By Michael Goddard
As I tell you the story of what has made me who I am today, I will let you decide what my overall message is.
As a child from a family that gave me everything, nothing was difficult, spending my free time with friends and enjoying sports of all kinds.
The biggest challenge of my life happened when I was 11 years-old and devastated when I did not make the hockey team I wanted to be on.
It was at this time my dad told me a quote which continues to be a source of motivation into my mid-twenties: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
After hearing this quote, the fight reflex overpowered the flight reflex, and I became a better hockey player and a stronger person.
Ever since this relatively small travesty, I have proven to be strongest in the face of adversity.
In high school, I was considered to be one of the most popular in my grade.
I was confident, and life was easy, but it was on July 24th 2007, when I was only 16 years-old that the going truly got tough.
In the summer before Grade 11, I decided to work construction with my now brother-in-law.
Near the halfway point of the summer, I was putting the finishing touches on a 40-foot wall.
As I stood atop of a 12-foot ladder, I fell to the ground and hit my head on the cement floor.
Unconscious, I was rushed to the hospital and my fight began without me even knowing, ending up in the ICU after three emergency brain surgeries.
I remained in a coma until I finally awoke on August 1st.
After being told by family and friends what had happened, it was immediately obvious how difficult my short and long-term recovery would be.
I was completely paralyzed on the left side of my body and my cognitive functioning was significantly impaired.
Right away, I began setting goals, which to everyone but myself, seemed impossible.
I told myself that I would be walking by October, back in school by the start of the second semester, and out of the hospital by Christmas.
As I began my recovery, I began reaching my goals one by one – I began walking on Thanksgiving weekend in the first week of October, I was released from the hospital on December 21st, and in the first week of January, I joined my friends back at school.
When I returned, it was not as I had remembered. I was no longer the popular athlete, but now the guy that had had that horrible accident.
It quickly became obvious to me that if I was going to be successful, I was going to have to work twice as hard to get half as far.
Although I was told that I should be enrolled in lower than college level courses, I was determined to go to university and wanted to take the necessary university level classes.
I spent a lot of time thinking about my situation and how I was going to overcome it.
There is a quote from Seven Pillars of Wisdom that I love from T.E. Lawrence;
“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty
recesses of their mind wake to find vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”
This quote exemplifies how I followed my dreams, finished high school on time and got into every university program that I applied for. I did not care how many questions about my hand or head I had to answer, or how many times I studied as hard as I could and was not as successful as those who did not study.
The most difficult year of my life was my first year of university, when I truly realized I was different than everyone else.
The fatigue, seizures, headaches, and anxiety that were a direct result of my injury made being successful in school and fitting in extremely difficult.
Despite the challenges, I used my relentless work ethic and positive attitude to receive good marks and stay on pace.
My third year of university, I began to reflect on my experiences and was better able to take on the challenges I was facing to become the person I am today.
It has almost been nine years since my accident and I still am affected by the impact it has had.
We often face challenges that paralyze us, in that they make us feel as though there is nothing we can do to fight back.
Since 2007, I have had a disability.
Oxford Dictionary defines a disability as: “a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.”
What interests me about this definition is the role that the word “limitation” plays in the definition.
As soon as people hear the word “disability,” they think of the limitations that are involved. I am a person who has many limitations, but ever since my injury, I have made it a point to not let these my limitations define me and stop me from achieving my goals.
It is a well know cliché that “The only limitations we have are the ones that we place on ourselves.”
Although people often shrug off this saying, I am a perfect example that this is true.
Although I am considered physically disabled and have an acquired learning disability, there is nothing that I cannot do.
Although it may take me a lifetime, I will reach all of the goals I set and never let what are seen as limitations stand in my way.
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