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Lessons I've Learned as a 15-Year-Old With Cerebral Palsy

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I am 15, and I am dealing with cerebral palsy. For my whole life I’ve known I was “different” from the other kids around me; that I was in some way not as “strong” as my peers. I started walking at about the age of 4, and the way people started treating me changed around a bit as the years went on, as I slowly became more and more visibly disabled.

I’ve realized many different things on this journey known as life. Many of these things I had to learn through days where I thought I wouldn’t make it — days I thought it’d be impossible to get to the finish line. Other things I learned were based on what others experienced or did for me that changed my perspective forever.

One of these things was realizing I can always make it. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true. How much pain can I possibly experience on a day-to-day basis that I haven’t felt from all the surgeries I’ve had. I feel that every day, you should be able to look at yourself and say, “I’ve gone through worse, so I can make it through today.” And if you’re facing pain worse than anything you’ve faced before, just remember if you were to give up now, all the blood, sweat and tears you’ve gone through before would be wasted.

Another thing I learned was that I can do anything if I put my mind to it. Once again cheesy, but true. After stating that a ultimate life achievement of mine was to be a runner in the Olympics, the response from the man I was speaking to sparked a bit of fire in me that I can’t explain. He said, “Well, you know you’ll be running in the Paralympics right? Not in the regular Olympics.” My initial thought was, “watch me,” but I nodded my head in agreement. The fire he set off is still burning within me. And although that might be an extreme example, here’s one that’s not so much.

There was once a time when I believed I could hardly do anything on any track or court. One day my PE teacher walked up to me and asked if I had ever scored a basketball goal. I shook my head no. He then told me to stand right in front of the basketball hoop and try to score one.

So I did, over and over and over again. And over and over, I failed. I failed so many times that I got frustrated and yelled at him for giving me such an impossible task. Finally he looked me in the eye, and said that I was making the next shot. He got up on a ladder and lowered the hoop by maybe three inches. He then proceeded to tell me how to properly shoot a basketball, which apparently I had been doing wrong the whole time. He then lined me up with the hoop, and told me to shoot for it, which I did. In that very moment, he started running over to the goal, and as my shot was about to miss, he dunked it in.

At first I was disappointed, for it had been obvious that I wasn’t going to make it without his help. But then he walked over to me and said I had made the shot, I just needed a bit of help to do so. That one moment changed my perspective forever.

This brings me to the last couple of things I have learned. Always surround yourself with good friends. Never let anyone tell you what you cannot do, and your disability does not define you. You can’t do everything by yourself; as much as I would like to, it’s just not possible. So, always choose friends you know have got your back. If I had ever let anyone tell me what I could and couldn’t do, and believed them for that matter, I honestly would not have been as strong as I am today. And last but not least, illness doesn’t define you. I’m not known as the kid with cerebral palsy, am I? No, I’m known as someone who is who is chronically blessed. I am known as Jacob Osborne, thriving and succeeding through what I have been given. Because that’s who I want to be, and that’s who I’m going to be.


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Thinkstock photo by Yokaew.

Originally published: October 16, 2017
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