Laurie Linden was only 24 years old when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, after finding she could no longer move her legs while walking to meet her friends at a Chicago rock show. The autoimmune disease affects the central nervous system and has no known cure, often robbing those afflicted by it of the ability to move.
However, it was her illness that provided the inspiration and motivation for her to pursue art and music, she says. Laurie went on to teach herself guitar and form a band, Zuzu's Petals, that released two records and toured two continents. Chicagoist has more in an interview, where she recalls:
That incident in Chicago was there to tell me something, I think. Experiences like that are wake-up calls. And they come in so many different forms. For me, it came down to having this illness, and also this passion, and I said, "I'm going to go for it." Nowadays, I talk to so many kids in college, and I almost feel like a crusader. Kids are so on the track, on the treadmill: They don't get to make mistakes and goof up anymore. I think experimenting with life is an important thing that people should try and do, but they're not really able to. So many kids are like, 'How did you do it?' Well, my parents weren't supporting me, for one thing; I was making my own decisions.
She then earned her MFA in writing and published a memoir, Petal Pusher, about her adventures in growing up, figuring out one's identity and being an artist. Now she's teaching writing to 7th to 12th graders and working on two collections of essays.
WATCH Laurie's moving speech at the National MS Society's Annual Convention 2008, where she reads an excerpt of her book:
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