Six years, it has been nearly six years since I took my last steps. Most days I still have a hard time believing it has been that long, 2,122 days since I last walked, and tomorrow I will do what I thought I would never do again, I will be standing at my 5’9” stature and I will be taking my first “steps” again since my paralysis.
For the past 7 weeks I have been learning how to use my customized leg braces, compensating in my upper body for what I don’t have in my lower body, understanding how to take “steps” again, but this time without actually using my legs.
I still remember everything about January 21, 2008, it is a day that I will never forget, I carry that day with me everyday, and it motivates me to continue to move forward. I have this belief that it isn’t the moments or the circumstances in life that define us as individuals, it is how we react to them that defines us. I have said it before, and I will say it again, January 21, 2008 will never define me as a person, however the journey since that day has made me who I am. This journey these past 2,122 days has been full of plenty of ups and downs, full of laughter, love, heartbreak, excitement, hardship, triumphs, and adversities, but most of all they have been full of life. This journey is one that has taught me to appreciate the simple things in life and never, ever take them for granted. For nearly 19 years of my life I took the simple joy of being able to walk across a room for granted and now here I am looking to celebrate being able to take my first “steps” again.
The first time I took my first steps I was far too young to remember them, however I am sure my parents could tell you all about them, how old I was, what I was wearing, where I was at, but tomorrow I will create another set of memories as I take my first “steps” again, for the second time. It is surreal to think about, taking “steps” again, but I feel lucky, lucky that I got to learn twice, because tomorrow, I get to celebrate, with my family and loved ones, as we create new memories. Tomorrow, I will show myself that nothing is impossible. When I stand up tomorrow it may not be the most graceful way of standing up, it may not be the most graceful steps I have ever taken, but they will be the most beautiful, and most of all I will be able to see my loved ones eye to eye and walk towards them for the first time in nearly six years, and for a few, for the first time, ever.
This journey these past few months has been full of emotions, emotions that are hard to understand myself, let alone explain. Seeing a clock on the wall at a “normal” height for the first time, looking individuals eye to eye, without having to look up, the simple things, they have felt monumental, they have brought joy to my life in ways I would have never imagined. I mean, a clock, it’s nothing special but seeing it on the wall and having it feel like it did for nearly 19 years and having that perspective again was just absolutely amazing. It really is the little things.
So tomorrow, I will put on my cute outfit that I have planned just for this special day, I will stand tall, and it will be my chance at redefining what walking to me means and taking my first “steps” again. Another milestone in my life that symbolizes moving forward.
Since January 21, 2008, I never thought it was possible to have a day like tomorrow and now, it is possible and what I have learned from this journey is that there isn’t a single hurdle in life that we can’t get over. I have been paralyzed for nearly six years with no chance at regaining function from my point of injury down, however, tomorrow I will do the “impossible.”
So here is my challenge, just as I challenged everyone a few months ago to live your life with passion, with heart, free of fear, hate and judgment, be courageous, and know that in any given moment you can make a difference and you can change the world by your simple actions. My challenge for all of you today is to move forward, don’t allow the set backs in life to do just that, set you back, because you can do anything, and I mean anything you put your mind to. Dream, and dream big, believe in yourself, and know that no matter how hard it may get, we all have the strength to rise above and to move forward.