This month’s blog is going to be a little different.
Originally, I submitted this to one of those motivational websites. After three weeks I still haven’t heard anything from them, so I guess it wasn’t accepted. Sure, it was a little disappointing not getting part of my story in front of a huge audience, but I’m actually glad it didn’t make the cut.
The website had rules for their submissions, such as nothing political or hateful, which makes sense. As I read the rules further, there were also guidelines about topics relating to religion. I understand this as well because we all have the freedom to worship however we please.
I was in a bit of a dilemma because I really wanted to have my story shared with their millions of daily users, but I cannot tell my story without involving my Faith.
Sure, I could’ve talked about having a disability and the struggles I face. Perhaps the website people would’ve eaten it up and published it, but it wouldn’t be complete.
Of course, this blog is not my complete story. I still have many goals to pursue. However, I could not have gotten this far, nor could I go any further without Jesus. You see, my secret to dealing with my daily inconveniences is that I focus on the larger picture. I firmly believe that I am part of God’s great plan. I don’t know what that part may be and yes I am definitely asking when I get to Heaven, but until then I’m going to trust Him.
I may not have followed the rules for that website, but I have my own website and my own rules. Of course, the compliance department has to approve everything first. I hope you enjoy this blog and email me if I can help with anything.
Embrace the Seasons
2 Corinthians 12:10 (ESV): For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Did you ever hear the Sphinx riddle, “What walks on four legs, then two legs, then three legs?”
The answer is humans. As infants, we crawl on our hands and knees. Then we walk and, as we grow older, we may need the assistance of a cane, which is the third leg.
I first heard the riddle as a child, but it really didn’t impact me because I was unable to walk anyway. I could crawl some, but I have used an electric wheelchair for as long as I can remember. I was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a type of Muscular Dystrophy.
My parents were told I wouldn’t live past two years of age. Fortunately, they got a second opinion and I’m still here! Of course, a doctor’s opinion had no impact on the length of my life, but I do believe there is a difference in living and waiting to die.
Looking back, I’m starting to realize the riddle wasn’t a riddle after all.
It is more of a proverb about the different stages of human life. Instead of worrying about how we’re walking, let’s focus of the different seasons we face in our lives from birth to death.
You may think being a child in a wheelchair was tough, but it may have been the easiest part of my life. Of course, it wasn’t easy by any means, but having goals distracted me from my difficulties. Plus, Muscular Dystrophies are normally progressive, so our muscles and abilities can decrease over time.
For example, as a child I loved the outdoors, especially fishing. I loved the peace and quiet as well as the challenge and excitement of catching a fish. My love of fishing led me to my first business endeavor; making fishing lures.
I took a lot of pride in my fishing ability, but Muscular Dystrophy never cares about your feelings. Something happened to my right arm and I no longer had the stamina or strength to fish without help. Muscular Dystrophy may have taken fishing away, but it was preparing me for an important season coming up later.
My community is small and I was fortunate to spend my school years with the same children.
My friends were always helpful with getting my books, opening doors, or anything else I needed. Of
course, I couldn’t play sports or attend the wild parties like you see on television, but I was really there for another reason anyway.
I always viewed school as my job. My parents went to work, so my sisters and I went to school. I thought that was the standard deal for all families. My parents took great care of me, so the least I could do was be a good student.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to attend North Carolina State University.
Of course, I had to get accepted, which is why I worked so hard in high school. I didn’t have everything figured out as far as how to actually go to college, but that was my dream and the motivation I needed to succeed.
College was very difficult. The classes themselves were challenging, but I was well prepared for them. Everything else was the real challenge.
I loved college even though I didn’t have the “experiences” everyone always talks about.
When other students were looking for fun evening plans, I was trying to build a network to make sure I got from one building to another safely and on time. Ironically, the University’s Disability Services department could pay for another student to take notes in class, but they were unable to make sure someone opened the door for me to actually get in the classroom.
Of course, I received a lot of assistance in other areas from Disability Services, but I always found that rule a little silly. Luckily, the students at NC State University were friendly, so strangers were always willing to hold the door open. With their kindness and the support of my family and friends, I was able to graduate.
College was a real challenge, but it prepared me for my next season. I was hoping to go straight into the financial services industry. However, I didn’t realize how hard that actually was, nor that I was already at a disadvantage as other applicants could travel to prospective client’s homes. Private homes are rarely wheelchair accessible.
Not finding a job was extremely disappointing.
After all, I did everything right by earning a degree, so the job should’ve been the next step, right? I went home and started working part time with my mom and constantly wondered if that was how things would be for the rest of my life.
While in college, I started a wheelchair hockey program. By not getting a full time job, I was able to dedicate more time to the program. Over the next 15 years, the program grew to a level that would’ve never happened had I gotten a job after college.
Wheelchair hockey didn’t bring me fame or fortune, but it gave me so much more!
When I was a child, school was very inclusive and they always found ways for me, and other children with disabilities, to experience success. Adults with disabilities aren’t as fortunate.
Yes, I totally understand the emotional anguish children go through being different from their other classmates. As an adult, we still face those emotions, but instead of just feeling alone, often we are actually alone. There are no longer classrooms and fewer events to attend where you can have social interaction. Of course, it doesn’t matter anyway unless you can arrange transportation to events.
I believe hockey helped me learn how to be an adult with a disability.
Instead of the “is this it” attitude, I started having an “anything is possible” attitude. Of course, playing the game was fun, but it was the opportunities off the court that mattered. I also drive with my right hand and play left handed, so the door that closed on my fishing career opened a new opportunity with hockey.
Hockey allowed me to see most of the United States and Canada. I was able to see how other adults with disabilities lived and enjoyed their lives. I was even invited to Italy to help get our sport in the Paralympics, but I wasn’t comfortable being that far from my doctors and declined the offer.
Hockey taught me that dreams never die, sometimes the timing is just on a different schedule. I needed the season of the hockey program to prepare me for my current season.
Six years ago my dream of working in financial services finally came true!
I am a Certified Financial Planner™ with my own firm in my hometown. Physically, it would be impossible for me to work full time with all of the pressure of the large firms like you see in movies. By making my own hours, I am able to better take care of myself and my clients.
I absolutely love my job because I’m in the business of hope. I’m able to help my clients create a vision for their future, which is the blueprint we use to start pursuing their goals. Of course, there is no way we can guarantee all of their goals will be reached, but people can be comforted by the reassurance that it is acceptable to have dreams.
When people look to their future, I believe it becomes easier for them to embrace their seasons. Their hard work and saving today is in preparation for their future. Unfortunately, when many people reach retirement, they feel miserable. Their identity is in their job, so when the job is no longer a part of their life, they feel lost.
The season that is retirement should be a time for celebration.
It’s our reward for years of service in a career. It is not a death sentence, nor does it mean you failed. It gives you the opportunity to impart your wisdom on younger generations, so that the human race continues to move forward.
We all have times in our lives where we can no longer do something. As a Christian, I believe that God has a purpose for all of us. Our job is to trust His plan. I believe that is better than falling in the trap of sorrow as our strengths and abilities change, which is a miserable life.
I have been asked if I was angry at God for giving me a disability. I receive a funny look when I say no, but it’s true. In some way, my disability may serve as a reminder that we all need God in our lives. I may be physically weak, but His strength is shown by the fire He placed inside of me. I don’t understand His plan, but I trust Him.
Because of that trust I will continue to embrace each season of my life. I hope you do as well.