Every day I write a post or give a Roll Models talk in an attempt to pass on a life lesson or make you think about your life. I hope that you have found my words helpful and inspiring, and that you are a better person now that I have entered your life. As so often happens, as I have worked to teach and motivate you about having a happy, successful existence, you have actually been teaching me a lot about my own life. In sharing my life with you I have had to really think about and reflect upon nearly every part of my world. This introspection has caused me to learn, or re-learn, some very important things about my life. I thought that since I always enjoy hearing what I have taught you, that it was only fair that I tell you what you have taught me. Because without your support and encouragement, Roll Models would not be what it is today, and I would have stopped writing a long time ago. So in appreciation of your efforts, I present you with the 7 most important lessons I have learned from Roll Models, in no particular order.
I have an amazing family. Now, I have always known that my family was special, and I have always been very thankful for that. As I have written about each member of my family individually, as well as writing about how close we are as a unit though, I have gained a whole new level of appreciation for my parents and siblings. The close bond we maintain despite the fact that we are 5 adults living in 4 different cities with very different lives is something that is not found very often in today’s society. Writing about these 4 phenomenal individuals, and reminiscing about all of the things we have gone through together, has reminded me of how much they mean to me, which I am extremely grateful for.
- It is important to tell people how you feel about them. As I have shared memories from my life with you, I have gotten the opportunity to tell people what they mean to me. By writing my feelings in my posts, I can indirectly tell my loved ones how much I care about them, while maintaining some sense of anonymity. Writing this way makes me feel safe enough to open up and share things that I would never say in person. Not only has this allowed me to get even closer to many people in my life, but it has helped me to reconnect with old friends and even mend relationships with people who I had had a falling out with. In addition to strengthening my relationships, I am much happier now that I have told the people that mean the world to me how much I appreciate them.
- I have a meaningful life. In my post, “Suffering,” I discuss how I bring meaning to my life. I talk about being “worthy of my suffering” and living my life in a way that can inspire and motivate others. I have always believed this way and tried to live my life along these lines, but now that I have seen the response that I have gotten from pmy blog posts and Roll Models talks, I have a whole new appreciation for how meaningful my life is. I cannot believe the number of people that have written to me telling me how much my words meant to them. Getting this validation that my efforts to live in a good way and battle through everything this disease throws at me, has been so fulfilling and makes it so much easier to keep fighting. If living a full, successful life despite my disability can inspire just one person to improve themselves, that is enough meaning for me.
I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. Even though I love mathematics and statistics, and as I was working as a statistical consultant I enjoyed what I did, I never felt like I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing with my life. Every time I get in front of an audience for a Roll Models talk or finish a really good blog post though, I get this powerful, tingling feeling in my belly that tells me, “You are helping people, and you are doing exactly what you are meant to do.” I cannot even begin to find words to convey how great it feels to go to bed after giving a talk, and as you close your eyes you know that you did something that changed people’s lives in a way that only you could. Knowing that by telling my story that I am doing what I was meant to do, and that I am changing people’s lives along the way is really special to me, and now I cannot imagine doing anything else.
- I am a natural storyteller. I have always enjoyed talking and having everyone in the room listen to what I have to say. I was always telling jokes or making up outlandish facts and saying they were true growing up (like the time I had an hour long debate with my sister about how everyone in Canada had to own a kayak by law). I also enjoyed the feeling I would get when I lectured to my students in graduate school. Nothing compares however, to the feeling I get when I get up in front of an audience and have them hanging on my every word as I share my life with them. This feeling is what made me realize that even though I may never be a great writer, teacher, or speaker in a classical sense, that I am a great storyteller. I have the ability to make my memories and my life into a story that captives my audience and allows me to present them with a powerful message. This is something that I not only enjoy doing, but I am also very proud of, and I am happy that I was able to realize this gift.
- I am strong enough. I know that I seem like I have it all together every day all the time. I am going to let you in on a little secret of mine though…there are days where I lose control of my emotions, feel sorry for myself, and just want to crawl in a hole and hide. I may put a good face on most days, but there are times when on the inside I am struggling to cope with whatever obstacle I am currently facing just like everyone else, and I question whether I have the strength to keep fighting. I think of myself as a duck gliding across a pond. Above the water my life appears effortless and graceful, but under the surface my feet are paddling a mile a minute. In recounting how I have overcome all of the horrific, difficult times in my life though, I have been reminded of how strong I really am when I need to be. This knowledge makes it much easier for me to face the obstacles that I know I will be placed before me in the future.
I have lived a very full life. As I think about my life and try to come up with memories that I can share with you to illustrate whatever lesson I am trying to pass on, I am constantly blown away by the number of cool experiences I have had. For someone that was supposed to die by the age of 3, I have accomplished so much. I have done things that most people said I would not be able to do, like go off a diving board, live independently, and go on a cruise. I have also accomplished nearly everything I have set my mind to, like graduating from Notre Dame, getting my Master’s degree from the University of Kansas, and developing my own speaking program, Roll Models. Looking back on all of the experiences I have had makes me feel proud that I have lived such an amazing life, but even more importantly it makes me look forward to what fun and exciting experiences await me in the future.