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All Dreams Are Reachable
The sun was shining brightly with not a cloud in the sky, the atmosphere filled with excitement and joy. I myself was extremely thankful for being blessed with such a beautiful day, yet inside I felt nothing but tense and anxious of what would come about in the next hour or so. In a short time, I would be attempting what would be one of, if not the most defining and proud moment of my life.
On April 20, 2007 I was at North Central College in Naperville competing in the Special Olympics with NISRA (Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association) for the softball throw and the hundred-meter run. I had finished the softball throw that morning and ended up in seventh place, but I was doing my best to stay focused on running and making sure I gave it everything that I had.
Having a mild case of cerebral palsy since I was about two years-old, competitive sports have never exactly been my forte. While my younger siblings were the ones who often brought home dozens of trophies and medals from sporting events, I often stuck with creative writing and vocal performances. When my mom brought up the idea of getting involved in the Special Olympics, I was a bit hesitant due to not wanting my disability to constantly be a staple to who I was for the rest of my life. After giving it a lot of thought, I decided that perhaps God had presented me with a window of opportunity. So despite the frustrating practices and my ever-constant fears that I wasn’t good enough, I pushed ahead with strength and determination to prove myself wrong.
It was now one-thirty and I would be called to line up with my group within a half an hour. After getting a bite to eat at one of the local cafes near the campus, I anxiously made my way back to the stands where the rest of my family was sitting and wait until my coach called me to the bullpen (the area where you sit until your group is allowed to line up on the track.)
“Mom, will you and the rest of the family be disappointed if I come in last place?” I questioned, finally musing my thoughts aloud.
“Talking like that won’t help at all,” she advised in a firm voice. “Just focus on making it to the end of the track and run as fast as you possibly can.”
And with that, I took her words to heart as my name was called and I was led away to the other side.
With plenty of water to drink and enough nerves to make me shake, I sat down in the grassy area to stretch my muscles and collect my thoughts. Truthfully, I was terrified of what would result in the decision that I had made not so long ago. The majority of the people participating in the various events held that day mostly struggled with mental disabilities rather than physical ones. I didn’t want to humiliate myself by going out there and falling behind everyone else because of my legs. After all, I didn’t have to be an athlete. I didn’t have to be like my brother and sister. The voice of self-doubt crept its way into my mind over and over again.
But than so suddenly, I felt a small shiver course through my bones, only there wasn’t a chill in the air. It was as God had taken a bottle of Windex and wiped away the negative affirmations, replacing them with a warm blanket of hope and peace.
As I slowly made my way over to the black asphalt, I prayed silently that God would be with me as I ran all the way down to the end, and that I would not let my family down. I no longer asked to come in second or third place, but to be able to run with every ounce of strength I had and end the day knowing that I was there and that I had actually stepped out of my comfort zone. After making sure that I was in the correct lane and would be heading in the right direction, I positioned myself for take-off and set my gaze squarely on the finish line.
To this day, I am unsure of what made me go so fast. But from the moment the gun went off, I immediately felt like someone had strapped little rockets to the back my legs as I sprinted down the track. My lungs were burning with intensity and the cheers and screams coming from the crowd blurred with the sound of my shoes beating against the pavement. I probably looked like a chicken with my head cut off, but very few people knew as to what I was feeling at that exact moment. There were points where I felt like I was going to fall over any second, but I kept going. I went until me somewhat “crashed-landed” into the volunteers waiting at the end. Than I knew it was over.
It didn’t hit me right away that I had won. My legs were wobbling like spaghetti noodles and I was coughing uncontrollably. I could hear several “Congratulations” and “You did its!” from those around me, but my mind was still in a haze.
After gulping down several cups of water, I was kindly helped up onto one of the winner’s blocks as a first-place gold medal was draped around my neck. I had done it! I looked out into the crowd where my family was now standing; I could see the tears in my mother’s eyes and the ear-to-ear grins from my grandparents and other relatives. With one last look at the medal, I raised my fist and in a Rocky Balboa-like fashion and knew that I had accomplished that what in the beginning, seemed unfathomable.
Not only did I go home with a first-place title, I also discovered something I didn’t even know I had. It was the notion that sometimes it takes an attempt at the impossible in order to see something completely new about who we are; that it’s better to jump in with your eye closed and regret it later on rather than regretting not doing it at all.
I didn’t write this so that I would get attention or to somehow get people to feel sorry for me. I wrote it because I have something to say: no matter what setbacks you may have, or obstacles you might have to face in the future, almost all dreams are reachable. It’s a tough journey, but with faith, passion, courage, and determination, it can come to be. Don’t ever give up on what you want to do with your life. The only true failure is not to try at all.