The human race is an interesting blend of hope, excitement, uncertainty, and ambition. We all have somewhere we want to be in life. We all have a destination that may be miles away from where we are. Or it could be a few steps away.
It seems like we’re always searching for something more, regardless of how successful or comfortable we become. It may be rewarding when we arrive at that place we think we’ve found everything we’re looking for. It might even feel surreal or sublime for a certain period of time, but still, a part of us isn’t satisfied.
The search then becomes one of personal needs, wants and perhaps even selfishness. We get what we want, but at what cost? We have to decide if it’s worth staying in a comfortable spot or move on to something new. Or stay where we are and try to make do with what we have.
My senior year of high school posed these questions more than once and in many ways. It felt as if a different part of my soul was being put under a microscope every time. These weren’t the questions I’d tried to find answers to up until this point. They were new ones that suddenly had a heartbeat – and they couldn’t simply be swept under the rug.
Things had been so scary and uncertain I almost forgot to breathe. I was getting to a comfortable place in my life but wasn’t quite there yet. I needed to learn how to turn rejection and pain into something I could use to better myself. I’d had enough of both to know what it felt like when they stay with you longer than a little while.
I didn’t know what to do with those emotions.
I had to balance this while parting ways with certain people in my life – including my personal care aides I had throughout junior high and high school, who helped me in class as well as getting me through what I considered a typical school day. This included everything from taking notes in each class to helping me with my lunch. They were truly instrumental in making sure I got the most out of my education without having to put too much focus on my cerebral palsy. Even though I had all of this swirling around me, I was still searching for some stability.
I had answers, but they weren’t the ones I was hoping for.
I still had my dreams, too. I knew my dream of being a writer would have to remain a long-term goal – and I made peace with that. I wished my friends well and hoped the bonds we made would last. Little did I know, graduation day itself would provide a sense of stability I never had before.
All my classmates were getting ready when the big day finally arrived. I was getting ready, too, but in my own way. We gathered in the outdoor athletic complex where many events were held. As family members and guests began to fill every seat, my hands started to sweat and my mind was racing.
No one knew I was about to get out of my wheelchair and walk across a makeshift stage to receive my diploma. I had been secretly practicing and planning for months with my walker, but kept it within a small circle of people who helped me see this through, including my family. It was my idea, and I wanted it to be special.
The ceremony started with greetings and warm wishes before the emcee introduced my graduating class. I patiently waited for each name to be announced, knowing what was going to happen. In truth, I was grateful my name didn’t start with an A. I still had a few minutes to gather myself and try to calm my nerves, which didn’t work out so well. My personal care aide helped me get in position in my walker as last names starting with I and J were called.
I was as ready as I was going to be by the time the emcee got to the letter K. My name was announced a few minutes later as complete silence fell over the crowd. Everyone gasped and wondered why there was such a long pause. Then, they caught a glimpse of me and slowly realized what was going on. I looked up to see my family crying a flood of joyful tears, especially my dad.
The crowd erupted into a standing ovation when I emerged in my walker. I was completely exhausted between calming myself and trudging through a long strip of thick grass. I made my way on stage, accepted my diploma.
The celebration continued for what seemed like 10 to 15 minutes before moving on with the ceremony. I couldn’t help but think I didn’t deserve this. All I did was what I’d been telling myself I was going to do for months. I wondered if it would have any impact on anyone. As I stood there looking out into the massive sea of humanity, I didn’t have to wonder anymore.
I did what I set out to do and more.
I realized my actions did something fulfilling – not only for myself but for everyone who was there that day. My only hope is they were able to take something worthwhile with them, the same way I have.
When you’re going through life, decide if it’s truly all about yourself. Or if it’s about showing others something from a new perspective. Decide what kind of person you want to be, and go be it the best way you know how.
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