The past couple of years have completely changed my mindset and the way I view life. Growing up, I was always taught to never talk about myself or give much thought to the things I did, because it was egotistical. It was just bragging. I think most people who grew up where I grew up were taught the same things. Talking about yourself and sharing a proud moment with other people is considered bragging and it could hurt someone else’s feelings. It took some time, but I have learned to really not care what anyone else thinks. I grew up thinking I had to put everyone else before myself. I have now learned to put myself first once in a while. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary. If you can’t care for yourself and love yourself, then how can you truly care for and love others?
For those of you who may be reading this and don’t know me and haven’t read my previous posts, I’m going to tell you a little story to bring you up to date…
I was born with Spina Bifida. My whole life, I’ve had doctors and other people in my life telling me that I would never be able to live my life the way I wanted to live it. I was told I would never be “normal”. I was told I would never be able to do things my peers could do. I was told that certain things would just be too difficult for me. I was told a lot of shit.
It would be easy for someone who is told all of those things to just accept it a give up. It would be easy to complain and feel bad and just think life sucks. Well, I’ve never done anything in my life the easy way. That’s just not who I am. I get pissed off when someone tells me I can’t do something. I honestly believe that I have a chance to do anything I want to do, as long as I’m still breathing. I’m stubborn like that. Any time I’ve ever been told that I can’t do something, my response has been, “Oh yeah? Watch me!!”
At a young age, doctors told me to use crutches and limit my involvement in certain physical activities, because they would be bad for my body. How did I respond to that? I learned to walk without crutches and I started playing baseball, basketball, football, and, eventually, golf. Anything I have ever been told not to do, I have stubbornly done my own way, whether it was a good idea or not. I played basketball with a severely sprained knee and a broken ankle, and I played baseball with a broken thumb. Those were not some of my wiser decisions. haha However, my stubbornness has usually paid off. I have found ways in my life to do things that I was told many times I would never be able to do. Looking back, it’s pretty amazing what I have been able to do.
Since my body doesn’t always allow me to do everything I want to do, mental toughness has been the key to accomplishing the things I’ve wanted to accomplish in my life. I have the ability to think my way around any restrictions/limitations and challenges I face. If you want something badly enough, you can find a way to make it work. It may not be easy, and it may not happen the way other people would do it, but you can always find and/or create your own way of making it work.
My whole life, people have come up to me and told me that they’re impressed by the things I do. They have told me that I inspire them in some way. Maybe it’s because of the way I was raised, or maybe it’s just because of the person that I am, but I just never understood it. I really didn’t. I am who I am, because that is who I am. With very few exceptions, I have never really tried to draw attention to myself or to impress anyone else. To be honest, it always feels awkward and almost embarrassing for me when someone tells me they’re impressed by me or that I inspire them.
Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to see myself through the eyes of other people a bit more often. After all those years of doctors telling me to be careful with my body and not push myself too much in sports, I have been teaching golf for over 2 years now. When I used to play in tournaments on a regular basis a few years ago and also now that I teach, people have told me they are impressed by the things that I can do in spite of the limitations I have. Once again, it’s something I never paid much attention to, because I am who I am and I do things my own way. It doesn’t seem impressive to me, it’s just me being me.
With some changes that have taken place in my career over the past few months, I now co-host a golf show twice a week and have a few minutes during each show in which I talk about my background in golf and how I play the way I have learned to play the game. During the shows, I hit a few shots with my driver while sitting in my wheelchair. I have always played golf standing up, but took a break from playing for a while and have recently started practicing while in my wheelchair as I work toward regaining the leg strength and balance I need to be able to play the way I always have. Not only do I now have the opportunity to ease my way back into the things I’ve done in the past, but it also gives me an opportunity every week to show people that golf can be played by EVERYBODY, regardless of any challenges faced.
After our shows, people usually tell me they are impressed that I am able to hit the ball as well as I do while sitting down. They are impressed that I have found my own way to be able to play the game that I love so much, even though there is nothing “normal” about it. As always, my response has been, “Thank you, but I’m just doing what I need to do to be able to play.”
As I have started to practice more while nobody else is around, I have been trying things that I never thought I was capable of doing. Not all of them have worked out very well, but in many ways, I have surprised myself. I have started to realize that I actually can do things I never thought were possible. In those moments, I do start to remember that I’m not doing things that “normal” people do. By just being myself and doing things my own way, I stand out. People notice me. I really have had to invent my own way of doing the things that I want to do.
I know that I will never allow myself to pat myself on the back and really celebrate as much as I maybe could when I accomplish something, but I have definitely become more aware of the fact that I am not “normal”. I don’t want to be “normal”. I may not fully understand why anyone is inspired by me and the things I do, but I have become aware that people are paying attention to the things I do. That motivates me to improve myself every single day. In certain situations, I impress myself. What impresses me is when someone tells me that I have helped them or motivated them to do something they never thought they could do, because of the example I set. I get far more joy from seeing the results of other people’s success when I teach them than I get from doing things myself. When I help someone else to reach their goals, it reminds me that I have within myself the ability to reach my own goals. THAT is what impresses me. Knowing that you can make a difference to someone else is a great feeling. That is truly impressive.
To anyone in this world who is reading this, I hope that you remember that you don’t need to be just like everybody else. You don’t need to be “normal”. Be yourself and do things your own way. Find a way to make your dreams and your goals work out. Make a difference. Impress others by being just who you are. Push yourself to do things you never thought you could do, and impress yourself. There is nothing wrong with impressing yourself. You should be proud of your accomplishments. We all have something special to offer to this world. Go find it, and share it with as many people as possible. Others are impressed by you, and you should be, too.