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To My 17-Year-Old Self With Cerebral Palsy

Dear Calvin,

Seventeen years old is an exciting time in life, simply because you are one year from being in charge of your own destiny. The best advice that I can give you this time is not to rush. There will be plenty of time to focus on what you want to do, but right now you need to focus on what you’re doing. The decisions of today can affect the actions you are able to make tomorrow.

Live, love and laugh. Don’t let your disability get in the way of you making friends. It is true, not everyone is going to accept you; your job is to find people who will. A year from now your uncle is going to teach you a phrase, a very simple one: “It is what it is.” This statement simply means that in life there are very few things you can change. When you can change something, you can always change the way you look at it. Speaking of your uncle; reach out to him sooner rather than later. As a matter of fact, don’t wait a year; reach out to him immediately. He is a very practical guy. He doesn’t judge you if you disagree with him; he always makes sure you have at least two different ways of looking at something. Everything he teaches you will stick with you for the rest of your life.

Allow people to get to know you. Don’t waste your time trying to be who you think they want to know. Trust God, this may not be an easy task, but reading your Bible makes it a bit more manageable. Ask for what you need, don’t just expect things to be given to you or people to automatically know. The Bible says if you ask, you shall receive.

Your mother is a strong woman you can always depend on. You may not always understand the “method to her madness,” but by the time you turn 25, you will realize her methods almost always work. Your relationship with your dad will be the same as it was when you were 5 years old. He’s trying to show you how to be a man the best way he knows how, remember that. There will be some times when it feels like he doesn’t accept you for who you are, and you are just now finding out who he really is. When this happens, try to remember all the bedtime stories, fun days in the park and last but not least, all the times he told you that he loved you right before you went to sleep. Being told “I love you” after a disagreement with a man you held in such high regard for years will feel awkward. However, you have to know he means every word he says.

God must have smiled when he gave you two sets of grandparents. Your Poppa and your grandfather will be very influential in your life. Your Poppa will always have an unconditional amount to believe in you. There will be times when he will make you feel like you could take on a whole football team and live to tell about it. Your grandfather who is a pastor will always give it to you straight, no chaser. At the same time when you tell your point of view, you will never feel judged. He will also be your spiritual advisor; he will make religion simple, unlike other pastors who sometimes do not remember. He will let you know you are human, which means you are imperfect and imperfect people make mistakes. He will help you to understand that you can and will be forgiven and that even when you mess up, God still knows your heart and he loves you. Your two grandmothers will pray for you relentlessly; those prayers will help you get through things you didn’t even know you were experiencing. You will make it through.

You probably haven’t paid much attention to your little sister since you were younger. Remember the days when you would have crawl races all around the house? Just know she needs you now as much as she did back then. Always remember to tell her you love her, even on the days when she annoys the love right out of you. She’s going to be great someday; she is special. She needs to know just how special she is so on the days when you’re not around to tell her, she can remember.

Last but not least, as far as love in high school goes, don’t be in a rush to find it. However, be aware it’s out there. You may not end up marrying the person you first love, but the experience is still worth it. Pay attention to the girl who falls asleep at the lunch table or who helps you with your lunch. You never know what could happen. She could very well be your first — not your only, but your first love. When your first relationship develops, enjoy the time, live in the moment and don’t worry about what tomorrow may bring.

Calvin, you are a great dude. You have a big heart. You can and will change the world one day. Just don’t stress yourself out trying to find your place in it by tomorrow. Purpose takes time, that’s why I believe God gifted it to us in the first place.