With the holiday season upon us, it is the season when you should take some time to give thanks for all of the good things in your life. Especially at this time of year when it is so easy to let materialism and greed overshadow what the holidays are all about, it is really important to fully appreciate all that you have. Whenever I take a moment to take stock of my life and count my blessings, I am often surprised at how some of the stuff that I am the most grateful for can come from unexpected, and even unwanted, places. The best example of this is how I am thankful for numerous things that I only have in my life because I am disabled and use a wheelchair. Now don’t get me wrong, I would do literally anything to be rid of this awful disease, but that does not mean that at the same time I cannot also be grateful for the lessons that being disabled has taught me.
In order to better explain what I mean, I have decided to share with you 8 things that I am grateful for that were caused by my physical limitations. You will quickly see that they are quite a diverse group, ranging from critical life lessons all the way to trivial, little perks, but they are all things I am thankful for that resulted from my disability.
I am thankful for:
Having the ability to help others. Learning to lead a happy, fulfilling life in spite of my disability is something that I struggled with for a long time. When you wake up every day in pain, need help doing even the smallest tasks, and live knowing your life will be shorter than most, it can be difficult to see the good things in life. It was not until I realized that my suffering, and learning to live in spite of it, is the key to finding happiness. I recognized that by overcoming all of the hurdles presented by my disability and living a “normal,” full life anyway, I can inspire others. Having the strength and courage to fight this disease and still go about my life like any able-bodied person, I can motivate people to chase their dreams and achieve great things.
Sitting in the best seats and getting VIP treatment at concerts and sporting events. There are not many locations in most arenas, stadiums, and other venues that are suitable for people in power wheelchairs. Typically, the only areas that will work are either all the way in the front or clear in the back. To not come off as discriminatory (let’s put the handicapped people in the worst seats), the tickets reserved for wheelchair accessible seating are usually right up front. As a result of this delightful act of reverse discrimination, I have gotten to sit 10 rows behind home plate at Wrigley Field and was in the front row at a Third Eye Blind concert. This gets even better though, because by sitting near the stage I always end up meeting and talking to roadies, which has its own benefits. After telling them a little about myself and how much I love the band, more often than not they give my nurse and I “staff” bracelets that allow us to go pretty much anywhere. I have been backstage at Van’s Warped Tour and Rockstar’s Mayhem Festival, where I got to meet some of my favorite bands.
Everything I can do. Even though I do everything I possibly can to not let my disability prevent me from doing things, there are going to be certain situations that I will not be able to experience. In order to live a happy life with a physical disability this is something that you just have to come to terms with. The key to accepting this unfortunate reality without letting it negatively impact your life is by keeping everything in perspective. This glass half full mindset is what allows me to live a happy life without letting my physical limitations bring me down.
Being able to fully appreciate how amazing my parents are. I have always known that I have phenomenal parents, but over the last year I finally realized how truly incredible they are. When I went to them after spending the last 8 years and thousands of dollars getting my master’s degree in quantitative psychology and said, “I think I am going to stop pursuing a full-time career in statistical analysis and work as a professional speaker instead.” They would have been well within their rights to laugh at me and tell me I am crazy. They had no real reason to think I could make it as a professional speaker as I had no training or experience in that area, yet they both supported me. They basically told me that if I “know,” deep in my bones, that my calling is to create Roll Models and help others through by sharing my story, then I would find a way to succeed.
Just like how at any holiday family feast you do not want to eat too much too fast, you also do not want to take in too much information all at once. In order to give you some time to fully digest this tasty food for thought, I am going to stop here for now. Once these nuggets of wisdom have settled into your brain, you will be ready to belly up to the table for part 2.