About a week ago now was my four-year anniversary of getting back in the water after being paralyzed in January of 2008. I remember April 8, 2008 just like it was yesterday. I had been paralyzed for nearly four months, and here I was at the University of Minnesota and attempting to get back in the water.
It doesn’t matter how you plan it, or how you envision it, but sometimes life has a way of finding you exactly what you need and when you need it. Sometimes life sneaks up on you and the answers to all of your questions become so incredibly clear.
It has been just over four years for me. Just over four years since my life changed in what seemed like the blink of an eye, on January 21, 2008. My life hasn’t been the same since, and for a long time I wondered “why?” every day but I don’t anymore. This is my life now, and although I would do anything to walk again, I wouldn’t change that day.
My life has been blessed since and I couldn’t be happier with the journey I am on, although for months after this happened I didn’t understand “why?” I was lost, I was confused, I was hurt, and most of all I was unsure of what it meant for my future. I couldn’t sit up in bed on my own without the help of medical equipment. I couldn’t dress myself. Every little bit of independence had been stripped from me and suddenly I had to rely on everyone around me for the simplest tasks. It felt as though I lost a part of me that day. For the past four years I have fought to get that back, and what I have realized throughout my journey is I never lost it, it was always there.
I believe that what happened just over four years ago was life sneaking up on me, maybe life finding me what I needed in some weird, twisted way. Everything happens for a reason. Since becoming paralyzed I have changed, but it isn’t that one single event that defines who I am. I don’t believe that events define us; I believe that the way we react to those events is what defines us. That is what shapes who we are, our life experience and how we react to it.
Four years ago I had just gotten in the water again for the first time since being paralyzed. Four years ago I was still trying to figure out what would lay ahead for me. Little did I know the journey I was about to embark on. These past four years have been life-defining.
Here I am four years later, and not only can I sit up in bed on my own but I am also back to competitive swimming again, and most of all I am living again. Life threw me a curve ball on January 21, 2008, but life also helped me find my way through, and in that journey I have found myself, I have found love, I have found faith, and I have found passion. Today I sit tall and I have an amazing support group behind me, one filled with family, friends, supporters, and my loving fiancé.
Four years later and I am training to try to make my dream come true, my dream that is quickly approaching, my dream that will come around in less then 135 days: my dream of being on the podium with a gold medal around my neck, hearing our national anthem play at the 2012 Paralympic Games, and being a part of Team USA. Four years later and I am planning my wedding to the love of my life, my best friend, and my other half. Four years later and I am living life and taking it for all that it is.
Four years later and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.