I believe in doing it anyway. I was telling some friends recently about the speech my high school valedictorian gave, the words that amazingly stuck in my head all of these years. Her message, paraphrased, was that no matter what challenges you face in life, you should do it anyway. During the ceremony we had laughed about it, partially because the fumes of smoke bombs ignited minutes before made us silly. But her words are the concise way to express my belief: if you really want something, you go for it, no matter the odds.
This message was made clearest to me when I was part of the 2001 race crew for the University of Michigan Solar Car Team. Our car was totaled a month before the American race, and in that month we rebuilt and took the championship. We, as a team, agreed that we didnt care about the odds, and we achieved excellence. This made me see that for anything in life, there is one decision you must make: either its worth the effort, or it isnt. When you want something badly enough, the time and resources seem to magically appear. When you dont, everything is just a way of saying I want it, but not that badly.
Some months after my time on the crew, I began competing in ballroom dancing, but after two years of mysterious injuries to most of the major joints of my body, I was diagnosed with spondyloarthropathy, a systemic arthritis condition. I felt like my very active lifestyle was being cut off at the tender age of 22. Shortly thereafter I began graduate school, and as my health deteriorated, my dancing and other physical activities quickly stopped altogether. I blamed my misery on stress from school, the weather, and the pain. Eventually I had to accept responsibility for my health, since more then anything I wanted to love my life again. When I did that, the love and care of my family, friends, and some really fantastic doctors came out of the woodwork to help me achieve my goals.
Nowadays, Im back to dancing my aches and worries away. Dont get me wrong, my body has some very real limitations. I dance on a team now, and I can accept that sometimes the split I was contemplating just isnt worth the aftermath. There are days even simple movement, let alone dancing, is difficult, and on those days Ive walked into dance practice stiff and aching, and skipped out happy and moving freely. Those days I have to very consciously decide that my life is worth more then avoiding pain. So when my teammates ask me how I keep dancing despite everything, I have a pretty simple answer. I dance to live. So I do it anyway.
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