Vision, Clarity, Passion, and Fulfillment

17 Oct

I love vision. A vision for the future of how you want your life to unfold and having an idea of that final destination. I love clarity. Affirmations that what you are working for today is progressive and is leading towards that vision of the future. I love passion. I love knowing that what I am working towards is my choice and is something that I see as necessary to help strengthen myself and help lead to the betterment of society.

I do not like being told what to do. I do not think any of us do. I am my own boss, which is a beautiful thing. I still look for direction from people that I respect and I am a big believer in constructive criticism, but in the end I want people to respect that I have the final say on which direction I’m going to go. We have one life to do what we love and I am going to go in the direction that I want to go.

Our passion, belief, and positivity towards our dreams has to be far greater than the people that believe and have doubt that you will ever make it. Do you have vision? Do you have belief in that vision? I read a quote that was something like create your own dream and work towards it or you will be working towards the dream of someone else. I hope that you’re not in a position where you are working towards fulfilling the legacy of another person.

Everyone tells you that you need to go to school and get a good paying job. I think we need to reevaluate this and look at the term “good paying” as something that is not just monetary. What you do should be something that gives you personal satisfaction and fulfillment.

It feels great to make a profit when selling a book knowing that something they may take out of my story may help them. Although I feel just as good giving the book away to someone fighting through similar circumstances that I had to fight through knowing in the back of my mind that I may have just given them something that could be life-changing. The greater profit to me is when someone tells me that I inspired them or gave them hope whether or not they bought the book or it was given to them.

When I speak I am always able to see a face in the crowd that feels like they have a strong personal connection to what I am saying. I love hearing laughter from the same person that originally was in tears. They see and believe that this was no tragedy after all. This was just the start of something greater.

At the end of each speech it comes time for questions. This is the time that I love more than anything. I can tell how engaged people are by how many hands are raised. Many times the person does not even have a question, but just a comment where they praise the amount adversity that I have had to overcome. This gives me a great sense of pride and it is a reminder that I need to keep going in the right direction. It reminds me that my work is far from finished.

My story and my testimony is far from over. That is why it is great to have a vision to keep myself moving forward. I have a close friend and mentor that has a terminal illness. It is heartbreaking to know that his incredible journey will inevitably come to an end. Although the more I thought about this, I started to think that really all of or living with a terminal illness. No one knows if we are going to die today, tomorrow, or many years down the road. Death is inevitable for everyone so we should live each day knowing that we have unfinished business and know that there is only a limited amount of time for all of us to get it done.

I challenge you to create vision, to have clarity in that vision, and to fill your life and that vision with passion. Start today by evaluating your life and think about whether or not you are going in the direction that will leave you with a sense of fulfillment in the end. We only have one life so start today.

A Reminder of Life’s Worth

10 Sep

This is a reminder of life’s worth. Of my life. Of your life. For everyone. “Am I better off dead? Am I better off a quitter?” The lyrics of a song that stuck with me following my accident. I would ask myself that question and at the time I thought the answer was yes. I was yet to realize that the greatest gift that we are given is life.

What if I had chosen to give up? What would that do for this world and for the people around me? Nothing… or I should say at least nothing positive. There’s no reason for any of us to give up. Envision the future with optimism and treat the present as a gift.

There are countless people out there praying for just one more day of life fighting a terminal illness. So it would be selfish for someone to give up on life when they have so many days ahead of them. For someone that is terminally ill there is no amount of money they wouldn’t pay to get another day, a week, or even a year.

Make your mark. Start living today. Stop complaining. Stop comparing yourself to the guy next to you. You do not know their struggles and they do not know yours. No one has all the problems in the world and chances are that something you are going through has already been overcome by somebody else. So use relentless optimism and understand that we are all capable of a brighter future.

“I wish that I knew what I know now back when I was younger.” Those are lyrics from one of my favorite songs. If I knew I would be in the position that I am now growing up, then I would have lived those days much differently. If three years ago I knew that this tragedy would completely transform my life for the better then I never would’ve asked if I would’ve been better off dead.

The thing about these lessons is that we cannot go back and relive the past, but more importantly we can share these your lessons with the younger generations and those people going through a similar life experience. A lesson learned is very important to share. I have visited some patients with spinal cord injuries and shared with them the lessons that I learned trying to prevent them from experiencing the year worth of misery that I had.

I am a speaker, writer, and advocate for people with disabilities and mental health issues and I am proud of that. The worst thing you can do is be afraid to share your mistakes and the lessons you’ve learned because by not reaching out to just one person you may have set them up for the failure and misery that you suffered through. We all have things in our lives that we wish that no one else would have to suffer through and by reaching your hands out to someone that wish might just come true.

I am living a truly rewarding and fulfilling life all because I have made myself vulnerable. It is amazing how many people I have talked to that have reached back to me to share a similar experience they say they have shared with only a handful of people in their entire life. In that way vulnerability has led to trust because these people know I will not judge them because you have been through it myself.

At the end of your life it does not matter how much money is in your bank account because you are not able to pay your way into heaven. No life is worth more than the other because of money. What matters is the impact that you’ve made on this world and the number of people that you reached out to and helped to live a more fulfilling life.

I wish three years ago I could see that genuine smile on my face now. I wish I could see that life could get better and even better than it ever was before. I wish I could see my optimism and determination. That wish will never come true, but there are people out there that need to see that life after tragedy can be magnificent.

I embrace the present and live in the now because I know there is the inevitable ticking clock when my time will come. So I will stay calm, but continue to live this fast-paced lifestyle in hopes that when my time comes I’ll be satisfied when the clock to stops ticking.

The Greatest 5 Lessons Since The Start of a New Life

9 Jul

1.) Family comes first.

When I woke up in the ICU I was surrounded by my entire family. They drove is far as from North Carolina immediately when they heard the news to be there for me. I could not imagine what it would’ve been like if I woke up alone.

The bond between my family has grown stronger through what most people would say was a tragedy. Treat your family with respect and encourage one another and push them forward. Your family knows you best and they care about you more than anyone because you have grown together.

The best part about my life is my family. I have a large and loving family that is very supportive of me. I knew before my accident how much they love me but now I understand it to the fullest extent. For that I am grateful.

2.) Always be there for your friends and they will be there for you in your time of need.

I think one thing that I have done right in my life is that I have treated my friends very well. I will drop anything for a friend in need even if it is the smallest favor. I answer my phone every time it rings and respond back to text messages almost immediately.

When I was in the hospital for almost 4 months there were only three days that I did not have a friend visit me. I shared a room with a kid my age for the first month and throughout that entire time the only person that visited him were his parents one single time. He had a tattoo on his chest that said “trust no one”.

Work on building great relationships and trust with your friends. These will be the people you need when your family is not around.

3.) Be selfless.

Selfless is defined as showing unselfish concern for the welfare of others.

During the first year after my accident all I cared about was my own recovery. I wanted the self-pity and I was always looking to others to tell me that everything would be okay.

When I started writing that was when everything turned around. I realized I had a powerful story to tell and message to spread. I got so much satisfaction out of helping others that it in turn helped myself.

All I simply was doing was sharing a story and being open about everything. People started telling me about the tough situations they were going through and were telling me that it was my strength that helped them get through it. At the time I wasn’t even strong enough to crack a smile, but over time the people I shared my story with built me up and changed me into a better person.

We all have lessons that we have learned in our lives that can be shared with others. Use all the tools you have to help others and I promise you that in the end it will put a huge smile on your face.

4.) Make yourself vulnerable.

We all have secrets and stories that we are afraid of sharing because we feel that we will be judged. That’s what I thought when I first started writing. Although the more I opened up and talked about my emotions and gave away my secrets the more praise and followers I got.

I love to tell it how it really is because so many people are afraid to and people need to know. If everyone was open about their life and made themselves vulnerable and shared their secrets, then people wouldn’t feel so alone. So many people are ashamed of certain things that they have done when in reality there are so many more out there that share that same thing that they are shameful of. If we all were more open about our lives then the world would be a better place.

5.) Do what you love and you never will have to work a day in your life.

Don’t ever take a job because of the money. Happiness is worth a lot more than money.

When I graduated with a civil engineering degree so many people urged me to find a civil engineering job. I want to utilize my degree in the future, but I understood when I graduated that I was needed for something more. I wanted to become a motivational speaker and an author. Today that dream is a reality.

The first 50 speeches I gave I did for free and loved every last minute of it. Now I’m getting paid to do something that I love more than anything and when I look at my schedule I count down the days until the next speech.

Writing is something I really love and that is not something you usually hear from an engineer. It started with this blog and then came the book. When writing the book it felt like I was talking to a brick wall for a year and a half. Now that my story is out there the rewards far outweigh the obstacles.

I think the reason I enjoy what I do so much is because I feel that I’m truly helping people. So many people have reached out to me and said so. If I was working for someone else I feel that I would be building their dream and not mine.

I do not make a lot of money doing what I do, but it is more than enough to keep me happy especially since I never feel like I’m working. Choose a job where you feel like you will have an impact on other people’s lives and not just on your bank account or on your boss.

There are so many more lessons that I have learned in the last 3 1/2 years, but I believe that these are the best five lessons I could think of. I want to thank all of you for joining me on this incredibly exciting journey. I look ahead to the future and embrace the past. Thank you for giving me back my life, which is actually a life that is better than I could ever imagine!

Never Enough…

8 Jun

It is never enough… Never has anything in my life made me content. I don’t know if that’s a curse or a blessing. As one monumental goal is accomplished right away I start thinking, “what’s next?” This way of thinking gets me to accomplish more, but at the same time I wish that I could just be at peace with myself. Why is it that I never settle? Is it just human nature that we always feel that we have to do more with our lives or are there some people out there that are content and have no need to strive for anything more?

With waterskiing I was always chasing after that next buoy. Always trying to win that next tournament. This was always an attainable goal where you saw progress. This was unlike the thousands of hours of therapy to get myself to take those first steps all over again. With that I finally grew content with my situation and decided to move on. Although if I do think of something that is attainable, I will push myself to meet that goal. It just never stops there and I always feel like I have unfinished business.

I write a book and then I want to write another. No matter how great sales are they could always be better. No matter how many speeches I have lined up I can always get more. After a while compliments even begin to feel less and less special.

I’m 27 years old and the love of a significant other is something I have always been missing in my life. I get down of myself sometimes thinking that it is the wheelchair that is preventing me from finding that special someone. But I truly believe that I have a lot to offer and that if someone really loves me that much then the wheelchair would not matter. I know that I really can make someone happy and love them above all else. I would be a father that would die for his children. Maybe I couldn’t help out with too many of the physical aspects of raising a child, but the guidance, support, and love that I would give to that child would be unmatched.

I never want to look back on my life and see you that I did nothing to better my life or better this world. I want to leave a legacy behind. I want to be someone with great-great-grandchildren who would have wanted to meet me.

I don’t care how much money is in my bank account. I don’t care what kind of car I drive. I care about how much love I gave to my family and friends and the other people I met along the way. I care about the impact I will make on this world along the way and hopefully long after I’m gone.

So no, I feel that I have not done enough and I feel that this is just the beginning. There is so much more beauty in this world that I have yet to see. There are so many amazing people that I have yet to meet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely happy with the events of my life that have played out so far. I am proud of what I have accomplished, but life is far from over.

I must never forget that there are people out there struggling. There are lives that need to be changed. I am truly blessed and for that reason I should pay it forward. I want to help do my part in ending suffering, depression, and self-pity. I want everyone to realize that we are beautiful in our own way.

For that it makes me realize that it should never be enough. I will continue to keep fighting and striving until my dreams come true. The more you give the more rewarding this life is. I am just getting started. It is never enough…

Adam Sayles: The Past, Present, and Future of Life With a Traumatic Brain Injury. How He is Defying the Odds.

27 Apr

Edited and verified by his mother Vickie Sayles

I talked a lot in the past about losing your mind versus losing your body. In my life I have successfully won the fight in regaining control of my mind on two different occasions. My fight was mostly won through medications. The other portion consisted of the support of friends and family providing different perspectives and reasons for why I should not be thinking the way I was thinking.

My fight was not nearly as difficult as a friend of mine named Adam Sayles. His fight, on the other hand, is still not over. Just like my fight to regain control of my body is not over. But unlike me, who has basically lost hope and moved on, he continues to push himself every day to regain control of his mind. I just sit around and sometimes think about the faint possibility of a cure. There is no cure and will be no cure for his condition, but he is working hard every day to win his fight. I applaud him for that.

Now we have had discussions about the power of the mind versus the power of the body. He understands that the mind is extremely powerful, as do I, but we do have one disagreement. Neither of us would want to change places. He can’t imagine my struggles and I can’t imagine his struggles either.

So the story begins… Adam Sayles was a scholar. At his high school in Rocky River, Ohio, he was in the top 15% of his class. He was a three sport varsity athlete in baseball, basketball, and golf. He was also a member of the schools weight lifting team. He once scored nine 3-pointers on a pretty prominent athlete in just the first half. His team was within a few points at halftime. That was until he found that the team was just toying with them and in the second half he was held scoreless and they got crushed by game’s end.

He took second 2 years in a row in the Cleveland Indians Hit, Pitch, and Run competition. He was able to meet Charlie Nagy and other prominent Indians at a ceremony at Windows on the River.

Adam still holds his high school varsity record for baseball saves in the 4 years varsity career. He was known for pitching extremely fast. He also holds a record for his weight lifting accomplishments in 2002. Although he only weighed 185 lbs, he lifted 485lbs in a state competition, setting the school record for his weight class. .

Although Adam was an awesome athlete and honor roll student, he liked to drink and smoke marijuana. He found it very important to prove to his friends that he could be an A student but also hang out with them and be one of the “popular” kids.

Most things came easy for Adam. At 5 years old he won a trophy almost as tall as him, being the Karate studio’s student of the year. At 10 years old he had the highest average in his bowling league a 178. He placed second the Plain Dealer golf tournament one year and won other golf tournaments in Northeast Ohio. He scored a 31 on his ACT and a 1290 on his SAT. He tested out of all math classes in college on his placement tests. He was motivated and intelligent and he was told by everyone that he would succeed. At graduation the commencement speaker said that he would make the largest impact of anyone in his class

Adam’s parents divorced when he turned 18. This devastated him. He chose not to live with either of his parents at this point and rented his own apartment. He did not realize how much money it took to live on his own. Without a good job, it was tough to get by. He eventually took a job as a line cook and worked his way up to become the assistant to the executive chef at a fine dining restaurant. After a short while he left there and took another job. He found he was usually able to work his way up in ranks and make more money than he should and more than the majority of other workers. He even had jobs requiring a degree even though he did not have a degree.

Adam felt he was on top of the world other than he didn’t like Cleveland. Since he was still young and had no real ties other than family and friends here, he decided to make a big move. He moved to Clearwater, Florida because it sounded like a nice place to live. Although, he loved his life in Florida, this would prove to be a fateful decision for him.

He was able to find a job at a beach restaurant in just a few days. His roommate took multiple months to find a job, as his past experience didn’t translate well. While he liked the atmosphere of the restaurant, he wanted a better paying job. He found that opportunity at a popular hotel on the beach. He started as a front desk employee, but was soon promoted to higher paying positions like accounts payable and purchasing manager due to his customer service and finance background. He felt this was the best experience of his life and he loved working here. But, he still loved to party as well. One day he made the fateful choice of spending the day at the beach drinking and then going to the hotel on his day off. He was suspended from his position at the hotel.

While suspended he found a job at a T-Mobile branch in Largo, Florida. With his salary and commission, he was making quite a bit of money, $70,000 to be exact. At this time, he owned 2 mopeds which he drove back and forth to work. He decided that those were not fast enough for him so he bought a 275cc motorcycle. Thinking he was invincible, he was becoming more and more reckless, never wearing protective gear or a helmet. This was another fateful decision for Adam.

After buying the new 275cc bike, things become foggy for Adam. (This is where stuff gets cloudy but) According to police reports and eyewitness accounts, on March 12, 2011, while on his way to work a 72 year old lady turned into a shopping center in front of him. The speed limit on this road was 45 and after a yearlong investigation it was determined that Adam was driving at 42MPH. When she turned in front of him, Adam tried to swerve to miss her. He ended up hitting the rear quarter panel of the van she was driving. He was ejected from the bike, but not before the handlebars went under his ribs, rupturing his spleen. He then flew approximately 20 feet in the air, hitting the ground with the left side of his head, in the frontal lobe of his brain.

On impact, his brain sheared, which means the left and right hemisphere went in opposite directions. This caused what is called a diffuse axonal injury and caused hemorrhages, or bleeding, in multiple areas of his brain. He also shattered his left orbital bone, suffered a deviated septum in his nose, and had multiple areas of deep road rash. The paramedics were unable to intubate him on the scene, resulting in Adam not breathing for several minutes. They kept trying but ended up having to breathe for him with an Ambu bag until they arrived at Bayfront hospital, the trauma center for Pinellas County Florida and was rushed into the operating room where experts were able to get him on a ventilator. Before they were able to stabilize him, he had to be resuscitated again.

Through a large incision in his abdomen, Adam’s spleen was removed and his abdominal hemorrhaging was brought under control. He had lost a lot of blood by this time. Additionally, a bolt was placed in his skull, which would remain for 10 days, in order to control the swelling of his brain. He was kept in a drug induced coma for 10 days in order to control this swelling and give his brain time to heal.

Once out of the coma, he was very confused. He did not know where he was, in fact because the nurses had the TV in his room; he thought that he was in Japan due to the television reports of the huge Tsunami that hit while he was in ICU. At times he thought that he was married and had several children or thought he was the owner and CEO of Wal-Mart.

After 14 days in Intensive Care, Adam was moved to a locked brain injury rehab unit within the trauma center. Although he was considered extremely lucky due to the fact that over 90% of persons that are affected by the same type of injury Adam sustained remain in a vegetative state for life, and only 1% of people with this type of injury are ever back to their pre-accident state. Adam was not so sure he was lucky. When he arrived to rehab he was unable to walk without falling for short periods of time, had to be taken to the bathroom, in fact, he had to ring for the nurse if he wanted to do anything at all. His physical therapy consisted of trying to hit a balloon with his hand before it hit him and learning to walk again. He also had to be constantly reminded of his name, the date, his age, the month and year. His memory was completely gone. To this day he does not remember much that he did from the age of 26 to the age of 20. Those years are gone for him forever.

Little did Adam realize that his struggle was just beginning when he left the trauma center. He moved in with his mom and her boyfriend at first. This was very difficult as due to the brain injury he was very argumentative and lacked motivation. He would want to lie in bed all day and refused to do the much needed therapy to get his brain and body back to normal. He thought it would be less stressful to move in with his dad and her girlfriend, only to find out that was not the case. He eventually moved in with his aunt and uncle for a few months and started cognitive therapy but felt that he was beyond what they were teaching him so he stopped going long before he should have. He then decided that he was ready to move back to Florida. This was not the best decision but the sunshine and lack of people pushing him to do things was a relief to him.

Several months after being in Florida, Adam decided that he was going to surprise his mom for her birthday and fly back to Cleveland. During this trip, he missed a connecting flight which threw Adam into the start of a manic phase. Not realizing that this happens to over 70% of persons who suffer a severe traumatic brain injury, none of his family or friends, or Adam himself knew what was happening. This episode would prove to be Adam’s biggest setback since the accident. After arriving in Cleveland, he met his mom and a friend for dinner and drinks. His mom realized that something was very wrong but had no idea what it was. After leaving the restaurant in his father’s new car, he ran a red light and totaled his dad’s car along with the other driver’s car. This threw him into a full blown manic phase. During this month long phase he alienated his family and his friends by acting so bizarre and refusing treatment.

He spent approximately $20,000 of his settlement on random items through online shopping, gambling, and handing the money to people he thought needed it, and destroyed a hotel room. While in the hotel room, he started thinking that the police were watching his every move. He ripped pictures off of the wall, tearing the room apart looking for cameras. He cut the phone lines and destroyed the lights. He pulled the fire alarm in the room, thinking that it was a fake alarm. Firefighters and police soon arrived and tazed him and took him to jail.

Adam was strip searched and forced to shower in front of the whole department when he arrived to jail. This upset him even more. He started acting very inappropriately while in the jail cell, pulling down his pants and screaming that he was not Traveon Martin and that the police were racially profiling him. He nicknamed the cops Super Trooper names and continuously talked and made fun of them.

He was eventually transferred to the hospital where they determined it was a manic episode. Since Adam did not have insurance, he was transferred to a behavioral health care center for patients that were in trouble but did not have insurance. Unfortunately, the health center did not realize that Adam was as sick as he was so they released him. The hotel realized Adam had a warrant out for his arrest and cops arrested him again. They thankfully realized that he needed mental help and sent him back to the behavioral health center where he remained for about a month. During this entire time, Adam believed that he was normal and everybody else was out to get him.

The doctors at the behavioral health center realized what was going on and put Adam on very high doses of medications. He was forced to meet with a psychiatrist there who continued to drug him heavily. Adam was aware enough of his mental state to know that he was being over drugged and could not even function. He was drooling from such high doses but was unable to do anything at all about it. The police were forcing him to stay at this center due to the hotel damage that was done a month before.

Adam was finally released on the same high doses of medications and went to court for the hotel damages. He was put on probation for a year and was forced to continue his medications and see a psychiatrist. He also had to pay restitution for the hotel damage he caused. He was unable to go back to Florida and his condo due to his probation and forced to stay in Cleveland.

Medications that were supposed to help only made things worse. He became depressed and suicidal. Having a spiritual background is the only thing that kept him from killing himself. He hated the fact that he was in cloudy Cleveland and was not near the beach in sunny Florida. He went back to Longhorn Steakhouse where he worked when he was just out of high school. They created a mindless position for him rolling silverware after he was unable to be a cook. He absolutely hated it and found it difficult to go to work due to tremendous anxiety issues.

He finally got off probation in July 2013. He stopped taking all of the mandatory medications and his mindset started to change. Although life still was a struggle he found

Lumosity is a website where you play games that help to train your brain. He started using this website in May of last year and the website has charted his improvement. When he started it said that he was “smarter” than only 3% of people his age. Now, less than a year later, he has improved to the point where he is “smarter” than 70% of people his age. Although his ultimate goal is to get back to where he was before the accident he realizes that this may be impossible because only 1% of people are able to do this. He is optimistic this will happen and he will be pre-accident intelligence.

Adam is now driving but suffers extreme anxiety after his accident. He is currently on disability which he hopes to someday be able to be off of and work a normal job. He helps his mom by getting groceries and running other errands. He takes care of his mom’s dog during the day which teaches him responsibility and makes him feel better about himself.

He still struggles with memory now. He says that every day is like Groundhog Day to him. Because of this he tries to do the same thing on a daily basis. Sometimes he still forgets some of his daily routines. If he does something out of the ordinary one day he will forget that he did it the next day. He only really remembers what he normally does. So he sticks to routines.

He is easily overwhelmed which is very common with traumatic brain injuries. He can only do one task at a time and can’t handle when bumps in the road occur while trying to complete the task.

The hardest part about everything is that he looks completely normal on the outside, but he has problems with his brain that are invisible. People cannot see a mental disability, unlike a physical disability. He has asphalt around his eye and some scratches but nothing really looks wrong with him physically. That is the most frustrating part to him. You wouldn’t even know he had surgery unless he took off his shirt and you saw the giant scars on his stomach from the emergency surgery on his spleen. He also has scars on his hands, feet, and ankles from road rash.

He is making great progress but he has had some tremendous setbacks. He has overdosed twice since the accident, on accident. He does not remember taking his medications sometimes and takes them again. One time, due to the fact that his mother’s boyfriend had cancer and had large amounts of Morphine and Xanax, he decided to take two 10mg morphine tablets and 2mg of Xanax. 10 mg of morphine is what a cancer patient will normally take. It is an extremely high dose. He then went to lie down and his mom found him not breathing after an unknown amount of time, and had to start CPR. The ambulance rushed him to the hospital, but he also suffered another anoxic injury to his brain, affecting his memory even more.

The second overdose happened only a few months ago in January of 2014. He drove to Florida and was able to obtain a prescription for Percocet along with another strong anti-anxiety medication. He once again took too much medication accidently (30 mg of Percocet and 4mg of Klonopin) and was found unresponsive by the owners of the condo. The police were called but Adam was able to talk his way out of it. He slept it off and came back to Ohio instead of staying in Florida the other 2 weeks he was supposed to.

He stays away from painkillers and other prescription medication drugs now, because he will take one and then an hour later he will forget that he took one so he will take another. This is obviously a dangerous situation so dangerous pills must be hidden from him at all times, but he has learned his lesson and he does not want any more setbacks.

He recently went back to the hospital in Florida to visit his therapists. They cannot believe how well he is doing and he is nothing short of a miracle. He sees others with the same type of injury that are stuck in that vegetative state and he realizes how blessed he is.

His plans now… The only thing he is concerned about is getting better and getting back to where he was. He was going to school for finance and he is close to finishing and hopes to one day finish his degree. He still knows a lot about computers and networking but not as much as pre-accident. He wants to start his own business one day. Working right now is just a distant dream of his because of the mental hurdles. He is still easily frustrated and suffers from overwhelming anxiety about almost anything.


23 Apr

I remember during that first year going through a McDonald’s drive-through and wishing I could trade places with the cashier. I would have traded places with anyone. I saw my circumstances as unfavorable. I would have told anybody that was able-bodied, “at least you’re not me.”

I had yet to adapt to my situation. Every time my leg would spasm I would get angry. Going to the bathroom was a process that I thought I would never get used to. I hated my body and I hated the fact that I could do absolutely nothing to make it better. I had lost 45 pounds and all the muscle that I built over the years was gone. My physical self was diminishing every day.

I watched kids ride by on bikes and I saw pictures of my friends waterskiing on Facebook. Up to this point the physical things in my life were what made me happy. So how was I going to be happy without being able to do what I love?

At some point in our lives we all have to adapt to a difficult situation. It could be something like losing a loved one or something more simple like failing a class. As I read about spinal cord injuries I read about how it was the most life-changing injury you could experience and how difficult it is to adapt to.

A large majority of the people with spinal cord injuries are men and they are risk takers. These are usually very active people like myself, which makes the adaptation that much harder.

Acceptance was the key to finding happiness. Acceptance is the key to moving forward out of any tragedy or difficult situation. You cannot wallow in self-pity for the rest of your life. People will only help you for so long but in the end it is up to you to find your own happiness.

Adaptation comes with time. Something difficult in the beginning will become the norm overtime. My life is very different than any of yours but I have nothing to complain about. You may look at me and you would think that you would never want to trade places with me. That being in my situation would be your biggest fear. I, however, would not trade places with anyone. I was born to be myself and nobody else. No one can be you better than you can.

I wake up every day with a sense of optimism. I’ve had enough bad days where I do not plan on having another. Although I do know some bad days are ahead of me, but for now I will continue to live in the moment.

Life can change in an instant but do not fear change. Change can make you stronger and reevaluate your life. It can make you realize what is truly important in this world. So don’t fear the future and don’t fear tragedy. A drastic change in my life I think is just what I needed. I got to slow down and look at life through a whole different lens. The view through this lens is much more clear. I like the view through this lens much better.

When someone sees me for the first time they may think I live a life of misery. That is the problem with the stigma of disabilities. Living with a disability makes you realize how much our society takes things for granted. So I cherish everything that I have left. Maybe we are useful in making you feel better about yourself, but I feel that everyone can learn something from someone with a disability. We understand perseverance and adaptation and I believe that people with disabilities are the strongest people out there and have had to overcome more adversity than a majority of the world.

I am truly thankful for my disability, something I never thought I would say, but it has given me the strength to make an impact on this world.

Dare to Be Different

8 Apr

I dare to be different. I dare to be vulnerable. I’m not hiding. This is me and this is who I am and this is my story. I do not want to be invisible. You would think by sharing some mistakes that I’ve made that people would say shame on you, but it’s the opposite. People will admire you for telling you that you’re imperfect. No one wants to share their imperfections or their mistakes. We live in a society where we are thought that we are supposed to be perfect. Although it is our imperfections that make us who we are.

Does it seem like a crazy idea to expose yourself? For me I decided it was the only choice. For a year I kept everything bottled up only exposing myself to my mother. As soon as I started to come clean about everything that I had done publicly it felt like a weight was being lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t know how people would react, but I realized the more open I was about everything the more people were willing to listen. The more I reached out to others the more others would reach back out to me. I was talking about my imperfections but in return people were telling me that I was perfect. Quite the opposite reaction that I was expecting.

I do not believe that I am perfect and I know that no one is perfect. However, I believe that by sharing my story and the reactions I get is a perfect example of how being vulnerable is how we should be. We cannot care what other people think about us. We are all perfect in our own way. We all have something to share and to contribute to this world. If more people were vulnerable and admitted to their mistakes then we would not live in a society where we believe that perfection is the norm.

I was told that I needed to graduate and get a civil engineering job. I knew, however, that I needed to follow my own path. I knew that there would still be people there to do the calculations to build a bridge or a dam. There would not be, however, someone to share my story to teach people from the lessons that I learned from my mistakes. So I got up in front of that first crowd of about 50 people and put myself out there. It was a complete feeling of euphoria that I had never felt before. I knew I was heading down the right path.

50 speeches later and after speaking in front of nearly 3,000 people I still get that same feeling of euphoria that I felt on that first day. I will speak to around 75 students on Thursday and then in front of a crowd of 500 people on Friday. Public speaking is one of the biggest fears amongst our society.When I think of getting in front of those 500 people on Friday it brings excitement and feelings of joy to my mind.

I dared to be different. I expose myself in my book. I hold nothing back in my speeches and in my writing. We all need to be more vulnerable. Stop caring about your imperfections and realize that they are what make you unique. They are what make us stand out. Do not conform to society. Dare to be different.


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