(Left) Crossing the finish line at the Hawaii Ironman (Right) Sitting in a wheelchair at my rehab center in Baltimore
I have always been fascinated by what inspires us. Is it a past experience, the support from a friend or a loved one, or a future goal that we are striving to accomplish? I personally feel that our motivation can be based on a combination of all three factors.
In the summer of 2004 I remember sitting on my hospital bed and trying my best to be positive in such a tragic situation, but it wasn't easy. I looked at what was left of me, a body covered in tangled wires and tubes with IV's piercing my skin from head to toe, electricity and blood keeping my heart beating. I realized that all of my goals and dreams were now shattered just like the bones in my body, but as resilient as the body is, bones can be mended as well as dreams.
As time went on I focused my thoughts on when human suffering finally ends -- when the body dies or the human spirit takes over? I chose to take the path of the human spirit and began to focus my energy and strength on re-developing the muscles in my face to escape their paralyzed state so I could smile for my parents, a subtle expression that was the first sign that I was still fighting to escape the lingering grip of death.
I did everything in my own power to improve and crawl my way back to the living. I moved my toes so I could get my feet to move. I chewed ice to learn how to eat. I had to go through a long and agonizing process to learn how to talk. I look back at all these events now and they seem so small and easy, but back then they were monumental breakthroughs taking place during my recovery. I kept focusing my attention on accomplishing these events, taking baby steps to go on to the next one and then the next, but I kept reaching for progress. The joy that it brought to the faces of my family and friends is what inspired me to keep pushing for further improvement. I was so used to seeing everyone with tears in their eyes, but for the first time I was noticing tears of joy and it meant the world to me.
Several weeks slowly went by and instead of doing what all my friends in college were doing like preparing for midterms and living the life of a typical college student, I was being transferred to a rehabilitation center in Baltimore. While I was there, I continued the process of learning how to talk, eat, tie my shoes, shower and live independently again, at least somewhat close to the way things used to be with a lot of help from those around me.
Even with all the progress that was taking place, I still wasn't really sure about what my future would consist of. At the time I was just happy to be alive and out of the hospital, but also in the back of my mind something was pushing me to see how far I could go. I thought of all the limitations that were given and all the medical concerns that I was diagnosed with, and I used that as my motivation. It wasn't that I was trying to prove anybody wrong, but I had to prove to myself that I wasn't going to let this tragedy stop me from pursuing what I had originally planned for my life.
After several months of physical therapy, I was able to attend college and participate on the swim team a year after leaving ICU. Two years later, another goal was realized when I had the chance to compete in the Hawaii Ironman, which is the most challenging single day athletic event in the world. Quitting was never an option during the race. I finished because at one point in time I had given up in the hospital and after I fought back from that very sad moment I made a promise to myself that I would never quit on anything ever again. It was through the love and support from my family and friends that helped me get to the finish line.
Throughout my life I have learned that no matter what life throws at you, you have the strength within you to overcome it and with the right attitude you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Life is a series of constant challenges and you have to be ready and willing to do everything in your power to move forward through all the hardship, obstacles and negativity. Through this you will find success.
The path you are on now may be a different path a year from now. It's normal to change this path maybe once or even several times before you finally decide on what you would like to do, and better yet what you're meant to do.
Life is really what you choose to make of it, the more you sacrifice and put in the more you'll get in return. In order to achieve great things you must be willing to take big risks depending on what the task is. Life is a complete mystery. All you have is the present moment and tomorrow is not guaranteed. I find it's very important to focus on what you do have rather than what you do not.
Live life to the fullest. Set your mind and heart on as many endeavors as possible because you can never have too much on your plate even though there will be those who look at you and doubt what you're able to do. Don't listen to them because deep down you know what you're truly capable of. Within you are the capabilities to set goals and to achieve them. Never limit yourself and remember that when other people say that something is impossible, that is just their opinion.
I think it really comes down to a positive mindset and a great support system. Go out there, set the goal, and be determined to accomplish it. You can achieve great things when you put your mind to something with the right attitude. And when the goal is accomplished, always remember to thank the people who helped you along the way.