I was a sophomore in college and a fairly self-centered person. What I have learned is that life is about doing good for others.
Running a nonprofit is stressful, especially as a 22-year-old, learning along the way. Recently, I was expressing this sentiment to a friend, and she said to me, “Wouldn’t it just be easier to get a regular writing or editing job?”
Yes, absolutely. I could sit in a cubical all day, editing documents and earning a steady paycheck. Then I would go home and watch Netflix and eat pizza all night. Hey, who knows, maybe they’d even let me work from home. But I would hate that life, and I only get one, so I’m determined to live it to the fullest potential.
Since founding Laughing At My Nightmare, Inc. almost three years ago, I have learned a very important lesson: life is about doing good for others.
Heavy concept, I know. But it’s less philosophical than it sounds.
I began this company to help people at a time when helping people was a newer concept for me. I was a sophomore in college and a fairly self-centered person. I cared more about how many followers I had on Tumblr than the actual purpose of what my stories were doing for people. My fear of death pushed me to leave my mark on the world so that I wouldn’t be forgotten. It was a very selfish purpose.
That fear faded into the background as we began doing projects to help people. We went on speaking tours to share the idea of using laughter to overcome adversity. Grown men cried as they thanked us for our work. A little kid stood up at a speech and thanked us for giving him the strength to share his story with the world. It wasn’t about my own selfish desire to make an impact anymore. I was falling in love with simply helping people for the sake of knowing that their lives had improved.
Today, that’s the driving force behind the work I do with my nonprofit. When I’m tired after a long day, and I start to wonder if I should get a “normal” job, I remind myself that I have an incredible opportunity to change lives every single day. I also remind myself that if writing or editing didn’t work out, I’d be left with a job in retail, and I’m guessing these hands wouldn’t be very good at counting out change for customers.
We are starting a new program soon called No More Nightmares that is designed to help families affected by muscular dystrophy get the specialized equipment that they need to live comfortable, productive, awesome lives. I’m so excited about it because I know firsthand how frustrating it can be when the world feels out of reach because of my disability.
Vehicle conversions will help kids and young adults in wheelchairs get to school and extra-curricular events in the community. In-home accessibility adaptations will reduce the stress on family members and caregivers. Adaptive technology will open a world of possibilities for kids and adults who have physical limitations caused by muscular dystrophy. We can provide all of these vital necessities through No More Nightmares, changing lives in an incredibly important way.
At the same time we are revamping the speeches that we give to make them more impactful and useful for our audiences. We have added some inspiring videos to the speech that will make the presentation more compelling. I’m even taking break dancing lessons in case the speech falls flat and I have to improvise. We hope to travel the country and share the message of positivity with as many people as possible. (In reality, this is all just a big ruse for me to run away to California.)
It’s an exciting time for us as a company, and I can’t wait to get started.
I wrote in the beginning that life is about doing good for others. It’s important to realize that you don’t need to work at a nonprofit organization to accomplish that. Everyone has the capability to make someone’s day better, whether it’s reminding someone that you love them, or saying thank you in a situation where it’s not expected. If you’ve never tried focusing on others before your own interests, I urge you to do so. It feels amazing. Who knows, maybe you are a grinch with a heart that is three sizes too small, but I would bet money that you’re not.
It has been a real pleasure to write for the Good Men Project over the last few weeks. I hope that my stories have made you smile, made you laugh, maybe even encouraged you to look at life from a new perspective.
My first book, Laughing at My Nightmare, comes out on October 14th. It tells the story of how I have used humor to deal with my disability throughout my life. You’ll be able to read about everything from my childhood to my love life. I hope that you’ll consider picking up a copy and sharing with your friends if you enjoy it. If you hate it, please still tell your friends that you enjoyed it.
I’ve never been more excited and nervous and completely in love with life as I am right now. My body is getting worse every day, but I’m not even close to being finished.
You might also like: How to Live on Your Own When You can’t Move a Muscle
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Photo courtesy of author.