Over the last few months, life’s trajectory seems to be pushing me in a direction that, while not all that unfamiliar, has still been absolutely surreal. It started right around September when a friend of mine was injured in a motorcycle accident leaving him partially paralyzed with a long, uphill battle for recovery. In the few visits we’ve shared, I’ve been able to share some wisdom from my experiences that have seemed to help. Then just after Thanksgiving, I got a phone call from a former Olympian from my hometown asking if I would speak to a committee that was putting together a fundraiser for a 15-year-old gymnast who became paralyzed at the gym she owns ,and once again I found myself sharing a little bit of my experience, strength and hope with people in desperate need of it.
A few days later, I was contacted by a journalist in the San Francisco Bay area that was doing an investigation of safety practices in terrain parks at ski resorts similar to the one I was injured on that fateful night nine years ago. And that interview led me to a couple of amazing storytellers who shared a poignant sliver of my journey tonight on the 5 o’clock news. (See below)
And as much as I would love to write off all of these situations landing on my doorstep simultaneously as a coincidence, I can’t shake the feeling that there is a much deeper, more powerful underlying force behind it all…. Call it God, fate, or whatever you like; What it is, is my life coming full circle, and it’s time to tell my story.
I started this blog almost eight years ago thinking two things: 1) I’d never write on it and, 2) even if I did, no one would read it. Within a couple months, however, I had a few dozen posts and a cult following showing up at a rate of 25,000 or more per week offering everything from money to medical equipment to documentary deals and much more. Needless to say, I was nowhere near prepared for the attention it garnered, and I somehow twisted the overwhelming outpouring of love and support into this self-imposed pressure to be some some larger-than-life persona – the prematurely downed athlete, forced to the sidelines of the game we call life and relegated to the commentator’s booth – a role I neither wanted nor could live up to, so I had to walk away.
Enter one 5′ 7 5/8″, blue-eyed stunner from my past to show me that the only thing barring me from competition might be my unwillingness to adapt to a different place on the field; that all I truly have to do is continue to suit up and show up, and the rest will work itself out. Even though things may not have gone exactly as I hoped, I have adapted and am starting to thrive thanks to the lessons she lovingly carried me through over the two amazing years we spent together. And that, I think, is the best and probably only tribute I can truly give her; to share our story, to carry on her legacy of helping the less fortunate and, most importantly, to continue to do life the way she taught me as the man she saw I had the potential to be — the kind of man I’ve always wanted to be, the man I can feel myself slowly becoming.
This blog was featured on MSN homepage the day that Peter Jennings died, just below the main banner with a caption that read “quadriplegic seeks purpose.” As it turns out, telling my story might just be a big part of that purpose after all. What I’m learning is that the story itself buys me a captivated audience and that my voice has the power to resonate with people in all walks of life because there is a common thread within it that everyone can relate to. And while I may not be able to lift a finger, my words carry more weight than my muscles ever could.
A friend of mine always says that when the universe calls, it’s best to pick up the phone. With the afterglow of the recent 15 minutes of limelight already starting to fade, I can hear a faint ringing somewhere in the recesses of my mind, so I’m thinking I should probably answer… but if it’s turns out to be a telemarketer, I’m going to be pissed. Where’s caller ID when you really need it!?! All jokes aside, I think it’s time to listen quietly to what the voice says and head in whichever direction it points me, because I have a feeling I’m headed there no matter what.