February 11, 2016

From disaster to triumph: A week in the life of Mallory Weggemann

U.S. swimmer Mallory Weggemann was paralyzed from the waist down in 2008 after a routine epidural injection went wrong. She returned to the pool and became a world champion, setting 15 records. Now 23, she had been targeting nine gold medals at London 2012 but her events were reduced after her classification was altered by the International Paralympic Committee. She writes for CNN about her journey to London 2012.

London, England (CNN) – When I think back on this past week and the rollercoaster of emotions I have experienced at the Paralympics, I realize that everything happens for a reason.

Hours before the London 2012 opening ceremonies I learned that my appeal to overturn my reclassification had been denied. In that moment I felt defeat.

I felt as though everything I had worked for the past four and a half years had been stripped from me, but it was then that I realized that the journey to get to this point wasn’t about the medals.

The reason why I got back in the water in April 2008 nearly four months after being paralyzed, the reason that I devoted my life to swimming for the past four years, the sacrifices I made, and the person I became, wasn’t about the medals.

I think it was easy for me to get lost in the numbers — the number of how many golds I could win — but when this happened it forced me to reflect on my journey and what got me to this point. I realized I did all of that to become the best possible swimmer, athlete and person I could be for this very moment, medals or no medals.

June 01, 2014

Not Allowing Adversity to Define Your Future

Over the past few months I have been dealing with personal struggles after sustaining an injury in March, to say it has been a trying time is most definitely an understatement.  These past three months have continued to test me as a person in ways I haven’t been tested in quite some time.  Since being injured I have had most of my independence taken away, and worst of all it has taken me out of the pool.  Now as an athlete that part in and of itself has been devastating, but aside from my swimming this injury has also broken open wounds that have been healed for quite some time.

At this point we all know how it happened, I walked in and I never walked out.  It was January 21, 2008 and within the blink of an eye my world changed.  Following that day I decided to move forward.  I made the choice to not let this define me and since that day I have for the most part done just that, moved forward.  I created a life for myself, a life not defined by my wheelchair, but unfortunately what I have learned is that once again life has a plan of its own.  At the beginning of March when I sustained my injury despite everything I have done for the past six years it felt like I went right back to square one.  Now that might sound a little dramatic, but in these past six years I have become so incredibly physically strong I literally have moments I forget I am paralyzed, until now.  Since my injury in March I have physically been unable to wheel myself, transfer independently, dress myself, drive, and the list goes on.  My independence has been stripped and though I know it will all come back the waiting, the trial and error, the reminders of just how paralyzed I am has gotten wearing.  However, just like anything in life I am reminded again it isn’t the circumstances that define us, it is how we react to the circumstances that defines who we are.  This is simply a road bump, a moment in time that too will pass.  I will return to the pool, I will continue my journey of training for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and I will come out stronger then before.

Over the past three months I have had a lot of time to reflect and write.  During that time I have come up with the following list of “tips” if you will for personal growth, because I have realized we all can use a reminder of what is important in life.  No matter how successful we are, no matter what stage of our lives we are in, no matter what path we are on, we all face adversities everyday.  These our my reminders, my pointers for how to insure we are continuing to grow personally, because until we take the time to focus on our personal growth we cannot expect ourselves to grow in the other aspects of our lives.

1.)   Let the past be the past, cherish the memories, learn from the adversities, but in no way live in it.  Move toward the future and allow yourself to simply let go.

2.)   Don’t allow yourself to get so caught up in the future that you lose sight of the present.  Allow yourself to have dreams, goals and ambition, but don’t let them keep you from enjoying the here and now. The journey along the way is what makes the end goal so special, so enjoy it!

3.)   When you get overwhelmed remember, baby steps.  Life is a series of baby steps.  Just like you cannot recite the alphabet without everything in between A-Z, life is the same, and each baby step is a part of the journey so embrace them.

4.)   Remember in any situation, it isn’t the circumstances that define us; it is how we react to them that defines us.

5.)   No matter how hard it gets remember that it can always be worse.  Take the time you need to grieve, but then move forward and remember to be thankful for what you do have.

6.)   Love. Love yourself, find love in the things that you are passionate about, and love another.  The accomplishments in life are gratifying, but what do they mean if you don’t have anyone to share them with? Don’t allow life to wedge itself between you and your loved ones.

7.)   Believe in yourself and allow yourself to hold onto the innocence of your childhood.  Remember that time that we all believed we could be anything and do everything? Don’t let life wear that away, hold onto it and allow yourself to believe anything is possible.

8.)   Give back, as a citizen of the world it is a duty we all have to give back, it is not only a good deed, but it also teaches you a lot about yourself and life in general.

9.)   Allow yourself to continue to learn.  Whether it is a new hobby, learning something new at work, or simply learning something new about a loved one.  Always continue to learn more about yourself, the people around you, and the world you live in.

10.)  Most of all…live your life with passion, 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.

May 02, 2014

Honoring the Past


(Billie Jean King, myself, my sister Jessica at the athlete welcome dinner prior to the 2011 Annual Salute to Women in Sports Gala)

I often find myself telling people to let the past be the past.  I encourage people to move towards the future while not losing sight of the present, because unfortunately too many of us get stuck in the past.  However, I strongly believe that we must also always allow ourselves to look back to the past and reflect.  We must reflect on the lessons learned, cherish the memories, and most importantly have an appreciation for our past.  So often we look towards the future and we want more, we dream for better, we wish the present away without even realizing it and in that we lose sight of not only the present, but our past all together.  Our past in no way defines us, it is simply our starting point, but in order to appreciate our future we must always remain humble in our past.

May 2, 1974, the day that Billie Jean King started something that may have in the moment felt like nothing more than a vision for the future, a dream for better, but 40 years later what was started that day has turned into a piece of history for millions of women all around the world.  Now I can’t speak for her as to what motivated her to start the Women’s Sports Foundation, but after meeting her and having the opportunity to be apart of the Annual Salute to Women in Sports three years in a row, I can only imagine that what was started 40 years ago today was just that, a vision for the future, and a dream for better.

As a female athlete myself athletics have shaped me, they have taught me courage, bravery, self-esteem, confidence, and simply put… athletics have built me to be the woman I am today.  Swimming is my main passion as I have swam since I was a little girl, but that is the point, ever since I can remember girls had access to athletics where I grew up.  I swam because I wanted to, because my two older sisters swam and I wanted to follow in their footsteps, but I had choices, I could have played any sport I wanted.  I grew up with access and opportunity to participate in athletics because of individuals like Billie Jean King, and organizations like the Women’s Sports Foundation, but to me it was normal, it was what I knew.  That is why today I am choosing to appreciate the past and look back, because too often we take those opportunities for granted.

I grew up incredibly fortunate, my parents could afford to encourage my sisters and I to participate in athletics, my parents valued the importance of athletics in our lives, and I had access to athletics.  Those are all things that girls all over the country are still fighting for, not to mention the world.  There is still inequality in our lives; professional female athletes are still payed less then male athletes, in certain parts of the country girls are still denied the same access to athletics that boys have, and young girls are faced with the pressures of society.  But, today, it is about appreciating our past, knowing that we are all where we are because somebody that came before us helped pave the road.  It is a humbling moment when you sit back and realize not a single one of us got here alone, the path was paved for us, and now it is up to us to continue to pave the path, not for just ourselves but for the next generation.

So here is a cheers to Billie Jean King, the Women’s Sports Foundation and all of the individuals that continue to inspire, motivate, and advocate for the women of our future.  Wishing the Women’s Sports Foundation a very happy 40th Birthday, and feeling grateful for the courageous women that came before me and have paved the way for myself and millions more to have the opportunities we have.  You have inspired us to do our part to continue to pave the way for the next generation and inspired us to continue dreaming for better for those that follow us.

November 29, 2013

Thankful for the Simple Joys in Life

It is days like yesterday that make me sit back and reflect on the journey we call life.  Yesterday was a day of thanks, a day of remembering, a day of cherishing, and most of all a day of slowing down and remembering to be grateful for the things that are so easy to take for granted in our lives.  I think in life it can be so easy to rush through each day that we forget to slow down amidst all the ciaos and just take it in, it can be so easy to get sidetracked that the beauty that surrounds us gets lost.

So this year as I sit and reflect, as I think about what I am thankful for, it is simple for me, it is life.  I am thankful for all of the hardships, triumphs, adversities, and successes that life has brought throughout the years.  I am thankful for that day back in January of 2008.  Now, you may ask why? But it is simple, it allowed me to not just live but to be alive, it has allowed me to appreciate the simplest joys in life.

There are moments when I sit back and I realize how much I took for granted before my paralysis, how many simple joys I just speed right past and didn’t even think twice about it.  The feeling of my toes in the sand, sitting with my feet in the pool and feeling the water on my feet as they dangle ever so freely in the water, the freeness that comes with just simply standing up and walking across a room, but most of all life.  Yes, I will admit it, there are plenty of moments in my own life that I look back on and realize that I took them for granted and unfortunately, it wasn’t until the day that I lost it all that I realized it.

Although, what I have realized more and more with time is I didn’t lose it all, those memories, they are heightened, I hold them near and dear to my heart, memories that I may not of thought twice about in the moment are some of my dearest memories, but most of all it has allowed me to appreciate all of those moments again, and this time understand the enormity of them.  Being able to stand up and hug my family for the first time in nearly six years, it is a simple hug, but in that moment I am standing on my own two feet and I am able to lean over, not reach up, and hug my loved ones.  Being able to walk towards a loved one for the first time, ever, and see him eye to eye, smiling at each other and being able to just have that moment, dance to our favorite song, be held in his arms, and see my wheelchair sitting in the corner, without me in it.  Those are the simple joys in life, those are the moments to slow down for and just take in.  Those are the moments that can’t be replaced.

We have all heard the quotes that talk about living each moment as it is your last, because you never know when it will be, and initially it is easy to think how morbid that sounds, but what if we truly did live our lives that way? Maybe then we wouldn’t pass by the beauty that surrounds us in those moments of ciaos, maybe we wouldn’t forget to slow down and take life in, maybe we would be able to truly appreciate the simplest of joys in life for what they are.

So this year, I am thankful for not just life, but all of the people that have been a part of it, my family, my friends, my loved ones, and all of the individuals far and wide who have supported me.  As the saying goes, “it takes a village” and in life it truly does take a village.  We all have our own stories, our own journey, unique to us, but not a single one of us have done it on our own, there is a village that backs us.  Even in the moments that we feel alone, somewhere, there is someone that is cheering us on, and supporting us.

So this year as we all approach the holidays this is my challenge, slow down, stop amidst all the ciaos, and be gracious.  Remember that life is too short to speed right through it, it is too short to hold a grudge, and to not tell those in your life just how much they mean to you.

November 15, 2013

Moving Forward

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.


October 07, 2013

Beginning of a New Journey


Today was a very big day; it was my first day of therapy!  Last time I did therapy was after my paralysis and to be completely honest that year was an incredibly difficult time for me.  I had just been paralyzed and I felt like I had this constant disappointment that went along with therapy because I continued to hope that I would start to feel, start to move again and I didn’t.  I went in day in and day out and I held onto that hope and it never came.  Although what I realize now is that hope that I had was to simply be able to live again.  At that time I believed that in order to live I had to be able to walk, but what I have learned since is that my hope became a reality and I did start to live, maybe not in the way that I thought I would but I not only started to live, I came alive.

To say I was nervous going in today is an understatement.  I have these memories that come with hospitals, and no they aren’t the good kind.  I walked into a hospital and I never walked out, and although it has been nearly six years that is still a hard pill to swallow.  I have continued to move on with life but it is still hard to wheel through the doors of a hospital knowing that I was in a hospital the moment I took my very last steps.  Although today, we started the journey towards changing that.  Today when I wheeled through the doors it came with the mixed emotions of fear, uncertainty, nerves, excitement, and anticipation; but when I wheeled out of those doors the emotions I felt were pure joy and excitement for what is to come.

Today’s therapy wasn’t focused on trying to regain that feeling and movement in my legs, because unfortunately we know that isn’t possible.  However, instead of dwelling on that we are focusing on what I do have, thanks to my swimming, that is an incredibly strong upper body.  Today I got to go into a therapy gym and not focus on my weaknesses, but rather my strengths.  I was able to put my leg braces on and work on learning how to us my upper body strength to help me fulfill this nearly six year dream of mine, to “walk.”  Now as I have said before it isn’t going to be the walking that I grew up knowing, but that is okay, because it will still be me upright moving towards something for the first time in years.  It will be my chance to make happy memories in a hospital and who knows, maybe even “walk” out.

For years I believed that I wouldn’t be able to walk again, because for me I couldn’t let go of what my former memories of walking were.  That ever so graceful, one foot in front of the other step that I used to be able to take.  Although, what I have realized now is that although I can’t do that, that doesn’t mean I can’t redefine what “walking” to me means.  To the world, it may not look graceful at all, but to me it will be some of the most graceful “steps” I have ever taken, because they will be taken with passion and heart backing them, and they will be ever so beautiful.

Today as I stood in the parallel bars, with my therapist in front of me all of my fears went away, she sat there with this calming presence, and in that moment I was at peace.  As I stood there I was able to think of everything and everyone that brought me there today, my loved ones who have never stopped believing in me, my supporters who have been ever so generous throughout this entire process, people far and wide, some of whom I have never had the opportunity to meet.

Now, here I am and realizing once again that everything happens for a reason.  I walked in on January 21, 2008 and I can recount every moment leading up to what ended up being my last steps as I got onto the procedure table, I haven’t walked since. Although, what I have learned is that no matter what happens in life, no matter what roadblocks are placed in front of us, there is a way around them, you just have to find it.

September 05, 2013

The Power of Music

Music.  It is an incredibly powerful thing, the way that the words flow so eloquently, the beauty behind the lyrics, and that each song has the ability to hold a very different meaning for each and every one of us.

I often have my moments, more often then not, when I get caught up in a song and I wish for a moment that my life could be like a movie and have a soundtrack behind it as it plays out.  We all of those songs that have lifted us up in a moment of sorrow, been our light in a moment of uncertainty, been our companion in a moment of joy, and been our shoulder to cry on in a moment of need.  I could rattle off a list of songs that have done all of those things for me.  With every memory I have, from family vacations in the Caribbean, to moments of heart break, to the moment before I won my Paralympic Gold, countless memories and moments in my life, I have a song that backs them all.

Lately, one particular moment has stuck out.  A moment last week when I become one step closer to achieving my dream of new mobility, my dream of “walking.” I went to the Orthotist and I was casted for my customized leg braces, yes, that means I actually have leg braces that are in the making, which means I am closer then ever before to making this dream a reality.  While my braces were casted my loved ones were beside me supporting me and documenting the entire journey.  That night, someone very close to me stayed up all night and created a video documenting that ever so special day, and in that moment he put music to my life.  He used one of my favorite songs, “Brand New Day” by Joshua Radin, and that moment suddenly came to life like never before, I was trying on different braces and getting my legs casted for them to start making what will be my braces.  Joshua Radin’s music brought that moment to life, for many others and myself, and that video allowed that moment to live on.

That song is not only special to myself, but my family as well.  “Brand New Day” is a song that documents new beginnings, hope, inspiration, and love.  In June of 2010 my sister, Jessica, got married.  Her and her husband, Sean, had a videography at their wedding and they put music to my sister and brother-in-laws special day, they produced a video that allowed that incredibly special day to live on in all of our lives, through music and video, the song, “Brand New Day.”  For our family that song has documented two incredibly special days in our life; the day my sister got married, and the day that I came one step closer to my dream of “walking” again.

You see, there is this power behind music, a power behind words.  Words can heal, they can motivate, they can comfort, and most of all they can inspire.  It is this undeniable power that speaks to us, it speaks to us all in different ways, and carries it’s own special meaning to each person it touches.   For me, words have been my saving grace; they have helped me through times of heartbreak, joy, sorrow, happiness, fear, and uncertainty.  Writing is my saving grace and my muse, music.   It teaches you about life, about yourself and in that moment, it allows you to slow down, take in the beauty around you and listen to the words.  It is magical, and I don’t know if there is any better word to describe it.

So here it is, to our musicians, our artists, Joshua Radin and everyone else out there that is spreading beauty, hope, joy and inspiration through their words and their music.  You allow our memories to live on through your ever so eloquent words, and there is nothing more magical then that.

August 26, 2013

What is Bravery?

Bravery is a daunting term, what exactly characterizes bravery? I have been thinking a lot about this idea as I have been preparing for my speech at the United Nations in September, and it is a term that is difficult to define.  I think so often we believe that to be brave we must perform an extraordinary act of courage, but have we ever stopped to think it is the little things we do on a daily basis that make us brave? The daily obstacles that we overcome, the adversity that we face and the people we choose to be.

I think so often in life people feel that in order to have an act of bravery you must fight in our military, stand up and be an advocate for a national or international campaign, have an extraordinary act, but what about the simple acts?  I have come to realize over the past five years that bravery has many faces, our armed service men and women portray acts of bravery as they fight for our country and our freedom, our children portray acts of bravery as they stand up for their peers, every single one of us portray acts of bravery in our daily lives and each one carries it’s own face.

For nearly six years I have been classified as an individual with a physical disability however, I believe that everyone has a “disability” of some sort.  Mine is evident, you really can’t miss the four wheels that get me about on a daily basis, however, in life I have learned that some of the most disabling disabilities are the one’s that you can’t see.  We all live with some form of “disability,” whether it be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, familial, and the list goes on and where I believe bravery steps in is when we decide that regardless of what our “disability” is we aren’t going to let it stop us from living, from aspiring to achieve our goals, and from continuing to push ourselves one step further.  In fact, sometimes that is the most courageous act of bravery there is, not allowing circumstance to define us and not allowing fear to hold us back.

There is this mindset that I had as a child.  I believed in order to make a difference and change the world you had to have a grand gesture; you had to be a politician, a CEO of a company, or someone famous.  I grew up with a father that told my sister’s and I as he tucked us into bed at night, and said our bedtime prayers, “You are the best, you can make a difference, and you can change the world.”

For years I had a hard time understanding how it is that I could change the world, I wasn’t a politician, I wasn’t the CEO of a company and I certainly wasn’t famous.  Then, I realized that although those individuals may have the most immediate ability to change the world and make a difference, we all have that ability.  We all have the ability to be brave and fight for what we believe in, the ability to live our daily lives with passion and heart, the ability to rise above fear and push forward.  We have the ability to smile at a by passer, free of judgment, just a simple smile to a fellow human being, as you never know what that one smile might do for their day.  We have the ability to hold the door for someone, help someone in need across the street and most of all let go of judgment and hate for people just because they don’t believe the same things you do.  Those simple acts our courageous, they make a difference, they change the world and they are acts of bravery.  They are things that each one of us is capable of doing on a daily basis, walking in someone else’s shoes for a moment, simply letting go of judgment and hate, we as fellow human beings can be brave every day, for ourselves and others around us.

So what is the definition of bravery? I don’t think there is one.  Bravery carries many faces and we all have the ability to portray acts of bravery, for some that might be simply getting out of bed one morning because in that moment life just might feel too difficult, for others it might be acting as an advocate for a family member who is ill, or simply being there for them.  Bravery simply cannot be defined, but it can be challenged.  This is my challenge for myself and for everyone else; 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.

August 20, 2013

Nothing Is Impossible

Today I got one step closer to a dream of mine, that quite honestly, I never knew if I would be able to achieve.  Today I went and met with an orthotist and started the process of getting fitted for my customized leg braces.  This dream is slowly becoming a reality and there are so many emotions wrapped up with that.

On January 21, 2008 I walked into a clinic and I never walked out.  Since that day I have dreamed of what it would be like to walk again, I even had a period in my life that I battled on a daily basis of the “what if.”  What if I canceled that doctor appointment that day?  What if I rolled back over that morning and never went in, what would my life be like?

However, it was in those moments that I realized my life would never be the same, and not in a good way.  That day brought me to rock bottom in many ways, but that day also lifted me up in many more.  Ways that I don’t think anything else in life could, and because of that day my strength, my determination and most of all my faith were tested.  That day changed me and no matter how hard the days, months, and years to follow have been my life wouldn’t be the same and that day truly became my blessing in disguise.  You see, sometimes in order to appreciate the beauty of life we have to hit our rock bottom.

That day also lead me to today.  A day that allowed me to truly believe anything is possible.  It has been nearly six years and I have continuously been told I will never walk again, I will never regain function again and although one of those may be true, I know that today brought me closer to “walking” again.  I understand that I am paralyzed, I have accepted that I am stable in my condition and that I can’t regain function however, I have not accepted that I won’t ever “walk” again.

Five years ago I was opened up to a new world after my paralysis, a world that is all about individuals showcasing amazing ability, a world that I hold much pride and honor to be a part of, that world is the Paralympic world.  I remember the day that I was exposed to it just as much as I remember the day that I was paralyzed, because just like that day in January changed me April 8, 2008, my first swim practice back changed me as well, in fact it didn’t just change me, it saved me.  Since April 8, 2008 I have been opened up to a world that is limitless, a world that is all about pushing your body to new limits, a world that’s heart and soul is to inspire a generation.

What my swimming has given me is the ability to see past barriers, the ability to push forward and understand that though I may never be able to regain function, it doesn’t mean that I can’t do everything I did before and that includes “walking.” It may not be the same, and that is fine, but today I got to look at the materials, envision what my braces will look like, and for the first time in nearly six years, think of the simplest of thing as to what I want to wear the first time I take a “step” again.

I will admit, I am a bit of a girly girl and adjusting to fashion in a wheelchair isn’t the easiest thing.  I am 5 feet 9 inches tall and I would be lying if I didn’t say I miss being able to wear clothes that are designed with walking in mind, I would also be lying if I said that today I didn’t keep rattling through my mind thinking of the key things that I have missed being able to wear for years.  It may seem simple, it may even seem silly but to be able to have that ever so simple piece back and to be able to envision it for the first time in almost six years it something that is nearly impossible to put into words.

Today, was one step closer to my ever so simple dream of “walking” again and that is something that was made possible because of all of the overwhelming love and support I have received from individuals far and wide, because I can’t do this alone.  I still have a hard time imagining what it will be like to take my first steps again, but today I got to experience something that brought me that much closer to it and that is something I will never forget.

I guess today I wish I could have gone back in time and told the “me” nearly six years ago that it will all be okay, because today it became ever so prevalent, yet again, that as long as you never stop believing nothing, and I mean nothing, is impossible.

August 09, 2013

A Dream You Dream Together is Reality

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream, but a dream you dream together is reality.”

This quote is one that I hold near and dear to my heart for many reasons.  The major one being that in my life I truly believe those words.  We spend so much time dreaming and for some dreaming even brings a sense of fear, but there is something so incredibly special about not only dreaming but also sharing those dreams with another.

I used to often say be careful who you share your dreams with, because unfortunately in life there are always doubters, but then there is the other side, the beauty that comes with sharing your dreams with another.  Every now and then throughout our lives if we are so lucky we find another, someone we trust, someone who respects us and someone that will do nothing but encourage us to fulfill our dreams, someone that holds our dreams as close to their heart as we do ours.  Then, there are the times that we find not just an individual but a group of people, a community, a family of individuals who we are able to share our dreams with.  It is in those moments that we realize how many people play a part in making our dreams a reality.

You see, in London I achieved a dream, one of my ultimate dreams, but it wasn’t a dream that I dreamt alone and I certainly didn’t turn it into a reality alone.  It takes another, it takes someone we love, a community of people, a family, people far and wide, some who we may not know, to come together and help push us towards taking that dream and turning it into a reality.

As kids we dream, we dream of being a professional athlete, a business owner, an astronaut, an actress or actor, or maybe even the President of the United States, our world is full of dreams.  Then, as we get older we find ourselves at time losing sight of those dreams, having others around us tell us that our dreams are too grand. When we as adults stop dreaming and losing sight of our dreams we risk losing that innocence that we had as children.  Sure, as you get older reality sets in but who is to say that reality can’t be your dreams that you once dreamt?

We have these hopes and dreams for what our life will be, what we will be, how we will leave our mark on this world, but why does it seem that with age people stop dreaming?

At 20 years of age I created my dream of Paralympic Gold and it was then that I realized I couldn’t dream it alone, I needed the support of others, I needed a community of people around me who shared that dream with me in order to succeed.  Now, I am 24 and chasing the most personal dream of them all for myself, my dream of walking.

Some days, it is hard to consider it a dream because it seems too simple.  I walked for over 18 years of my life.  I woke up every morning and I put one foot in front of the other and I never thought twice about it, it was what I knew.  Now, something that for so long of my life was second nature is one of my biggest dreams and that is a hard thing to explain.  In some ways it seems hard to consider it a dream knowing how freely I was able to do it for majority of my life.  But now, this dream, much like my dream of Paralympic Gold, I know in order to achieve I can’t dream it alone, I need to share this dream with loved ones, with a community, with all of you in order to make it a reality.

I often talk about dreams, and quite honestly I could write about dreams everyday, but I believe it is the ability to dream that gets us out of bed every morning.  The ability to aspire to achieve greatness, and no matter what the age continue to chase our dreams. The reality is until we dream we don’t know our full potential because it is those dreams, simple or grand, that push us each and every day.  If we are lucky enough maybe, just maybe, we will find another to share those dreams with and together it will become a reality.