Potential is Unknown and Unknowable
“I had a pediatric brain tumor in 1986 which caused the initial vision loss, followed by some post operation complications that caused the loss of the remaining residual vision. I lost the bulk of my vision at the age of 14.
After being on track to graduate high school early – I took high school math courses in the 7th and 8th grade – my academics tanked.
I found myself at the school for the blind in Vancouver, WA learning how to read Braille. One day I was the top of my class, the next I was straining to read “See Jane run.” My transition from being able bodied to being disabled happened in the flash of an eye.
I had been spoon-fed the idea that a person living with a severe disability stood no chance of contributing anything meaningful to the world around them. To attempt anything bigger and better than a menial job would be an exercise in failure. My self-esteem was abysmal, my ambitious nature had been crushed, and my hope for my own future was dim.
Self-esteem is the force that pushes the mass to accelerate, without self-esteem the soul cannot accelerate. My pursuit of athletics helped to repair my self-esteem.
There was a change, and the change was this: I had a revelation. I saw clear as day that if I didn’t make changes at the young age of 19, that I never would.
I started taking on major challenges.
I knew with every step forward that I could simply prove everyone right, that this next challenge could be a failure I’d have to explain for the rest of my life. The conclusion I came to was that I’d rather live my life as a person who failed gracefully than as a person who never made the attempt.
There was a trail near my house. I was overweight and out of shape. I started running every day.
The first time I ran a full mile, I was in shock that nothing bad had happened.
The first time I ran 8 miles, I was astonished at how far my legs could take me.
The first time I ran a half marathon, I knew in no uncertain terms this was no exercise in failure.
Learning to run changed my life. Through each incremental victory, I saw my hope for the future brighten, and the world has opened up to me.
I pushed myself to become an engineer.
I pushed myself to become a Paralympic athlete.
I pushed myself to become an author and a speaker.
From where I stand now, I feel I only have one option: to do everything possible to help others feel the same sense of empowerment.
I have the opportunity to help others see that same light by setting an example of someone who lives to be fulfilled, happy, and accomplished. To live an example of someone who has a disability, but is not defined by that lack of ability.”