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I have had something on my heart that I want to share. This is no way meant to boast.

In the past month as Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee, I have already been exposed to so many unique and interesting opportunities and I have experienced emotional growth in a way that I have never experienced before. This got my thinking about my platform… In my life, I have had so many incredible opportunities. I have traveled all over the country and even into other countries. I met the love of my life. I was taught compassion through being exposed to so many different types of people and situations. I have water-skiied, snow-skiied, attended summer camps and programs, competed in competitions, was exposed to sports, and was on the first-ever wheelchair cheerleading squad. I have been recognized hundreds of miles away from home by one of my idols. I have made friends all over the country. I was given the chance to be more educated because of my personal medical history. I have been given a story and a life that has helped me find ways to connect with people and it has given me passion and a purpose. So many times people equate disability with inability or a lesser quality of life. That hasn’t been the case for me personally though. Aside from not being able to physically run or walk normally, I have still been able to create a life that I am proud to call mine. Cancer was harder, but in both cases, my circumstances have taught me some valuable life lessons. The wheelchair and cancer each changed me in different ways, but that doesn’t mean that they changed me negatively in the long run.

Sometimes we are faced with challenges and we lose sight of progress… but slow progress does not equal no progress. Different does not equal bad or negative. We have to stop projecting our ideas of what other people’s lives should be or are like based on the outward seemingly obvious limitations that we see. Anyone has the ABILITY to live a fulfilling life, including people with disabilities. We have to stop assuming. Instead, we need to invest in getting to know other people. We need to invest in who they are and what they ARE working toward rather than focusing on what we assume that they can’t do. As a society, we need to build each other up instead of tearing each other down. We need to find what we have in common rather than choosing to live in discomfort because of our own lack of understanding. Most importantly, your happiness should never be taken away by someone else’s assumptions about your life. Your happiness should be found in the positive things and people you choose to surround yourself with. Your happiness should be found through finding fulfilling ways to get through the trials that you face, rather dwelling on the fact that your personal trials exist. I’ve had to do this my entire life as a person with a disability. I had to do that when I was diagnosed with cancer. That’s not to say that any of it was easy. It wasn’t… I had to do it even on the days that I didn’t want to. Thankfully though, I have gotten through every challenge that I have faced by choosing to face them head on and I am fortunate in the fact that I realized that I had to just keep TRYING to move forward if I want to see my life go in a positive direction. Sitting there feeling sorry for myself in any of my situations got me nowhere. Eventually, I had to pick myself up and carry on. Sometimes I have to face the same challenges over and over, but because I choose to take each trial as a learning experience rather than a flat out defeat, I am able to move forward and improve a little bit more each time. At times, progress is slow, but that’s okay. Finding a way to get through your own struggles in way that works for you might not work for someone else. The same thing that someone else is trying to accomplish as you might appear to come easier to them than you and that’s okay. Just remember, you’re probably seeing their end result without knowing their journey… This is YOUR life and YOUR journey that you’re meant to have though. At the end of the day, you have to live with the result of your choices or the choices you allow others to make for your life. Shouldn’t you do everything in your ability to make your journey an enjoyable one?

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