The Power of the Underdog

Catherine - Merritt Island, Florida
Entered on May 5, 2008

The Power of the Underdog

I have always been fascinated by the power of underdogs, those people who because of their deficit must work harder than most to achieve some measure of success. Deterrents which would discourage many only serve to motivate these courageous people. On April 10th, 1981, our second daughter began her life as an underdog. Born two days before the first shuttle rocketed to space, an event I witnessed from my hospital room in Cocoa Beach, Florida, her fragile life seemed directly opposed to the space program’s crowning achievement. In fact, the doctor explained that our sick, premature baby had only a fifty percent chance of making it through her first day. Since that day twenty-seven years ago, her life has been a series of struggles. Yet, because of the many goals she has accomplished, I have grown to believe that a life filled with obstacles is a life all the more worth celebrating.

As a young woman, I lived a very Pollyana life. My parents rarely argued, I did not accumulate any student loans because my parents paid my college costs, and I had a wonderful husband and a beautiful three year old daughter. Then, we moved to Florida, and my perfect life began to crumble. How would I cope with the terrifying event of almost losing my precious baby? After all, I had just moved thousands of miles from any family support. However, I would soon discover that my tiny daughter would help build my belief that life’s hardships make us stronger.

Over the years, I have watched my daughter overcome adversity with sheer determination. It seemed the first few years consisted of weekly doctor visits and constant rounds of medications. Then, in elementary school, she was diagnosed with learning differences, which made schoolwork a constant challenge. Later, she suffered with seizures and the taunts of merciless junior high school girls and boys who labeled her “different.” But through it all, she managed many achievements in which we rejoiced. She won the coveted role of Snow White in her second grade play; she wrote a prize winning poem in high school; she auditioned and was accepted into a nationally recognized college of music; and she passed, after the fourth attempt, the exam necessary for entrance into the exceptional education program in which she is currently enrolled. Most recently, I watched her and her dad spend two to three hours at a time studying College Algebra, a required education course which she took three times before passing.

My daughter’s ultimate goal is to teach autistic children. I know that because of her experiences, she will make a positive impact on these unique students and their families, showing them that life’s difficulties are worth celebrating. Her presence in the classroom, guiding and encouraging these young people, will confirm my belief that struggles in our lives only make the achievements that much sweeter.