Ya’ know, sometimes being a young man with muscular dystrophy is just not very easy to live with. That’s not something that I like to admit very often. I grew up with people (strangers most often) feeling it necessary to tell me what an inspiration I am. That it is amazing how well I am doing and how much I can do for myself independently shows just how strong of a person I am. I used to be sensitive to these types of comments because well, what other people without a disability see as a major debilitating disorder, I see as my “norm.”
I was born with my disability, and I do not know anything outside of it. So to me, I always found these compliments given to me as strange and even incorrect. The fact of the matter is, if I did not wake up and push through the day I would just lie down and die. It is very hard for me to pat myself on the back for doing something like getting my own food in the cafeteria. For onlookers, the cards dealt to me are harder to live with ... For me though, I have never known anything else. This is normal. Maybe you can relate with this even a little bit?
Well, with all that being said, every once in a blue moon I come to a point in my life where I breath in, whisper to myself “wow that was hard because I am disabled,” breath out and smile because I accomplished something that I was not sure that I could. On May 11, 2013, I graduated from my four-year university with my undergraduate degree. I am giving myself permission to say graduating in four years was far from easy. It is not easy for the average nondisabled person. And, yes, it is harder to graduate when you live with a physical disability. And, YES, I am incredibly proud of myself for this accomplishment, and I hope with every bit of my being that I inspired every single person that watched me WALK across that stage and grab my degree.
I did it and you can, too. And you won’t just graduate, but you will graduate with honors, with awards and with the support of so many people who love you dearly. You will not just overcome, but you will surpass the average person who doesn’t struggle with a disability! Now that is something to be proud of.
For me, the honors I got with my degree were great and all, but what really gave me a sense of fulfillment was being able to walk in with my peers. I made a commitment to myself months beforehand that I would walk to my seat with my class no matter how hard and no matter how exhausting. This was not an attempt to normalize myself with the rest of my graduating class. No, this was a declaration that I had overcome the four hardest years of my life, and that I was going to go out overcoming one more obstacle. And I did it! I was exhausted and felt like I would fall over, but I did it! I have to give a shout-out here to one of my closest friends, Austin, who worked with me all semester to train me for this walk during graduation. I would not have been able to do it without his encouragement and constant challenge.
So how can this apply to you? As you transition into college or the “real world,” be prepared that it is going to be hard. Life is hard. And you know what, it is even harder when you have a physical disability. Admit that to yourself. And then, go one step farther and realize just how amazingly far you have come. And finally, realize just how high the ceiling goes. Your potential is endless. Our “norm” is harder than the “norm” for most people. Therefore, our resolve and our strength is all the more impressive. It may seem impossible some days, but I promise you can overcome any obstacle and do marvelously impressive and inspiring things!