Not for 10 minutes after your spinal cord injury did you believe your life would be any less than what it could be as a standing man. From the beginning, you believed you always have a choice about how you would live your life– even when in rehab when the psychologists wanted you to grieve the life you had and you refused to be sad, even for them. You jumped right back into the sport which let you jump right back into life. Downhill mountain biking will be your first adaptive adventure, and you will even sell your station wagon to buy your first piece of equipment.
You will show your parents that they didn’t need to worry needlessly about the kind of life you would live. You will date all different kinds of ladies, ones who will see you before your disability. You will one day fall in love and marry the girl of your dreams and build a family. You will promise not to compromise on the adventures you will take together.
You will one day return to downhill mountain biking with your 9-year-old son, and it will be amazing. Together you will ride up the chair lift and, together, you will roll on down, wheels to the ground, heads in the clouds. You will dance with your 8-year-old daughter to old records on a Victrola in your living room. You will be their dad, and they will hardly notice your wheelchair.
You would realize early on that if you stayed true to the person you were at your core (even without abdominal muscles), that people would remain your friends. People don’t want to surround themselves with negativity. You will focus on the positive attitude that will keep truly awesome, remarkable, innovative, hilarious friends close by. You will realize that you can’t do everything that you once did the same way, but that as long as you try, people will ALWAYS want to help.
You will learn and remember all the different ways we help one another to achieve a common goal. No one gets by in this world without a little help from your friends. You will continue to be terrible with technology, but your friend Ken is always just a phone call away when you need him. You will have a legally blind roommate named Andrew who will help you to bring in firewood and groceries; you will drive him to work, the grocery store, out for dinner to see friends, or to the mountain go skiing together. Friends are friends– no matter our ability.
You will learn that your life will be made even richer by the people you meet through sports and adventures. Even 25 years later, you will still remember the feeling of walking on grass barefoot or striking a soccer ball or serving a tennis ball with purpose like it was yesterday. But now, you will help hundreds, even thousands, in your lifetime focus on all the good that remains in the world even from a sitting position, without the use of your legs. You will always have the use of your attitude and that will make all the difference in your world. You will love your life if you make the choice to live it well. You need to live in the present moment and not waste it away hoping for a cure. If a cure comes, cool; if it doesn’t, you are still you and you will make the choice to live. It’s that simple.
Your future self,