corporations. Unfortunately, I must leave my passion of performing music behind as I begin the journey toward this new interest. As sad as I am to let go, I must once again come to terms with my limitations. My current obligation is to avoid being overwhelmed by the new responsibilities of college life. Nevertheless, this mighty sword I now carry with me through life will grow to an Excalibur, one tool which will shield not only me, but the family I have and the friends I make along the way.
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