I have not been blogging much over the past two years because I have been working on my master’s degree in occupational therapy. Well, I am happy to say that I graduated on May 15, 2016! This very nearly coincided with the 5 year anniversary since my accident. To celebrate these milestones, I took an amazing, emotionally charged, adventure-filled road trip! I have had about 6 weeks off before I start 6 months of fieldwork to complete my OT education.
Immediately after graduation I got in a car and drove to Moab, UT for Moab Mania, an off-road hand cycling trip organized by Telluride Adaptive Sports. My mom came along for the road trip and it was great to see this part of the world anew through her eyes, as she had never seen anything like it before. I will always have a special connection to this area and I am glad I get to keep coming back. As usual, the participants on the trip were me and a bunch of guys, but they were all really kind and interesting characters! I enjoyed getting to know each of them and I learned a lot from them about biking and life. It was awesome to see a group of 7 off-road hand cycles together, even if they left me in their dust!
On the final day, one of the hand cyclists actually stayed behind to ride with me. He rode in front and waited for me to keep up during the entire trail. I am so grateful for this as I learned so much about technique and what the off-road hand cycle can do. I tried so much harder because I knew if he could do it, it was possible. This trip got me thinking about how the expectations of society or those surrounding us unconsciously affect us, even if unspoken. We rise or fall to whatever expectations the people around us have, and this can especially effect those living with disabilities. I realized that I am able to accomplish so much more while surrounded by those who expect nothing less than awesomeness from me.
After Moab I drove down to Flagstaff to spend a few days with my amazing friend Montana. On the way we stopped at the Wupatki National Monument and biked 20 miles downhill under the light of the full moon. We transitioned through many different environments, from tall pine trees at the top of the mountain to open plains at the bottom. I was unable to take any pictures but I know this is a memory I will have for a lifetime as one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had! I then spent a freezing night sleeping in Montana’s van, which warmed my heart because of course I like that kind of stuff.
I took a day to drive up to the Grand Canyon by myself. This was exactly what I needed to reflect upon the last 5 years. I hiked a trail called the “Million Year Trail,” representing the time it took for the 5000 foot deep Grand Canyon to be carved. Each yard was marked with increasing increments of time, helping the mind to even begin to conceive of that much time. 5 years was at the very beginning, which helped me to put in perspective how small my injury and my lifetime is, compared with humanity, this earth, and this universe.
I then spent some time with my old friends and family in Carlsbad, California. I had a great time, but had a lot of mixed emotions approaching my 5 year anniversary and being where I lived right before my injury. My friends swear that a lot has changed, but I found myself on the same dance floor of the same bar we partied at nights before my injury- the last time I danced on my two legs. As happy as I am today, I realize that grief over this injury is something that will resurface throughout my life. I have gained so much through this experience, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t lost some things. Even now, I feel like I am exposing a weakness by admitting this. The key, I have learned, is to not dwell on the loss, but to focus on the positive thoughts that serve you better. Everyone has to deal with this, but I find it hard to accept that I won’t get to do all the things in this life! I made a decision, and my life went in this direction. This is life 🙂
“Live your life so that the fear of death can never enter your heart … Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and in the service of your people…
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself…
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose lives are filled with the fear of death, so that when time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”
– Native american wisdom, attributed to Tecumseh