We hear this all the time, “I knew I wanted to be a (fill in the blank) since I was five years old”. When we’re kids the idea of what our future will be comes to us in the form of dream, wish and hope. I wish I could drive a firetruck turns into, I dream of saving lives and, finally into, I hope I can do this job well. Maybe the dreams we have as little kids come and go but, somewhere along the line that declaration in the school yard or with the group friends you hung out with in the park, sparks the start of a reality. I’m going to be a doctor or I’m going to be an architect. For me it was I’m going to be a professional athlete. I knew it, it wasn’t a fantasy, I knew it in my bones. My life was planned out, perfect and I was looking forward to watching it unfold. That’s the way life should be, dream it and do it. But should doesn’t always turn out the way we want but it does turn out … well, the way it should.
I’m a warrior. I’m proud of that and I say it with confidence. I am a warrior. I can say it with confidence now however, back when I was with my friends, when I was making future plans, when I was dreaming my star athlete dreams, I had no idea I would one day make that statement. A lot of factors have gone into me becoming a warrior, becoming who and what I am today.
At the age of 12 I was diagnosed with a kidney disease and I quickly realized that my life was going to change. This was my first glimpse at the real world. At the time, as I said, I was planning to become a professional athlete. There was no doubt, no question about my future and then, reality stepped in and brought my life to a screeching halt. Instead of practices and work outs I was now faced with a life of doctor visits and often humiliating treatments. I didn’t want to think about eating the correct foods and drinks to stay healthy, to stay on top of the situation. I wanted to go on vacation, stay up late, experience all the things you get to do as a kid, just like my friends were doing, just like everyone seemed to be doing, just like … a normal kid. But, that kind of normal life was not in the cards for me, no matter how much I wanted to be like everyone else, I realized that day would probably never come.
I had a choice, I could spend the rest of my life wishing and trying to be someone else, complaining about the raw deal I had been handed and basically stop living or, I could become okay with who I was and find a way to keep living. Find a way to make the life I was now going to lead my new normal. I decided to redefine normal for myself. So, I became okay with being what I was, which is sick. I didn’t allow it to pull me down rather, I took my struggle and I worked to turn it into a triumph. Instead of seeing every treatment, every set back, every visit to the doctor as an obstacle I looked at each new situation as a chance to grow, a chance to succeed. I took every chance I could to use this negative experience and draw strength from it.
I was always more mature than most kids my age and this illness made that fact much more pronounced. I didn’t struggle so much with treatments and doctor visits as I did with my friends. I assumed that, because I was in need, my friends would flock to me with help and understanding. That was not the case. More often, in these kinds of situations, people simply move on with their lives, their own struggles, their own problems. Because I was more mature, I knew that they weren’t wrong, they had lives to live and, they were young, they weren’t sure what to do, what to say, how to handle what was happening to their friend. I understood, over time but, in the eyes of those who feel stuck and alone, the realization that others lives will just go on is soul-crushing. But, again, I viewed it as part of the process of getting stronger, being triumphant, becoming a warrior.
The years of challenges, setbacks, triumphs, change, understanding have brought me to where I am today. I’m proud of many things in my life. I’m proud that I’ve been through hell and come out the other side. I’m proud that even though I am scarred, battered and bruised, I’m still here, still fighting, still seeking a new triumph every day. I’m not alone. I’m not “special”. I am one of millions on the planet that fights through their obstacles and is still here today, continuing that fight. I know, in my darkest times, that I am one of many, many warriors of the world and that we are important.
With what I’ve learned and overcome, with what I have struggled through and seen, I’ve earned the right to say; Do not feel alone and do not feel kicked aside by society. Times are changing and we will help by changing the world in such a way that no one has to suffer through the experiences that we have. Because of our experiences, because of our compassion, we need to be strong together. We need to speak with one voice and demand change. We need to stand together, strip our sleeves, show our scars and say; these I earned, these do not weaken me but make me what I am, what we are … warriors.
So I proudly say now that I didn’t become a star athlete but I became something better, a warrior. Warriors grow like ivy to be the beautiful change the world is waiting to see. We are IVYE, grow with us.