It seems like every time I turn on Sports Center (which is almost every day), I hear about another athlete who is being fined, suspended, or even arrested for using banned substances. Not only does this anger me as a sports fan, who cares about the purity and sanctity of the game, but it is also extremely difficult to stomach the actions of these individuals as a disabled person. I am forced, due to random chance, to spend my entire life trapped in this flesh prison without the ability to walk, feed myself, or even hug the ones I love. Also due to random chance, these athletes, these freaks of nature, have been blessed with the physical gifts of near superhuman strength, speed, and agility. This is just a fact of life, and I have no anger or resentment about it, because we all must play the hand we are dealt. What does infuriate me though, is how these physical specimens with so much potential can just piss it away by polluting their bodies. The way they waste this incredible gift they have, and that I would give almost anything to have even a fraction of, is something that is very hard for me to deal with.
The first time I had this feeling of anger at witnessing someone with physical gifts just wasting all of their potential, I was in the Fall of my sophomore year in high school. I had just gone through probably the toughest year of my life (got pneumonia, tracheostomy, back injury, etc.), and I was finally feeling like myself again. A classmate and acquaintance of mine, who was six foot five inches tall, 250 pounds with a monster frame, was a lineman on the varsity football team. One day at lunch, I was next to him in line, so I started talking to him about the upcoming game that week, when he stopped me and said he wasn’t on the team anymore. I was puzzled by this, because he was one of my high school’s better players, and he even had the potential to play football at a smaller college eventually. I will never forget how shocked I was by his answer when I asked him why he wasn’t playing. He told me that he had failed a random drug test and had been kicked off of the team. He also said that he was kind of happy about it anyway, because football was so much work and was taking up a lot of time, and he would rather hang out with his friends. Although I did my best to hide it, I was surprised at how angry this made me. I quickly found a reason to excuse myself, as I tried to get my emotions under control.
I was so disgusted and appalled at how someone with such an amazing, genetic gift could just waste it without a second thought. I am not saying that just because you are big and strong that you have to play sports, but I do think that if you are lucky enough to have an innate ability, that you should put it to use. What if Einstein had decided that he would rather huff glue than study physics? What if Watson and Crick had decided to go party every weekend instead of nerding it up on Friday night discovering the blueprint for human life? If you have a talent that has the ability to improve your life, and even more importantly the lives of others, I feel you have an obligation to not waste that potential. At the very least, if you are not going to capitalize on your genetic ability, it should be to pursue something productive that can benefit people. If my classmate had decided to not play football to focus on academics or start volunteering somewhere, I would have completely supported that. What is not acceptable is choosing not to play so that you can get drunk, do drugs, and just let yourself waste away. This is not only doing a disservice to yourself, but it is also an insult to those who are not blessed with the gifts you take for granted.
As someone who has spent their entire life longing to have a healthy body, it is a slap in the face every time I witness someone squander their god given ability. That is part of what motivates me to work as hard as I do. Any time I choose, I can quit my jobs (notice the plural) and sit back and let Uncle Sam send me my disability check, subsidize my rent and food, and just be lazy all the time. I could watch Netflix all day, eat my government supplied Cheetos (crunchy not puffed), and not have a care in the world. But, I don’t. I choose to work 60 hours a week, because I am fortunate enough to have a gifted mind and the ability to communicate and connect with people, and I refuse to waste my gifts. I have the potential to make people’s lives better in a way that only few people can, and it would be selfish of me to squander that unique talent. It is our jobs as humans, to help one another by sharing our special skills with the world and each other.
I know that there will always be those self-centered, egotistical individuals who would rather pollute their bodies and party all the time, even though they are endowed with amazing gifts of strength, speed, or intelligence that could help mankind in any number of ways. Likewise, I am certain that I will still get upset and fail to understand their selfish decisions, no matter how many times it happens. Just like I am always reminded by my high school classmate of how it’s my duty as a member of society to use my genetic gifts of brains and charisma, I want you to remember my story. The next time you feel like letting your unique, innate talents go to waste, remember how I choose to work to share my gifts despite my obstacles. Let this inspire you to keep working and change people’s lives in a way only you and few others can. Don’t let your skills fizzle away like some abandoned campfire. Instead, build them up and let them leave their mark on the world.