Category Archives: Communication

SMA Conference 2015: “It’s A Wonderful Life”

Share Button

Recently, I got to attend the annual Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Conference. This was my first time being able to go (because it was held at the Westin Hotel in Kansas City about 20 minutes from my apartment), and while I feared that I was overly excited and had created far too lofty expectations, it turns out that I had no reason to worry. The conference, which was the second most attended conference ever for “Cure SMA,” not only met my high expectations, but surpassed them in every way. I had a phenomenal time, met some amazing people, and learned a lot about how to live with this horrible disease. In addition, I got the opportunity to share some of my own experiences about creating a successful life with SMA, as a member of a panel discussion that was held on the final day of the conference. After spending the first few days of the conference getting to meet and talk with some of the inspiring individuals trying to figure out how to give their disabled children and families a fulfilling life (much like my parents did many years ago), I felt extremely honored to get to pass on what I have learned from battling this disease for almost 30 years. This event touched me and impacted my life in so many ways that there is no way that I could fit everything I want to share with you in one post. So, in order to make sure that I adequately discuss all of the important things I learned, I will be writing several articles about the conference over the next week or two. Today you get the second of these posts (here is the first), which focuses on a very important life lesson that was brought to my attention after the conference, as I was looking back at the amazing experience I had.

Scott Drotar Panel Members
Here are some of the amazing people who participated as panel members with me the last day of the conference.

As I mentioned above, on the final day of the conference I was given the honor of participating as a member of a panel discussion. The panel consisted of about a dozen adults with SMA, all of whom had managed to overcome their physical limitations to lead successful lives. During the session, which was entitled “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the audience was given the opportunity to ask anything they liked about how we were able to rise above the obstacles presented by our disability. They could inquire about anything from moving away from home, to how to arrange around the clock home nursing care, to how to travel internationally with a power wheelchair (yes, there are individuals much braver than me who do this). Not only could the audience ask anything they wanted, but they could receive honest answers straight from people who have actually experienced these parts of life with SMA. In addition to being a way to pass on some of the experiences we have had and the things we have learned to the next generation of individuals with SMA, this question and answer session was also designed to show the parents of young, disabled children that you can still lead a happy, successful, fulfilling life despite the obstacles presented by this disease. This was the first year that they had concluded the conference this way, and not only was it a huge success, but it was also the most attended session of the entire weekend. It was a great source of valuable information for others facing this disease, and by sharing all of our success stories and giving young families effected by SMA some hope for the future, this panel discussion ended the conference on an uplifting, positive note.

Scott Drotar SMA It Forward
Sharing my experiences at the conference gave me an opportunity to “SMA It Forward” all of the kindness others have shown me.

Participating in this panel made me really reflect upon my life. Listening to others with SMA tell their success stories, as well as sharing a few of my own adventures with overcoming this disease, caused me to look back over the last 28 years and think about everything I have experienced. More importantly though, it helped me remember some of the most influential people in my life, who helped me create this wonderful life I lead. As I thought about all of the young parents in the audience that were doing everything they could to help give their disabled child a full, happy life, I was reminded of my own mom and dad. I realized how fortunate I am to have two amazing parents, who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to give me every opportunity at a “normal” life, the life I have always dreamed of having. As I watched all of the able-bodied siblings of people with SMA work as volunteers throughout the conference, I was reminded of my brother and sister. Despite the fact that they missed out on certain activities growing up due to my physical limitations and had to mature at a young age to help take care of me, they never made me feel “different,” and I know that they would give anything for me to be healthy. As I saw all of the relatives, friends, and caregivers, who gave up almost a week to allow their disabled loved ones to attend the conference, I was reminded of all of the people close to me that have shaped my life. These incredible individuals have willingly and openly given their time, their energy, and their love, just so that I can chase my dreams and be happy. Each and every one of these people, my parents, siblings, friends, played a major role in my life, and their selfless, generous acts of kindness have allowed me to be as successful as I am.

In thinking about all of the influential individuals who have given me the ability to achieve so many of my goals, I gained a new perspective on some things. Seeing all of the other families at the conference and thinking about how my family was in that exact same situation 25 years ago helped me to see my life in a different way. It helped me to realize just how lucky I am. My parents were told that I would not make it to my third birthday, and for many of the young families at the conference, this is the unfortunate reality that they will face. For whatever reason though, I have beaten the odds and overcome my physical limitations to lead a long, fulfilling life (as did everyone else on the panel). I am almost 29 years old, living on my own, paying my own bills, and enjoying a successful, happy life. And while I certainly worked hard to get where I am, and I also know that there was some luck involved, the most important factor in my success was the people around me. My phenomenal family, my amazing friends, and everyone else who has touched my life over the years are the ones who deserve credit for my success. Without these incredible individuals and everything they did for me, I would not have been on that stage the last day of the conference, and in all likelihood I would not be around at all. These are the people who should be looked up to and applauded for their achievements, as they are the real inspiration.

The title of the panel discussion, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” was chosen to illustrate how you can still lead a happy life with SMA, and every member of the panel definitely embodied that in numerous ways, but it goes even deeper than that. Even for those of us that have managed to beat this disease and be successful, it is important to remember how “wonderful” life is and just how fortunate you are. While we may be disabled and have to deal with more than most, when you consider the fact that most of the children born with SMA never make it to adulthood, let alone lead independent, fulfilling lives, you see how lucky you have been. Gaining this perspective makes you truly appreciate your life, and it makes you think about all of the people who gave you the ability to beat this horrible disease, because without even one of these individuals, you may not have accomplished everything you have. In some cases, you may not have made it at all. It is so crucial to keep this idea in focus and appreciate the influential people in your life, not only because they are the ones who paved the way for your success, but also because they are the people who can show you how to live the “right” way and make the world a better place. These are the people who know how to make life “wonderful.”

Scott Drotar It's A Wonderful Life
I may be no George Bailey, but I do have a wonderful life.

While the real goal of the “It’s A Wonderful Life” panel discussion was to inspire young families with SMA and pass on real-world experiences of what life is like with this disease, it accomplished so much more than that. It helped me (and I am guessing everyone on that panel) to realize how fortunate we are, and how fortunate we have been to have so many awesome individuals in our lives. This is something that we all need to reflect upon, because we all have had people touch our lives in incredible ways. These amazing people are the ones who gave you the ability to find success and happiness, and while they may not have wings or a halo (just like Clarence when he helped George Bailey in the movie), that does not make them any less miraculous. Be sure to remember the “angels” in your life and take the time to really appreciate the incredible impact that they have had on you. Keep in mind that while you are the one who built your life and achieved your goals, these are the people that gave you the tools and skills to do so. And most of all, if you want to be happy never forget that even when you are down on your luck and everything seems to be going wrong, that “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Did this article leave you wondering something? Are you curious about a certain aspect of my life? Do you want to know my favorite color? Submit your question to “Roll Models Mail Call,” and I will do my best to answer it in a post.

Share Button

A Positive Force

Share Button
Scott Drotar David Letterman
David Letterman hosted his final episode of “The Late Show” last month.

As you are probably aware already, last month after more than 6,000 airings David Letterman hosted his final episode of “The Late Show with David Letterman.” No matter where you stand on the Letterman-Leno continuum, you cannot deny the fact that Letterman had an incredible career and made an enormous impact on the lives of millions. Even though at first glance you may not think of this goofy, self-deprecating comedian as someone who influenced several generations of Americans, when you really think about it, you realize that this amazing entertainer spent 22 years trying to bring happiness to others. Whether he was feuding with Oprah, running through the nightly “Late Show Top Ten List,” or throwing things off of the roof of the Ed Sullivan Theater, he was always doing his best to make us smile. Every night we could turn on CBS, take a 60 minute break from our lives and problems, and just sit back and enjoy whatever hijinks Dave was up to. While he may have touched the lives of countless people throughout his career, the impact he had on my life in particular runs deeper than laughing mindlessly watching “Stupid Human Tricks.” For me, Letterman was much more than a brief escape from reality. He was a nightly reminder of the happy, fulfilling life I wanted to achieve, during a time when I felt that I had very little to fight for.

Right after I survived my brush with death and got my trache when I was 15 years old, I entered a very dark period in my life. I was never “officially” diagnosed with depression, but anyone who knew me during this time would certainly tell you that I was not the optimistic, positive thinking person you know and love. You would think that the mere fact that I was alive, home, and well would have been enough to put me in a permanent state of bliss after nearly losing my life to pneumonia, but this was not the case. For about six months or so after being discharged from the hospital, I had a really hard time finding reasons to be happy and keep fighting to create a fulfilling life for myself. Looking back, it makes perfect sense that I had such a difficult time, since my whole world was changing, and I definitely had a lot to get used to. Physically, I was trying to recover from pneumonia, getting used to having a trache, and learning to live with a whole new level of chronic pain. At the same time, I was mentally coping with my near death experience, working through the reality that I would never get my old life back (the life I had pre-trache), and trying to put together a new life that would make me happy. And on top of all of that, I was also your typical, hormone-filled teenager, who are borderline depressed to begin with, so it is no great surprise that I felt so down.

Scott Drotar Going Through The Motions
While I went through the difficult process of getting used to life with a trache, I was really just “going through the motions” of living my life.

Justified or not, this was an extremely difficult period for me. I rarely smiled, and I had a hard time finding any reasons to be happy. I felt like every part of life that I enjoyed had been taken away from me. My body hurt more and was weaker than before, which meant I could no longer do many things like I used to, if I could still do them at all. My freedom and independence were greatly reduced, since I now needed either a nurse or parent constantly by my side in case I needed to be suctioned (and what teenager wants to have adults hovering all the time). Even eating, one of the most basic parts of life (and one that I have always thoroughly enjoyed), was unpleasant at this time, because my throat was sore from my trache surgery, which made swallowing painful. I felt like I had beaten death just so I could experience a life filled with pain and suffering instead. Even though I still got out of bed every day, went to school, and did the things I needed to do, I was mostly just “going through the motions” so that my parents would not worry. Inside I was a broken man, and I really did not see a reason to keep fighting so hard to try to create a great life for myself, because in the end my failing body was going to take it from me anyway.

Despite my complete apathy towards life during this difficult time, there was still one thing every day that I looked forward to. Every night, while my nurse and I went through my nightly care, we would turn on the television and watch “The Late Show.” My nurse and I would flip on the little 12-inch television in my room and laugh at Rupert Jee, discuss the current events that came up, and watch Dave bumble through his interview questions, as I got ready for bed. I do not know if it is the fact that both David and I are Indiana boys, our similar-style of self-deprecating humor (except he is funny), or just random happenstance, but for whatever reason watching Letterman was the one thing that could still make me smile. This was the one part of my day that always made me happy, which is something I desperately needed at this point. By having things like “The Late Show” to keep me smiling and giving me a reason to keep fighting, I was eventually able to work through my issues and adjust to my new world and limitations. As strange as it may be, it was the goofy antics of a weatherman turned talk show host that helped me to get through this troubling time, and move on to create a happy, fulfilling life for myself.

Of course, at the time I did not see how influential watching “The Late Show” was on my life. Even years after I had gotten through this difficult period, as I looked back and reflected upon how I was able to work through my depression and adjust to my new life, I still failed to see just how important Letterman had been to my personal growth. It was not until just recently, after receiving a text from my sister about his final episode (she knows I am a Letterman fan), that I was able to recognize how influential he had been. As I thought about the thousands of hours I had spent laughing at Dave, and the fact that I would no longer be able to turn on my television late at night and see him, I finally realized how much watching Letterman had meant to me. His late night shenanigans had been a beacon of light at a very dark time in my life. It gave me a reason to smile and be happy during a period when few things could. Even more than bringing some joy into my life though, watching that hour of mindless humor every night was a constant in my life. At a time when everything in my world was changing, and I felt like I had no control over anything, Letterman was always there. I knew that each night, I could escape from my troubles, watch his show, and relax. It was something I could count on, something I could control. For those 60 minutes every weeknight I knew what I would be doing. Having this hour every day to get away from everything I was going through is what gave me the mental space to eventually work through my feelings and get on with my life.

Scott Drotar The Late Show
Watching “The Late Show with David Letterman” was one of the few things that could make me smile after I got my trache.

David Letterman will always be remembered, along with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, as one of the “Kings of Late Night.” He will be remembered as a great entertainer and comedian, who gave millions of viewers an hour of humor every night for over two decades. You will remember his “Top Ten Lists,” his banter with Paul Shaffer, and the time he put up a billboard on the New York-New Jersey border that said, “Attention Motorists: Jersey Is Closed.” To me however, Letterman’s time hosting “The Late Show” will always mean something more. I will remember him as another small town, Hoosier boy that was not afraid to dream big. I will remember the way he used his gift of being able to make people laugh to bring happiness to others. Most importantly though, I will remember him as an unwavering, positive force in my life at a time when I truly needed something to grasp on to. I will be forever grateful for how he impacted my life, and I will miss having him there every night to make me smile, but I hope that he enjoys his retirement. Perhaps now that he has called it quits and I have told my story, he will finally be recognized for everything he has accomplished and achieve his lifelong dream of having I-465 named “David Letterman Expressway” (I can dream right?).

Did this article leave you wondering something? Are you curious about a certain aspect of my life? Do you want to know my favorite color? Submit your question to “Roll Models Mail Call,” and I will do my best to answer it in a post.

Share Button

“Beyond Bedside Manner” Talk For Symposium

Share Button

Several weeks ago, I was contacted by the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) and asked to speak at their “Caring for the Long-term Caregiver Symposium.” This all-day event was sponsored by the NPF, St. Luke’s Hospital, and Johnson County Community College, and it was designed to address and discuss the difficulties and obstacles presented by long-term disabilities, not only for the patient, but for their caregivers as well. This is a topic that I have a bit of experience with and is near and dear to my heart, so I was honored and excited that they wanted me to speak for their audience. And not only did they want me to speak, but they wanted me to close the event as their final speaker of the day. Other than the keynote speaker, the final speaker is the most important part of any event, since it is what the audience will have fresh in their minds as they are leaving and is what they will remember most vividly afterwards. After speaking with the event coordinator and getting a good idea of what they were looking for, I was extremely excited to prepare a new Roll Models talk to close their symposium. After a few weeks of careful brainstorming, writing, and revising of my material, I eventually put together a brand new Roll Models talk called, “Beyond Bedside Manner: The Complex Relationships of Long-Term Care.”

Scott Drotar Beyond Bedside Manner
Last weekend I delivered my newest Roll Models talk, “Beyond Bedside Manner,” at the “Caring For The Long-Term Caregiver” symposium.

“Beyond Bedside Manner” is my newest Roll Models talk, and it is probably my most well-written piece to date. The main message that I am trying to get across to my audience in this talk is that physical disabilities impact more people than just the person being diagnosed with the disease. While the patient definitely has their life effected in nearly every way imaginable, and I do not want to at all minimize that fact, the loved ones who serve as the primary caregivers for the patient have their lives forever changed as well. As the patient is trying to learn to live with a physical disability and having every aspect of their life altered by the disease, their caregivers/family members are going through their own process of having their lives changed too. With building healthy relationships between family members being extremely complicated to begin with, you can imagine how throwing everyone’s life into a state of flux, like what happens after being diagnosed with a severe disability, could make maintaining strong family relationships quite difficult. Throughout “Beyond Bedside Manner,” I discuss how this happens using some examples from my own life, and I also try to give some tools for getting over these obstacles and forging even stronger familial bonds. I believe that this is an often overlooked aspect of living with a long-term disability, and I hope that this talk can do some good and bring this important issue more into view.

The talk itself went extremely well, and the symposium was without a doubt one of the best run and most well organized events that I have ever been a part of. The event coordinator was really on top of things, all of the event staff were happy and helpful, and everyone in the audience was kind and gracious. They even managed to stay on schedule the entire day while running presentations back-to-back without any dead time, and if you have ever worked at any type of event with this many people, you know that that is nearly impossible. I felt like it took me a few minutes to get into rhythm with my talk, but once I found my groove my delivery felt very natural and smooth. They were a great audience too. They actively listened and gave me some silent feedback as we went, which means that we truly connected and makes my job so much easier. I even got to meet a few members of my audience afterwards, and the individuals I spoke with were all caring and interesting people. To sum things up, this was a great event to be a part of, and I only hope that my audience enjoyed themselves and got as much out of it as I did.

Did this article leave you wondering something? Are you curious about a certain aspect of my life? Do you want to know my favorite color? Submit your question to “Roll Models Mail Call,” and I will do my best to answer it in a post.

Share Button

Locked and Loaded

Share Button

As I told you in my last post, I recently began the process of getting a new, power wheelchair. The first thing you have to do get the ball rolling is to meet with a wheelchair technician and a physical therapist. This meeting serves two important purposes. First, it gives you a chance to talk with the wheelchair technician, who will eventually be building your new chair, to discuss all of the different options you have in terms of vendors, parts, and features that can be included with your wheelchair. Second, it satisfies one of your insurance provider’s requirements for approving payment for your chair, by having a physical therapist sign off that for medical reasons you do need all of the options and customizations you are requesting. This can be an extremely long and overwhelming meeting, as there are a lot of things that need to be addressed when building a wheelchair that you will spend upwards of 15,000 hours in over its lifespan. Having gone through this process a few times over the years, I knew going in that in order to avoid getting overwhelmed by all of the information being thrown at you, that you have to prepare yourself by doing some research beforehand. You have to go into this meeting already having an idea of what is out there and what you want, in order to ensure that you get what you need and do not get talked into choosing an option that will not work for you. Since this is something that I have grown accustomed to doing, I thought that everyone did this when going into important meetings. But judging from the surprised reactions I saw on the faces of the wheelchair technician and the physical therapist when I came in and told them exactly what I wanted, I now realize that this is not the norm.

Scott Drotar Switch-It
This, “Switch-It,” control is very similar to the touchpad-type hand control I will end up having on my new wheelchair.

Last week, before going to my meeting to start the process of building my new wheelchair, I had spent several hours on the internet doing some research as to what all is out there in terms of parts for power wheelchairs. While this took up a fair amount of my time, and even though I wasted a lot of that time looking at things that will not work for me, I knew the importance of educating myself before going into a meeting about something as vital to my happiness as my chair. I wanted to have a general idea of what vendors, parts, and features I wanted for my new wheelchair, before discussing it with the wheelchair technician, so that I did not end up getting talked into something that was unnecessary, or worse, harmful. Having at least a vague idea as to what I wanted also allowed me to steer our discussion in directions that were productive and helpful, which saved us a lot of potentially wasted time talking about features I do not need. Doing this research before going in to chat with the wheelchair tech and physical therapist prepared me for this important meeting, and it also gave me the necessary “ammunition” to head into this critical discussion calm and confident, or as I like to say, “locked and loaded.”

Having only met the wheelchair technician once and having never met the physical therapist that I would be working with to get my new wheelchair, I typically would have had a fair amount of anxiety going into this meeting. Even though I endlessly babble about my life online for the whole world to see, you may be surprised to learn that I am a bit shy in person. So as you can imagine, meeting with two people, who I do not know, to chat about something as personal as my disability and my wheelchair can be a bit stressful. In addition, any time you are making an enormous, life-changing decision, you will usually feel some level of apprehension anyway. Despite all of this, when I went into my meeting last week, I was not stressed or anxious at all. In fact, I was calm, confident, and excited to discuss my new wheelchair and begin the process of building it. This complete reversal in my emotional state was a direct result of feeling prepared, “locked and loaded,” and knowledgeable enough to take charge in our discussion. I soon discovered through the reactions of the technician and therapist though, that this is not a practice that is all that common.

After everyone got situated, exchanged pleasantries, and introduced themselves, everyone sort of looked at each other waiting to see who was going to start the discussion. So, feeling confident and well informed, I decided to speak up first and get things going. I thought this was perfectly natural, since only I know what my body needs and what features I want on my new wheelchair, but as I was talking I noticed looks of pleasant surprise on the faces of my counterparts. As we continued to chat about features for my chair, and I listened and commented on some of their ideas, I kept picking up on these feelings of surprise. Towards the end of our meeting, the physical therapist jokingly said that all she and the tech needed to do was sign off on my medical needs and order the parts, because I already had done the rest of the work. While this is not really true, they both had good ideas that I ended up liking more than the ones I came in with, hearing this comment made me realize, not only how powerful this habit can be, but also how few people actually do it. Recognizing these two facts about the act of going into important meetings “locked and loaded” is what motivated me to share this critical life skill with you today.

Scott Drotar Locked and Loaded
Power wheelchairs have come a long way during my lifetime and can do some amazing things.

In an earlier post, you learned about how crucial it is to advocate for yourself when it comes to decisions regarding your health and well-being. Doing some independent research and learning about any major, medical decision in your life, which allows you to head into meetings with health care professionals “locked and loaded,” is how you give yourself the ability to stand up for yourself and voice your opinions. It is impossible to feel confident or speak about something that you do not know much about, and medical professionals may be experts in their field, but only you are an expert on you, your body, and what you want. By taking the time to educate yourself about the various aspects of whatever decision you are making, you can open and guide your discussions with professionals. This will combine your immense, personal knowledge about your body with their professional expertise, which will give you the best chance at making a good decision and improving your life. It is important to note that this process of getting yourself “locked and loaded” before attending major meetings or making life altering choices is not unique to medical decisions. Taking the time to be informed prior to pulling the trigger on an enormous choice facing you is a practice that can be applied to any area of your life.

It is a shame that it is often only after the fact that we recognize how crucial certain parts of our lives are to our success and happiness. If not for the looks of surprise on the faces of the wheelchair technician and physical therapist last week, I would have continued to overlook how much the process of educating yourself and being “locked and loaded” can improve your life. By taking a few hours beforehand to do some research on your own, you give yourself the ammunition necessary to be calm, confident, and prepared as you speak with experts and make important decisions. This process also prevents you from getting talked into something you do not want by someone else, as well as helping you avoid wasting time and energy looking at options that are not going to work for you. The next time you see a major decision in your life on the horizon, take some time to get “locked and loaded” before pulling the trigger on anything. This will save you time, prevent a lot of bad choices, and remove a large amount of stress and anxiety from your life. Most of all though, applying this process will bring you more happiness and success that will greatly improve your life.

Did this article leave you wondering something? Are you curious about a certain aspect of my life? Do you want to know my favorite color? Submit your question to “Roll Models Mail Call,” and I will do my best to answer it in a post.

Share Button

Validation (Part 1)

Share Button

It feels like forever since my last blog post, and I am really excited to be getting back to my normal routine and sharing my thoughts and experiences with you. I have had a fun-filled few days, and a lot has been going on in my life. The same can be said for Roll Models and www.scottdrotar.com, as there has been quite a bit of action on that front as well. With so much happening during my little hiatus from blogging, I thought that I would use the next couple of posts to fill you in on what has transpired since my last article. You need to get up to speed on my parents’ visit, seeing my uncle, and my exciting Roll Models news, so that you can continue to accompany me on my journey through life. I hope that you will enjoy reading about my recent adventures as much as I enjoyed having them, although I am not sure that is possible. At the very least you will be entertained by my most recent escapades, and you may even get some life lessons along the way.

Scott Drotar Validation
I had a great time visiting with my parents last week.

The main reason I took so much time off was so that I could enjoy my time with my parents, who came to visit me last week. Since it was my dad’s Spring Break, they were able to spend more time catching up with me and not have to hurry back so he could get to work, which helped create a more relaxed atmosphere the entire time they were here. This made for a great visit, and we had a wonderful time discussing everything going on in each other’s lives. Making this time even more momentous was the fact that my uncle, who happened to be in town on business, was also able to come spend time with us. Since I had not seen him in over four years, it was really fulfilling to get to show him the successful, happy life that I have created out here on my own. Living over 500 miles from any of my relatives, I typically only get to share my world with them through pictures and emails, so it is quite special for me when I get to show them my success first hand. In addition to sharing my world with him, I also got to hear about how he has been doing, his work, and my cousins. The four of us had a terrific time talking about our lives, and I am so happy we were able to all be here together.

Scott Drotar Uncle Fred
It was really special to get to visit with my uncle after not seeing him for so long.

The climax of our visit was, hands down, the multiple course meal that I prepared for them. As you are well aware, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen now, and I frequently chronicle my culinary adventures on Facebook. My mom, who has been reading about all of my delicious dishes and seeing pictures of my mouthwatering creations since Christmas, told me that I had better prepare a feast for them when they visit, now that I am such a good cook. Since I am a dutiful son that would never disobey my dear mother (even I could not help but laugh at that one), I did as I was told and planned a three course, gourmet meal. Anyone who has ever thrown a dinner party knows that planning a three course meal is much more difficult than merely preparing an appetizer, entree, and dessert. You have to come up with three dishes that are not only flavorful and delicious on their own, but also work well as a group. For example, you would never serve a hearty, spicy Indian chutney with big flavors as an appetizer for baked white fish in a light white wine sauce, because your palette would not be able to enjoy the subtle, complex flavors of the fish after such a bold start. You want your courses to work together to tell a story to create a more enjoyable dining experience. While I did not fully understand how difficult this can be until recently, I now have a whole new appreciation for people who prepare entire menus for people on a weekly basis.

Despite my inexperience and lack of appreciation for how hard it would be, I did manage to put together a delicious, three course meal for my family. It took me several weeks of strategizing and preparation, but eventually I was able to find three complimentary dishes that I thought my parents and uncle would like. After browsing through hundreds of recipes, testing dozens of different of flavor combinations, and changing my mind constantly about what would be best, this is the menu I settled on. We began our gastronomic journey with an appetizer of seared sausage medallions topped with a Venezuelan salsa criolla over a bed of rice. For the entree, I served a pear and goat cheese stuffed pork tenderloin with a soy-citrus marinade and a side of garlic-lemon new potatoes. This delightful dining experience ended with spiced wine poached pears topped with caramel sauce for dessert. Everything turned out better than I had hoped, and it must have been good because it was nearly all gone by the time the meal was over. It felt really good watching them enjoy the meal I had worked so hard to create, and I am so happy that I was able to share my new passion for cooking with the people I care about most.

Scott Drotar Pork Tenderloin
My entree of pear and goat cheese stuffed pork tenderloin with a homemade marinade.

Both getting the opportunity to share my independent, successful life with my uncle and watching my family get so much enjoyment from the meal I prepared gave me a feeling of validation. Even though I know my family and relatives are extremely proud of me, it still feels good to get to show them first-hand everything I have been able to accomplish. Although your own happiness is all that truly matters, it still feels good when you can show your loved ones all of your success. Getting some positive feedback and appreciation of your achievements in life reminds you of why you put in so much time and energy to build the world around you, and it is part of what drives you to continue to work hard to reach your goals. Knowing that your family and friends recognize how much effort you put in to achieve everything in your life, and hearing that they are proud of you, can be an extremely powerful feeling that will fuel you on your journey for future success. This is exactly the feeling I got during this visit, and I am definitely fully recharged and ready to get back to work enjoying my happy, fun-filled life and giving my all chasing my dreams.

This feeling of validation was not something I was looking for, or even thought I needed, but that did not in any way reduce how much of an impact it had on me. Visiting with my uncle and watching my folks slowly savor each bite of the meal I prepared filled me with a feeling of accomplishment that has given me a renewed focus and drive to achieve my goals. I never would have guessed that their approval and appreciation of my efforts would have such a great influence on me, but you do not always know what you need in life. No matter how much success you have or what you accomplish, we all want to feel like our loved ones are proud of us. By sharing your achievements and passion for things with your family and friends, you will often get to enjoy this feeling of validation, whether you are looking for it or not. Take the time to share your life with those who are most important to you, and help them experience some of the things you are passionate about. This will fuel you as you continue to work to accomplish your goals, and it will also help you forge even stronger relationships with your loved ones.

My feelings of validation were just starting to build after these two events though, as after my family returned home I got another dose of this powerful sensation. This second round of recognition and approval came not from my personal life, but from my professional world. Thanks to some unexpected consulting requests and Roll Models, my feelings of validation were able to grow even further. You will get to hear all about these events and how they effected me in the next part of this article.

Did this article leave you wondering something? Are you curious about a certain aspect of my life? Do you want to know my favorite color? Submit your question to “Roll Models Mail Call,” and I will do my best to answer it in a post.

Share Button

“We Have The Technology.”

Share Button
Scott Drotar Microchip
I have always had a fascination and curiosity for technology and anything with a microchip.

My entire life I have been a huge uber-geek when it comes to computers and technology. Ever since I was 4 years old and got my very first Apple II computer, courtesy of the Make A Wish Foundation, I have been hooked. Not only have I always been interested in figuring out how various gadgets work and learning to program in as many languages as I can, but I also realized at a fairly young age that modern technology had something special to offer me due to my disability. It became obvious to me early on in my time tinkering with computers, and later on the internet, that in the virtual world of microprocessors and internet protocols my physical limitations were no longer a disadvantage that I had to overcome. For the first time in my life I was on a level playing field with the people around me, able-bodied and disabled people alike. I realized that learning as much as I could about programming, operating systems, and computers in general that I would be able to create an environment where I could operate on the same level as everyone else. Not only does technology level the playing field for me, but it also provides me with the tools to prevent my disability from limiting my world as my body gets weaker with time, which is something that I was reminded of during last year’s Holiday Season.

I have discussed in some of my earlier articles about how travelling long distances is difficult at best when you have a severe, physical disability, even if you are fortunate enough to have your own wheelchair accessible vehicle. One of the effects of not being able to make long trips is that I cannot go to visit my friends and family who live in other parts of the country. Whether it be visiting my old college roommate, attending my 10 year high school reunion, or going to one of my best friend’s wedding, unless it is less than a few hours drive from my apartment, I am probably not going to be able to make it. This could definitely make it difficult for me to maintain relationships and have a fulfilling social life, but thanks to the recent technology boom and my fascination with anything containing a microchip however, this is fortunately not the case. By taking advantage of some of the new features available on our phones, tablets, and the countless other “big kid toys” in our lives, I have been able to find alternative ways to keep my social and professional worlds from being restricted to the greater Kansas City area and maintain a very fulfilling social life.

While I have been aware of my use of technology in expanding my world for a long time now, during the Holidays last year this is something that was really brought to my attention. The Holidays are a time to be with friends and family, and since my loved ones are scattered all across the country, not being able to travel very far makes it difficult for me to share this festive time with some of the the most important people in my life, at least in person. Thanks to several different technological features that are now almost commonplace on most technological devices, I was able to share my Christmas celebration with all of the people who make my life so great. Touchscreen displays for example, which are pretty much a standard feature now, have helped those of us with weak muscles more use of technology, as they require far less pressure and range of motion than previous control options. Live video streaming, available free through programs like Skype and Google Hangout, allow disabled individuals who cannot travel the ability to still be present at any event nearly anywhere in the world, at least in a virtual sense. I was able to still share the Holidays with several of my old dorm brothers thanks to video chatting, despite the fact that they live hundreds of miles away. Even the recent advancement that allows anyone to purchase nearly anything without ever leaving their home has been a major improvement for people with disabilities. I was able to have wonderful gifts for my family, wrapped beautifully and waiting under my Christmas tree, without having to put my body through the physical toll of going out in the cold, subjecting myself to millions of new germs, and risking spending my Christmas in a hospital bed, thanks to the amazing service of websites like Amazon and Overstock.com.

Scott Drotar Social Media
The social media boom has helped open up the world for many physically disabled individuals.

I am so thankful that the various technology companies have inadvertently improved the lives of thousands of disabled people over the last several years. As they have worked to develop more and more new features before their competitors, they have also been giving new levels of freedom and independence to people with physical limitations. Although these companies will probably never realize it, and it will definitely not show up in their stock values or quarterly reports, organizations like Apple, Samsung, and Google have allowed people with severe, physical disabilities achieve goals and experience things that would have never been possible without the developments in technology that they have produced. These advances, which are so often thought of in terms of dollars and cents, to people like me are so much more than that. Being able to chat with one of my best friends about his new job and getting to be a part of my loved one’s Christmas festivities without ever leaving my home are things that are so special that I could never put a dollar value on them. These features have given me a happy, fulfilling life that I am so proud of, and that is something that is priceless.

Share Button

Setting Boundaries

Share Button
Scott Drotar Purple People-Eater
I am a huge “people-pleaser,” not to be confused with a “flying purple people-eater.”

I have something I have to tell all of you, but it is not going to be easy. I have not addressed it explicitly thus far in my Roll Models articles or talks, but I have decided that I need to be open with you. If I am going to share my world with you, then I need to share the good, as well as the bad, in order to give you an accurate depiction of my life. I hope this will not change your opinion of me, but I will totally understand if you see me differently after this post. I better just do it before I lose my nerve, so here it goes. My name is Scott, and I am a “people-pleaser.” That is right. I, Scott Drotar, your wise, witty, wheelchair-using wordsmith, is a “people-pleaser.” Not only that, but I am probably one of the worst “people-pleasers” in the world. I have a compulsive desire to please others and make people happy. I have a problem saying “no,” volunteer for things even when I have a full schedule, and often burn the candle at both ends. I fear missing a deadline and “dropping the ball” on a project more than death. My drive to help others live better lives even caused me to create (at least partially) my own speaking program and website to motivate and inspire as many individuals as possible, and if that does not scream, “people-pleaser,” I don’t know what does. However, I know that admitting I have a problem is the first step to coping with my issues, so I am here telling you today that I am a “people-pleaser.”

Ok. I know that this is a bit over-dramatic, and I do not mean to make fun of addiction issues or recovery groups, but I am a bona fide “people-pleaser.” When I get the sense that someone is not happy with something I have done, I get this physically ill and uncomfortable feeling throughout my body. I do not know why I get such a strong physiological response, but when I say “no” to someone, do not meet someone’s expectations, or otherwise let someone down, I get these horrible, sick feelings. I get this nauseated feeling in the pit of my stomach, my breathing gets shallower, and my body gets

Scott Drotar Setting Boundaries
Growing up, my siblings and I were always being told to think of others before ourselves.

flushed and sweats like a sinner’s on judgment day. While I do not know why it happens, I do have a good idea of how it started. Growing up, one of the things that my parents were constantly preaching to my siblings and I was the importance of thinking beyond ourselves. They were always telling us to put the needs of others before our own and to focus first on the happiness of the people around us. These altruistic ideals are something we all need to learn, and they have been quite valuable throughout my life, but it is important to remember to keep things in perspective. Just like everything else in life, you need to find the right balance. If you are only ever worrying about the well-being and happiness of others and completely ignoring your own needs, you will end up being just as bad off as people who only think of themselves. Sure, people may like you a lot more than these greedy, self-serving individuals, but you will not be any better off since you are not addressing your own needs. By constantly giving to others all the time, you will end up burnt out and miserable from ignoring your own wants and desires. This is not only bad because you deserve to be happy, but also since in giving too much of yourself and burning out in the short-term, you will no longer have the drive to help improve the lives of others over the long-term. In order to help others as much as possible, maintain your own happiness, and avoid fizzling out and imploding on yourself like a dieing star, you have to learn to set boundaries.

When I was in my first semester of graduate school, since I was new to the quantitative psychology program, had almost no knowledge of theoretical psychology, and had a much different background than my colleagues, I felt like I had something to prove. I felt like I needed to show everyone that I belonged and could be an asset to the department. In an effort to prove my worth, I would volunteer and sign up for anything that I was even remotely qualified to do. When my boss would start looking for people to handle certain jobs at our weekly staff meetings or email the entire department looking for someone to take on a new client, I would be the first to speak up or hit reply. As you can imagine, after a couple months of signing up for anything and everything I could, my plate was very full. It got to the point by mid-semester where I had zero free time or personal life, and if I was not in one of my own classes, I was working on something for a client. I was well on my way to burning out, and if I had continued much longer this way I am certain I would have (probably ending my academic career), but thanks to some wisdom from a professor, I was able to avoid this unpleasant fate and learn an important life lesson.

I was sitting in a lecture hall the week before Fall Break waiting on one of my classes to start, and as I was quietly sipping my Starbucks latte, the professor walked over and asked how my first semester of graduate school was going. I told him that I was enjoying myself and thought I was doing well in my courses, but I was still struggling with finding enough time to complete all of the projects I was working on. He smiled and said that time management was a big part of grad school, and then asked me what projects I was currently helping with. I started going through my mile-long list of current projects, and after about the sixth one, my professor stopped me. He said that I had more projects going than he did even as a tenured professor, and that I was definitely doing way too much for a first year graduate student. He then went on to ask me who had assigned me to all of this work. I shook my head quickly and told him that no one had assigned these projects to me, but that I had volunteered. I added that I thought as the new person in the department and being “low man on the totem pole,” that I was supposed to volunteer a lot and show people what I could do. At this point, a gentle smirk came across my professor’s lips as he said that I had things “completely back-asswards.” He then gave me two great pieces of advice. The first was that the people that mattered already knew what I could do, or I would not be there in the first place (a universal idea that we all forget occasionally). The second, and more valuable, nugget of wisdom was the importance of setting boundaries.

My professor explained to me that in academia, one of your most valuable commodities is your time. There is only so much time in the day, and you will always end up having more work to do than time allows. Unless you can learn to set some boundaries, you will end up going crazy as you painstakingly try to do everything for everyone. If you do not protect your time today by learning to say “no,” you will not have the drive or mental faculties to say “yes” later on when you do have time. It is all a matter of having the ability to help as many people as possible in the long run. It is much better, both for you and others, to help on a few less projects every year, but be around for four years, than to help on every project this year, but burn out and leave after this Spring semester. Having it explained to me this way, as a cost and benefit type problem, really put everything in perspective for me. I realized that you have to balance your “yes’s and no’s” by setting boundaries, in order to get the best result and participate on the most projects.

Scott Drotar Totem Pole
As the “low man on the totem pole” in my first semester of graduate school, I rarely said “no” to a project.

As important as my professor’s sage-like advice was for surviving my grad school career, it was only after I thought about his words for a few days that I realized their real value. It turns out that this same concept about protecting your time and setting boundaries is applicable to nearly every part of life. Just like I needed to say “no” to some projects early on in my grad school career in order to maintain my sanity, graduate, and achieve my long-term goals, you also need to create and sustain limits in all of the other areas of your life if you want to be happy and successful. By developing boundaries you will be able to better prioritize your life and maintain a healthy balance even when you are being pulled in a thousand different directions. Whether it is turning down a “happy hour” invitation from a colleague to have family dinner, or saying “no” to your boss’s request that you stay late to watch your child’s dance recital, your boundaries will ensure that you do not get beaten down by life or lose sight of what is most important to you. Developing these limits, learning to say “no,” and remembering that long-term success is most important, will make you feel much happier and fulfilled with your life, and since you will be better equipped to help others in the long run, it will improve the lives of others as well.

I am a “people-pleaser,” and that will never change. The feelings I have to make everyone around me happy and not disappoint others will never completely go away. Like any other compulsion or addiction though, you can learn to manage these feelings and live a happy, successful life. Developing good boundaries, and sticking to them, will go a long way towards controlling your “people-pleaser” urges. If you too suffer from this horrible affliction, take the time to really think about the wisdom my professor shared with me. What areas of your life are making you feel burned out? What parts of your life are you ignoring because of other obligations? Make a list of what aspects of your life are the most important to you, and then create boundaries that ensure you devote your time to the right things. If you develop good boundaries, and stick to them even when it is hard, you will no longer be a slave to your urges as a “people-pleaser.” You will enjoy a long, happy life with your loved ones, and better yet, in the long run you will be able to give more of yourself to others.

Share Button

Risk And Reward

Share Button

You have read in earlier posts about how complicated the nurse and client relationship can be in home care. I even have an entire Roll Models talk about these complex connections, and the key to understanding them to build strong relationships in the home care setting. Even though I have had nurses with me nearly non-stop for over a decade, and speak as an expert on these relationships, that does not mean that I have everything figured out or do not struggle at times with managing my relationships with my caregivers though. One of the most difficult parts of maintaining these bonds is being able to tell where the professional relationship ends and the personal relationship begins with each nurse. Due to the fact that my nurses are paid to care for me and be a part of my life, it is never easy to gauge how much of the relationship is professional and how much is personal, especially since it is different with each and every caregiver. The idea that plagues me to this day is determining whether my nurses would still want to maintain our friendship, even if they were no longer my nurse. Whenever I get close to one of my nurses I always wonder about this idea, and it is usually only when our professional relationship ends, and it is too late to do anything to protect myself emotionally, that I get an answer. The other day however, due to a rather random set of circumstances, I was able to get the answer to this question with one of my current caregivers. Getting this information while our relationship is still strong and healthy not only gave me a reassuring and comforting feeling, but it also gave me some powerful insights into the nature of relationships in general.

Scott Drotar Risk And Reward
My relationships with my nurses are very complex due to being a combination of our working and personal connections.

One night last week, there was a bad snow and ice storm that tore through our area beginning around sundown and continued until the wee hours of the next morning. The nurse who was with me that evening was one of my most veteran caregivers, and he and I had gotten pretty close in our more than two years of working together. He had worked a double that day with me (a 16 hour shift), and he was supposed to leave at midnight to make his usual 45 minute drive home, right in the middle of this winter storm. Not only that, but he was also scheduled to return at 8:00am the following day to work another 12 hours with me, which meant making another treacherous drive in the dark on icy roads. At around 10:00pm, we were jokingly discussing how he would not be able to make it in to work the following morning due to the weather and how he would love getting to sleep in, when his wife sent him a text about how bad the roads were getting. After texting back and forth with her for a few minutes, he looked at me and asked if he could stay in my second bedroom on my air mattress, so that he would not have to drive home just to turn around and drive right back a few hours later. Of course I said yes, as I tell all of my nurses every Winter that they are always welcome to crash at my place anytime the weather is nasty, but typically I have to talk them into not risking their lives on the roads. This was the first time that I had had one of my nurses actually ask to take advantage of my offer, and it had a surprisingly large effect on me emotionally. The true value of these feelings however, were the insights they brought with them that gave me a much better understanding of the nature of all close relationships.

I had known for a long time how I felt about my relationship with this nurse, but once you have gotten your feelings hurt a few times by nurses ceasing all contact with you when they are no longer your caregiver, you learn not to assume too much. I knew that just because I saw our connection as more of a personal friendship than a professional, nursing relationship, that did not necessarily mean that he felt the same way. Through his request to sleep in my spare room, which is something only a close friend would do, he showed me how he saw our bond. I now knew that I was not merely Mr. Drotar, his home care patient through CareStaf, but something much more. I was Scott, his friend. This information made me feel so good, as it reassured and validated the nature of our relationship, while also strengthening our connection. Additionally, having this knowledge made me feel secure enough in our friendship that I now have the courage to strengthen our bond and grow even closer. It was as I was thinking about this idea and how we will now be able to improve our bond, that I had a sudden stroke of insight into the nature of friendships.

Scott Drotar Icy Roads
Who would have thought that some icy roads would teach me such an important lesson about relationships?

After a couple days had passed, and all of these comforting notions and warm feelings had been given plenty of time to bounce around my brain, I had a slightly unsettling thought. I realized that even though I now had a solid idea as to how he viewed our relationship, I had no way of knowing if he wanted to develop our friendship further. Just because I wanted to strengthen the bond between us, that did not mean he wanted to as well. Maybe he was happy with our friendship and did not want to improve our connection further. As these somewhat troubling ideas raced through my mind, I realized that I was in the same situation as I had been before all of this happened. Sure he and I were closer than before, and I had a better understanding of how he saw our relationship, but I was still in a situation where I did not know whether I should put more time and energy into our friendship or not. It was at this point that I realized something about relationships. I learned that you will never really know how the other person feels in an objective sense, the way you know that grass is green, and you are not supposed to. You just “know” down in your gut how they feel about you, and you have to trust that you are right. Even though it is this level of trust and faith in the other person that makes relationships so difficult at times, it is also what makes them so exciting and rewarding. Sure, by putting so much of yourself into a relationship you run the risk of getting hurt emotionally, but having the strength and courage to throw yourself into the unknown is the only way to get all of the rewards that come from strong, healthy relationships. In order to get the incredible benefits and gifts that only a close friendship can bring, you have to be brave enough to open up to being hurt. No risk, no reward.

I never would have thought that a Winter storm and a worried wife would have given me such an incredible insight into one of my close friendships. I certainly would never have expected to learn such an important lesson about the nature of relationships in general, but wisdom comes in many forms and often when you least expect it. I am obviously thankful that I now feel closer to my nurse, and I am even more grateful that I now have a better understanding of all of my friendships. It is important to remember that you are not supposed to definitively know how the other person feels before investing in a relationship, as it is this unknown component of these connections with others that makes them so great. Whether it is your bond with your spouse, your child, or even a friend, you have to be willing to put yourself out there and risk getting hurt, if you want to enjoy all of the amazing and wonderful gifts that close relationships offer. The next time you find yourself being too timid or scared to take the next step in strengthening your relationship with someone, remember that without risk, there can be no reward. Take a chance and step into the unknown, and you will be amazed at how often your fears were unfounded. Not only that, but you will also be amazed at how much happier your life has become.

Share Button

Just Listen

Share Button

Here in the Kansas City area, we have had one of the strangest Winters that I have ever experienced. About every four or five days for the last couple months, the temperature has shifted by at least 30 °F. It will go from being barely 20 °F with blustering winds and snow, to 65 °F and sunny, back to 10 °F with sleet and ice, all in a single week. Even for a born and raised Midwestern boy like myself, who is used to the frequent meteorological fluctuations of the “plains states,” this has been a little tough to handle. When you never know what the weather will be even 48 hours from now, it can be a little hard to plan various activities and such. As inconvenient as this has been for everyone in the area though, for those of us with certain types of chronic pain and disabilities it has been much more difficult to deal with. This increased hardship is a result of the fact that every one of these large shifts in temperature comes with an equally large change in the barometric pressure, which can cause increased discomfort in some types of pain (anyone with severe arthritis knows what I am talking about). In trying to cope with my elevated pain every few days, I have been reminded of how quickly my body can go from completely healthy and fine all the way to agonizing pain and illness, as well as how you can easily avoid this potentially life threatening problem.

Scott Drotar Changing Weather
The frequently changing weather in the Kansas City area lately has made my chronic pain much worse.

As the weather has been fluctuating so often recently, I have gotten many opportunities lately to examine the sensations that my body goes through as the shifting barometric pressure amplifies my chronic pain. You would think that this would be a gradual process, and as the new weather front moves in my discomfort would slowly grow in magnitude, but this is not the case. There is nothing gradual about it. Instead, it is like a switch gets flipped in my body once the atmospheric pressure changes a certain amount, and this switch instantly causes my pain to increase substantially. I will be sitting, writing on my tablet or even just lying back in my wheelchair watching television, and in the blink of an eye I will go from feeling my normal level of aches and pangs, to being in agony in all of my joints. My hips feel like they are filled with sandpaper that grinds on my bones with every movement, and my shoulder feels like it is covered in broken glass that cuts into my flesh with every breath. I will get this instantaneous increase in my pain, and I will look at my nurse and say, “The front has moved in hasn’t it?” They will go outside or get online to check, and without fail, every time the new weather front will have just passed over us. As excruciating and difficult as this is to deal with and as much as I would love to be rid of my internal, weather forecasting system, it has had the one bright spot of reminding me of the important life lesson of how critical it is to listen to your body.

As I touched on in a different way in the latest post in my Roll Models series, “A Recipe For Success,” it is extremely important to be aware of what your body is trying to tell you. Your body has evolved to be able to monitor and communicate to you what it is feeling and what it needs in order to stay in a healthy, working condition. We so often turn to the internet, books, and doctors to make decisions about what to eat, how to exercise, and how to determine our health, and while I am all for being well educated and learning as much as possible before making a decision, more often than not we can make a good, well informed decision simply by taking the time to pay attention to what our bodies are telling us. Are you tired all the time? This is your body’s way of telling you to get more rest. Gaining weight? Your body is telling you that you are getting more than enough energy from your diet, and you could eat less. Shoulder hurting? Maybe you should take it easy on the racquet ball court for a couple weeks. Your body will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about your health, if you are just willing to listen. Even though the examples above may seem a bit mundane and not all that critical to your overall health and well-being, there are also times when your body tries to prevent you from serious harm, and you can avoid a lot of pain and suffering by merely being aware of these signals. There are even situations where your very life could be in jeopardy if you do not pay attention to your body, which is something I know all too well.

As I wrote about in my most viewed article and most popular Roll Models talk, “I Can’t!” when I was 15 years old I nearly lost my life. I had three different types of pneumonia at once, both of my lungs collapsed in the span of a few hours, and there was a period of time when it was not clear whether or not my body would be able to fight off the infection and recover. Thankfully, not only did I pull through this near death experience, but I also

Scott Drotar Just Listen
If I had listened to my body and skipped the marching band competition, I could have avoided a lot of pain and suffering.

learned many important life lessons through this process. One of these critical pearls of wisdom was how vital it is to listen to your own body. Two days before I went to the emergency room and ended up being diagnosed with pneumonia and such, I woke up not feeling well. Even though I did not feel good at all having chills, body aches, and a ton of chest congestion, the regional marching band competition that I had spent weeks preparing for was that afternoon, and I did not want to miss it. So I did what any teenager who thinks they are invincible would do, completely ignored what my body was telling me and went to the all day band competition. I spent the afternoon sweating in the hot sun in my black, polyester band uniform, and then spent the evening freezing in a cold drizzle after the sun went down. When I woke up the next morning, surprise, surprise, I felt like death. I could barely breathe, ached all over, had a fever over 103 °F (my father actually thought the thermometer was broken because my fever was so high), and within 12 hours would be fighting for my life. All of this suffering and hardship could have been avoided too, if I had simply been willing to listen to my body.

While I hope that you will never be put in a situation where listening to your body is a matter of life and death, I do hope that you will think about my story and keep it with you as a reminder to pay attention to your body’s signals. Just like I could have avoided nearly dieing and everything that my family and I had to suffer through as a result, you can save yourself a lot of effort and discomfort by simply taking the time to listen to your own body. If you really give this a try, you will quickly see that your body is truly an amazing machine and will tell you everything you need to know to maintain your health and well-being. After a week or two of focusing on how you are feeling and what your body is communicating to you, this process will become second nature, and you will find that without even thinking about it that you will be more aware of your well-being and in tune with your body. Just take a few moments throughout your day, shut up, and listen to what your body is saying, because no one knows what you need better than you. Not only will you avoid nearly killing yourself by attending a marching band competition, but you will also feel healthier. This newfound improvement in your well-being will allow you to put more of yourself into your life and relationships, which will bring more happiness and success to your life.

Share Button

A Humbling Revelation

Share Button

As you are well aware by now, I am a huge nerd and have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. I am constantly reading a book on some new topic that interests me or teaching myself some skill that I have always wanted to learn. Between my never-ending quest for enlightenment and spending eight years of my life in college and graduate school, I have accumulated a plethora of facts, skills, and expertise in a variety of areas, and I am learning more every day. Despite my wealth of knowledge (most of it being useless sports and movie trivia), an IQ north of 130, and multiple college degrees from top universities, I had a conversation the other day that reminded me of how dumb I really am. Maybe dumb is too strong a word, but I did have a humbling revelation about how little I actually know about life. This epiphany as to my own ignorance helped me realize some important things about my place in the world and reminded me of some valuable lessons that are vital to living a fulfilling life.

Scott Drotar A Humbling Revelation
Graduating from a prestigious university does not necessarily mean that you know more about life than a high school dropout.

One of the best parts about having a team of nurses with you at all times is that you get to meet people from all walks of life. I have had nurses of all different ages and from more than seven different countries over the years, and it has been quite educational to get to listen to all of their stories. The other day I was talking to one of my nurses, who was born and raised in Kenya, about her weekend plans, and she mentioned that her and her husband were helping with a wedding. After talking with her about this a little more, I came to find out that what we think of as a wedding in the United States is very different from the way they do things in Kenya. It would take me a long time to go through it all here, and I doubt I would get it all right anyway, but a Kenyan wedding ceremony is quite a thing to see. They have an entire set of rituals that they “act out” in a way to remain in touch with their cultural customs in our modern world. There is a fake kidnapping, family rivalry, and a lot of other important, yet exciting, practices that they adapted to modern times to tie the knot. It was extremely interesting to get to listen to my nurse tell me about her culture, and as I was thinking about everything she had told me later that day, I had an enlightening insight into the world and my place in it.

After learning about how the Kenyan culture celebrates a wedding, I realized how much I do not know about the world. This is the first time that I can remember looking at knowledge and intelligence in terms of how much I do not know instead of how much I do know. Even with a topic as basic and important to any culture as a wedding, I know very little beyond my own limited experience. In the grand scheme of things, I really know next to nothing about weddings when you look at how much knowledge is actually out there to take in. I also realized quite quickly that if I know so little about a concept as common as a wedding, then I surely know even less about other more advanced or complex subjects. For someone who has been told his entire life how smart he is and has devoted a lot of time and energy to obtaining knowledge, this realization was quite humbling to say the least. I finally gained the perspective to see how much is out there to learn, and how little I actually know in comparison. While this was a bit off putting and discouraging at first, I soon realized that I should not see this as something to be discouraged by, but as a golden opportunity.

Now that I have come to terms with how little I know about even basic topics, there is so much more information out in the world for me to obtain. While it is a bit overwhelming to think about how much you have to learn, and it did make me feel a little like a fly on an elephant’s ass to think about what I know compared to how much knowledge is out there, for a nerd like me recognizing that there is a seemingly infinite amount of information out in the world waiting for me was very exciting. Not only that, but since everyone has their own unique, distinct background, I realized that there is not a person on this planet that does not have something to teach you about life, if you are willing to listen. So frequently we are only willing to listen to or learn from academic types with numerous degrees and titles, and these brilliant individuals do have a lot to teach you, but that does not mean that other, less formally educated, people have nothing to share with you too. My grandfather has taught me so much more about life than probably any of my teachers, and he never finished high school. Whether someone is a Fulbright scholar giving a prestigious talk or a high school dropout sitting next to you on the bus, they both have a story to tell and something to teach you. If you want to truly learn about life and how to be happy and successful, all you have to do is take the time to listen to anyone who is willing to share their story, no matter who they are.

Scott Drotar Socrates
Even Socrates was aware of how little any one person can know about life and the world.

One of the greatest thinkers of all time, Socrates (pronounced, “so crates”), once wrote, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” While I am not sure it is the “only true wisdom,” I do think that realizing both how much there is out in the world to learn, as well as how little you know in comparison, is an important aspect of leading a successful, happy life. If you look at this humbling situation as an opportunity to learn and grow as a person, there is so much for you to gain. Like any other topic, and even the lessons in this blog, by learning from others about their lives, you can obtain valuable lessons that you can apply to your own. Take a moment to stop and think about the immense amount of knowledge there is to be learned, and then take advantage of this realization to improve your life. Remember that everyone has a story to share and a lesson to pass on, if you are only willing to sit there, shut up, and listen.

Share Button