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The Lifelong Lesson I Learned From a Hurtful Comment

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Nearly three years ago, a girl I’ve known all my life said to me, “You know… You’ll never drive. You can’t do anything, really. That must suck to think about, huh?”

At the time, I was brand new to being in a wheelchair. I have transverse myelitis and had recently become paralyzed. I knew she was wrong, but I didn’t say anything. I just looked at her until she realized what she said had hurt me.

She has no idea what a big fire she lit in my heart.

She has no idea what I’ve done since that day. I’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations, including my own.

I have lived a much more fulfilling life since becoming paralyzed than I ever did before. Over the last three years I’ve done multiple 5Ks, swam in 15 feet water, laid out on the beach, gone on hiking trips and gone down slides and swung on swings at the park. I’m even learning to drive soon. I’ve been on TV and on the radio, I’ve swum with dolphins and I have danced more passionately than ever. I have laughed hard and loved deeply.

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Through all this, my mind always goes back to the girl who told me, “You can’t do anything.” Something she has now completely forgotten she said is drilled in my mind and motivates me every single day to get up and get pushing.

Two weeks ago, I went zip lining in Hawaii as part of my Make-A-Wish trip. At first, I thought I couldn’t do it because it would be too hard. It was difficult, but that didn’t matter the second I let go. I was free. Freedom — something I haven’t felt in years. Freedom is a feeling I can’t quite explain. It created a huge lump in my throat and caused happy tears. I did something I thought was completely out of question for me.

I am the first person in a wheelchair to ever zip line in Oahu, Hawaii.

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I can choose to let transverse myelitis define me, confine me, outshine me or refine me. I can also choose to move on from my struggles and leave them behind me. I won’t forget my past, but I can grow from it.

Next, I plan to try bungee jumping, sky diving or even rock climbing. I plan on living my life as best I can in spite of my setbacks. I promise you — at the end of my life, not one person will say I missed out on anything. Ever.

Without my Make-A-Wish trip, I never would have had the opportunity to visit Hawaii, one of the most beautiful places on earth. I could never have gone zip lining or swum with dolphins. How do you thank someone for that? For helping me more than anyone else could have?

I have grown so much as a person in just a few short months because of my Make-A-Wish journey. Before that, I was in a rut — I was in pain every day and I didn’t have much motivation. I did what I had to do and laughed often, but I wasn’t anything like I am now. Now, I’m still in pain every day, but I learned I can push through it. I can do it. I have so much motivation now. I have almost all A’s in school. I realized how much I want to help other people. I want others to feel the joy I do when I experience things I never thought I could do before.

My trip to Hawaii may be over, but in a way, it’s just starting. My journey is only beginning. I never really thought about the future because I was scared and I didn’t what to expect day to day. Now, I can’t wait for my life to begin. I’m excited to have more laughs and more adventures. I’m excited to drive, to go to college and to have a beautiful house one day. I will live, and I will be so overwhelmingly happy.

I still don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but I can still live for today. Because every day I am alive and well is a great day.

This post originally appeared on Alex and Her Journey.

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Originally published: April 29, 2015
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