I Believe in the Power of People to Defy Expectations

Abby - Rochester, New York
Entered on March 24, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

“You amaze me.” It’s truly incredible how little I have to accomplish in order to elicit this response from complete strangers. It has almost become a game to see how minute a feat I have to achieve in order to receive truly high praises. It’s hard to make others understand how this phrase coupled with a gentle smile and a reassuring pat on the shoulder never fails to send shivers through my body. While I know the message is delivered in good faith and all honesty, to be perfectly honest, it simply reminds me of how little sometimes people expect of me.

I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when I was only two, and having been blessed with an invaluable love from my family and friends and the miracles of medicine, I now stand at almost twenty-two, a senior about to graduate from Princeton University.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. I wasn’t supposed to be able to go away to college, let alone graduate and move to New York City. I wasn’t supposed to be able to play a varsity sport in high school. I wasn’t supposed to have a seventh birthday. This is what my parents were told nearly twenty years ago. But they refused to accept defeat and have instilled in me the belief that has kept me alive and will continue to push me forward: I believe in the power of people to defy expectations.

A short conversation with any of my closest friends will tell you that I am an incredibly private person. Submitting this essay to national public radio contradicts almost every instinct I possess. My motivation, therefore, lies in the hope that I can spread this belief to other children, adolescents, and adults who face the same trial. Too often we expect too little of great people. We forget that the human spirit has an unmatched resilience to survive despite the greatest odds.

My story is not limited to people with cystic fibrosis, or even those who face illness and disease. Each of us have been doubted in one way or another. I implore you to accept their challenge, for the feeling of satisfaction that accompanies breaking someone else’s expectations is precious to the soul.

We’re all told as children that we can be anybody we want and do anything we desire. What Mom and Dad sometimes forget to mention is that there are going to be plenty of people along the way to tell you that you can’t or that you shouldn’t or that they’re surprised you made it as far as you did. A message of optimism and strength is not one that should be restricted to childhood, and so it is my responsibility, your responsibility, each of our obligation to convey this message to the people we love everyday because it is the expectations that we exceed which give each of us our own story to tell.