If I could describe my life in one word, it would have to be “unconventional.” From the time I was a baby, my circumstances were just a little different than the average human. For starters, I was born eleven weeks prior to my due date. My premature birth caused me to be mildly affected with a neurological disorder called Cerebral Palsy (CP), which has left me unable to walk on my own. Despite the fact that my future seemed uncertain and doctors were unsure if I would live a “normal” life, my family recognized that I was bright. They took the doctors’ opinions about my intelligence with a grain of salt. In the twenty-two years following my diagnosis, my life has been filled with twists, turns, ups and downs.
Through all the craziness, I have realized that the mission I want to accomplish most in life is simply giving hope to others by being a beacon of strength and perseverance through my actions and words.
Growing up, I often wondered what my purpose was. When I was younger, I daydreamed about how easy my life would be if I did not have CP–okay, I still do that from time to time! How was I ever going to fit in? How was I going to make a life for myself when I constantly have to map out Point A to Point B? These thoughts would keep me up at night. All I knew was that I wanted to live my life as normally as possible.
For the most part, my life has been very normal. Growing up in Chattanooga, I was in regular classes with my classmates. The only thing that was different about me was that while they were playing sports, I was having surgeries to improve my gait and attending numerous physical therapy sessions. It was hard at times accepting the fact that I could not quite keep up with my peers physically. However, during my time recovering from surgeries, I uncovered what would eventually be my greatest passion and gift in life–the love of reading and writing. I was in the first grade, around seven years old. I vividly remember my mom taking me to Books-A-Million and buying me three to four books at a time. And, I could not wait to go to K-Mart to get my hands on a colorful Lisa Frank notebook to pen my own stories. Needless to say, this newfound hobby would play a key role in my life years later.
Despite the fact that I have always loved to read and write, I thought I had a different calling for many years. Initially, I wanted to be a nurse. The idea of saving lives really intrigued me. Work would never be monotonous, and I would have a major impact on patients’ lives. However, soon after I began college, my feelings about nursing began to drastically change. Suddenly, I was terrified at the thought of having someone’s life in my hands. Two months into freshman year, I took a major leap of faith and changed my major to Journalism & New Media. At first, I was so disappointed; I felt like I lied to myself for wanting to be a nurse. How in the world was I going to make an impact on someone’s life if I was not able to physically help them?
Thankfully, this mentality did not last too long; I started to genuinely enjoy my journalism classes–creating a blog in Dr. Mac’s class that I still maintain today, writing news package scripts for Professor Griggs and learning how to use various Adobe programs in Professor Gibson’s classes. Truthfully, the journalism field fits me to a tee. Although I had to leave my dreams of being a nurse behind, I had a profound epiphany: I may not be able to help people physically, but I can help them with my words. That can be just as beneficial to someone as healing a wound. Journalism is a wonderful field because there is always a story to tell. Through those stories, journalists are able to give voices to people, raise awareness about important issues and impact the world. I cannot wait to be a part of this in my career.
Speaking of careers, it is less than a month before graduation, and I still have hardly any idea about what I am going to do after college. Throughout the semester, I have done everything in my power to adequately market myself: revise my resume numerous times, create business cards, network with as many people as I possibly can, continue to blog and write stories for Lumination Network…the list goes on and on. Thus far, I am still not sure what is going to happen to me post-graduation.
For the past year, I have been really praying that God will put the right people and events in my life to help me achieve what He wants me to do. I can see myself doing multiple jobs in the journalism and communications field: working at a magazine, in the music industry or even doing something with fashion. I am more than ready to get out in the world and make my mark. But honestly, securing a job or post-grad plan is happening a little slower than I hoped it would. I try so hard to make a plan so I can ease my nerves, but I can feel God telling me to be patient. I am so bad at waiting; after all, I was born eleven weeks early so I am conditioned to rushing. I cannot help it!
Perhaps the biggest lesson God has taught me in life is that He is ALWAYS faithful. There have been countless instances when I have felt isolated in my life. Like I said, it was hard for me to physically keep up with my peers when I was young. Because it was difficult relating to them, I was often anxious about how society would treat me in the future. However, that anxiety greatly diminished when I started college at Lipscomb University in the fall of 2012. Since then, my life has drastically changed for the better. Not only have I gotten a superb education, but I have grown mentally and spiritually as well. I finally feel like people accept me for who I am instead of just seeing my scooter, wheelchair or disability when I come into the room. Yes, life was not always fun, happy or easy, but dealing with numerous sticky situations has made the present even sweeter. God has truly helped me weather the unknowingness and messiness of life, and has been there in times of celebration, too. I do not regret anything that I have ever been through because it made me into the girl I am today. With all honesty, I would not want to change that girl at all.
The future may look a little foggy for me still, but I have a broad picture of what I do want to accomplish with my life. I want to dream big. I want to tell stories. I want to travel. I want to meet all sorts of people. Get married. Have a family. Raise awareness about important issues. Who knows, maybe I will even write a book! Accomplishing all those things will not be easy, but I am up for the challenge. After all, I deal with challenges daily, so what is another one added to the pile? I am ready to take them on with a smile and achieve my goals to the best of my ability. I cannot wait to see what is around the next bend.
To be honest, developing this can-do mindset has not always come naturally to me. One thought that has kept me motivated in life is that when I get old, I want to look back on my life and be proud of all my accomplishments. I do not want to live a life of pity and “oh wells.” God put me in a unique physical situation, but I want to make the most of it and make Him proud. Hopefully, I will inspire people along the way to embrace challenging circumstances. We all go through hard times, and we all have those “This-Is-It-I-Am-Not-Going-To-Make-It” Moments. However, it is up to us how we handle those. We can be defined by our challenges, or we can make something positive out of them. I just want to teach people that they are able to live a fruitful life no matter what their past looks like or what hardships they face. God gave us a chance at life, and I want people to embrace that and live the best life they can.