Potential can be a wonderful, prosperous thing. It can take to heights others may consider unattainable or unrealistic. We might even be able to help someone who doesn’t see potential – in themselves or anything around them.
We might even see it in ourselves unless someone else takes the time to pull it out of us. Sometimes we recognize we have something special inside, but don’t know what to do with it. Or even know how to present it to others in a subtle, confident way.
This was one of my biggest hurdles in the weeks and months following high school, on the heels of sharing a very unexpected but worthwhile moment with my family and a crowd full of other proud family members who came to graduation. I graduated with a quiet confidence in myself, as well as the ability to write. I started thinking logically about how I might be able to utilize it in whatever I’d decide to do on a long or short-term basis.
It was a level of confidence I hadn’t felt in a long time. So much so I had to re-acquaint myself with it. I was almost afraid of it because it felt like I was headed in the direction I always wanted to be in. Not only that, but it felt strange – almost dangerous – to associate that feeling with anything other than my cerebral palsy.
I had spent so much time getting used to my disability over the years, it was difficult to completely remove it from any given situation. It made me feel unstable in many ways – and again, I didn’t know what to do with my sense of insecurity.
That’s not to say I didn’t want my disability to be an entirely separate entity. I always wanted that more than anyone knew. I realized as I got older, however, my cerebral palsy, and everything that came with it, was always going to be intertwined with every aspect of my existence. It was even more obvious at this particular point in time, as I was fresh out of high school and looking ahead to what was next.
Graduating gave me an opportunity to think about certain things individually. It also allowed me to truly consider how I wanted to carve out a path for myself, and how it would impact others. If anything, writing was going to the way I’d bridge one of the biggest gaps in my life. I couldn’t separate my disability from everything else in my world, so I decided I wanted to blend the two together. I didn’t know how or when it would happen. I knew if there was a way to do it, I was going to find it.
Like many times before, however, I didn’t have any ties to published authors or anyone influential in the writing industry. That bothered me when I was simply daydreaming about a career, but it quickly became apparent it was the one thing that had been missing all this time. I was confident it was the difference between simply expressing myself and conveying an important message to an audience other than my family and friends.
I needed – and really wanted – someone to show me how to balance. I was looking to build upon the many years I spent writing. With high school in the rearview mirror, I did the one thing I thought would help me meet most of my short-term goals: apply to college. This had not only a personal goal itself, but it was now something I felt I had to do. I wasn’t even close to being the polished writer I wanted to be, so the thought of going to college became my motivation to keep moving forward.
It was a welcomed beam of light because I did what I needed to do – and put in the time – to arrive at the threshold of this decision. I planned on making the most of every lesson I learned. I also hoped the fact I did work hard to graduate would shine through when I applied to different colleges.
I ended up applying to a few, including Penn State Altoona, a full-service branch campus of Pennsylvania State University. It was very close to home, which I appreciated in my own unique way. There were two very big factors that really drew me in, however: this campus had the accessibility I needed and the classes I wanted.
The spring before high school graduation was filled with anticipation as my family and I waited to find out if I had been accepted at any of the colleges I applied to. It was a much longer process than we anticipated due to my disability, but it provided the stability I was looking for as I was accepted at Penn State Altoona in Fall 2004.
My first thoughts upon receiving this amazing news were, ‘This is real now!’ and ‘Have I made my family proud?’ I wasn’t worried about “fitting in” or being accepted by my professors and peers. I knew that would be a work in progress. I didn’t realize how smooth and relatively quick the transition would be, however. Nor did I fully consider the fact that I wasn’t going to be in classrooms with little kids anymore. I was going to be around mature, open-minded people. At least, I hoped that would be the case.
All I had when I arrived at Penn State Altoona was my passion for writing. I simply put it on the table and made sure my cerebral palsy wasn’t in the way, I wanted everyone there to see my abilities – and they did. Little did I know, my life was about to change in the best ways possible.
Some things are too big to be put in a box. You may be able to keep them there for a while and maybe fit more things in. Then it gets too full. You don’t realize how much you’ve piled on top of the important things until you sort things out. You might even find something that wasn’t meant to be put in a box in the first place.
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