Walking Free

Today begins with a new sense of hope and responsibility as I step out of my house to greet the morning.  There are chores to be finished, books to be read, groceries to be bought, appointments to be kept, tests to be passed.  None of these activities could be achieved easily, without the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other.

That is, the ability to walk.

Most of us do not remember the time before we could walk on our own two feet, or the sense of freedom we felt when we no longer had to crawl on the floor.  Few people recognize you can tell a lot about a person just by the way they walk.  Furthermore, people do not appreciate walking until they suffer a decline or lose the ability altogether.

When children are small and unable to walk the world is a gigantic mystery to them just waiting to be solved.  They are confined to exploring things on the same level as themselves or things within crawling distance.  In addition, everything from their perspective is huge, and they are at the mercy of things bigger than themselves.  After children learn to walk a whole new reality opens to them.  They are able to reach things that were once off limits and explore places they have never seen before.  Also, the increase in height, children are more empowered and less threatened by the world around them.  In walking, children have the freedom to be in control of their own lives.

There is no greater example of a child’s control over their life than to watch them while they walk.  Their only concern is where they will go and what they will find when they get there.  In fact, there seems to be a time in a child’s life where all they do is run.  They run in the supermarket.  They run in a shopping mall.  They run in a parking lot all while their parents follow behind them with an exasperated look on their face commanding, “No, stop, come back here, put that down, and don’t you dare go running around this store naked! We are not going to have another day like last Tuesday, right?”  Even though parents may be driven to the brink of insanity, in those uninhibited moments, the child is free.

As people grow they become more inhibited by their problems and responsibilities in life, thereby, affecting how they carry themselves.  Some people may take the time to say, “Hello,” or smile. as they pass, while others keep walking.  Some people may bump into you as they are walking and not stop to say, “Excuse me.”  Still, others, walk with their head down and refuse to make eye contact out of fear, anxiety, or a lack of confidence.   These little uses of body language can teach us a lot about the personality or point of view of others.  Body language can be misinterpreted, but even though people may be distracted by the responsibilities of their lives people should be aware of how they walk affects people around them, including me.

I recently met the mother of a young man who, like me, had Cerebral palsy.  Even though he had the ability to walk with freedom, he refused.  As to the real reason why I do not know.  According to his mother, he claimed it was because he had accepted his “limitations.”  I don’t understand why a person who could walk, would not choose to walk freely.  It is more functional.  Just like driving is more functional than riding a bus.

The people who most understand the value of walking are those whose abilities decline over time.  Whether due to injury or long-term affliction, there is no higher priority than the ability to walk.  The primary goal of one’s recovery is to regain the confidence of walking.  Even when walking typically is out of the question people may use crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs to emulate those who walk freely.

In spite of this, people who walk unrestricted tend to place themselves above others who do not walk as they do.  People who walk using wheelchairs are forced into a position of subordination in comparison to erect-walking people.  It is presumed in wheelchairs are simply inferior to others.  People who use crutches, walkers, or wheelchairs are snickered at and made to feel like there is something wrong with them.  In actuality, people are choosing not to be impeded by the restrictions placed upon them.  They didn’t adapt to their disability. they resisted its impact on their lives; gained a better sense of mastery, and changed their own environment.

They are free.

The reason why walking is so valuable to me is that I was told I would be incapable of it.  Because of Cerebral palsy, I was ostracized and made to feel inferior.  My entire life has been in pursuit of a better way to walk.  Even though it looks atypical to others, even though, I still fight to maintain my mastery of walking, in spite of sacrifice, I am not inferior.  I am unafraid of an environment that was once unfamiliar to me.  I am free.  Absolutely free.

I share this story with you now to encourage you to find the things that are valuable to you.  You may already know.  What are you willing to protect what is valuable to you?  So many times, people say, “I would walk to the ends of the Earth,” but they do not walk toward the horizon.  Strive to move toward the things valuable to you, and through effort, they will be your reality.

James currently lives in Fort Myers, FL. He has a degree in Psychology, so most things about human behavior and social justice fascinates him. Perfection may not be possible, but greatness is attainable.

Living for Change

I have a relative via marriage whom made a very powerful statement when dealing with a personal problem of hers, “You have to live change to want change,” she said. It stuck with me for the moment, and I filed it away like we all do with everything else for another day.  What if, we could strive to be better than our previous self, almost every day?

Going against the normal isn’t easy. It takes conscience thought and effort.  One moment for change for me was in college.  The scenario was familiar, I wanted to take a girl out and she didn’t have time for me.  I liked her as a person, and I knew she had overcome adversity in her life, so I thought she would be a good person to know.

We drifted in and out of each other’s life until I came across her profile on Facebook. We talked for what seemed like a long while, and I asked her to do something one more time. We h ad set a tentative time to get together, yet that day has yet to come. I found out one day she was in a relationship…with another woman.

Obviously, I was devastated. To be fair, I didn’t think of her as a girlfriend, far from it.  I just wanted someone to hang out with.  Didn’t I at least deserve a phone call to say, “Jim, this is why I haven’t wanted to hang out?” Hell, yes I did!  Now, I could have called her every dirty name in the book. I could have said I didn’t need to talk to her anymore, but I didn’t.  We talked, and redefined our relationship.  I knew the suicide rate within the LGBTQ community is high, I had a family friend who committed suicide, I did not think she would harm herself, but I did not want her to suffer the same fate as my friend.  I had a choice and I made it.

I admit I wasn’t fully comfortable with gay people until I was asked to read a book for a class in college.  I realized if the arguments made in the book were the best arguments against marriage equality, then the arguments were weak at best. Gays and lesbians were just trying to be their authentic selves. They just wanted to live with freedom and independence like me.  I can’t blame them, I love women too.  It turns out I have a lot gay friends than I thought.  Furthermore, I kw the same girl who couldn’t find time for me than is one of the few people who would return my texts if I needed her help.

To those of you who are still in high school, perhaps this is a lesson already learned. I hope; however, you won’t have to wait until college to interact with people outside your regular social circle.  It is okay to be nervous about the unfamiliar. It is the duty of the current generation to move society forward, building bridges instead of walls, and make the world a better place.

James currently lives in Fort Myers, FL. He has a degree in Psychology, so most things about human behavior and social justice fascinates him. Perfection may not be possible, but greatness is attainable.

10 Ways to Rock College and Not Strangle Your Roommate

  1. AT the beginning of the semester or quarter make a daily schedule. List all exam dates, project due dates, and divide your reading assignments into sections so that you don’t have to cram a project into a week and studying for exams into two days. Add in time to sleep, exercise, relax, have fun, and oh yes, eat something.
  2. LESS is more when living dorm life. The more stuff you have the more will need to be cleaned and moved out at the end of spring semester. NuWave ovens, George Forman grills with removable grill plates, disposable storage containers, unbreakable plates and glasses are a great place to start.
  3. READ or familiarize yourself with the readings before class. I know this eams foolish given the professor will most likely go over the material again, but you will be able to participate in discussions and get things explained if you need further understanding.
  4. DO buy cleaning supplies. Dorms are dirty places, and not all residents will clean as well as you do, so be prepared.
  5. USE voice recognition software, unless you can type 300 words a minute, you speak faster than you type. This really can be a time saver when writing papers, notes, and assignments. It works.
  6. DO bring a first aid kit. Stock it with Band-Aids, antiseptic, cough syrups, allergy meds, and other health related precautions.
  7. VISIT your professors during office hours. They can help you clarify your career and academic goals. More importantly, if they know you personally, they would be more likely to help you out if you need special considerations after your hard drive crashes or your (boy) girlfriend dumps you for a person of lessor quality.
  8. TRY to get to know and do things with your roommates. I was an older student when I moved into student housing so it was rough, but the times I had things in common it was easier to live with other people.
  9. ADVERSITY and obstacles will occur. You will eventually get tired, run out of money, you will get stressed out, depressed, or anxious. That is completely OK. Know that people are available to help you. There are usually services to help you learn how to read, study, and learn more effectively. There are often student health and psychological services available, so if you need then use them.  All services are paid through your tuition, and are of little or no cost to you. Most of all, never give up until you succeed.
  10. DO the dishes and clean your room. There is nothing worse than being hungry for something and finding all your dishes dirty in the sink. This may make the ants and other vermin happy, but your roommates will get cranky.

The rest is quite simple.  If you can withstand the grind you can be successful. Don’t be concerned with what others are doing, run your race, and you’ll do well.  To be successful in college you have to go to college.  So, put in the time, and do the work. Most of all, don’t stop until you get what you want out of life.

James currently lives in Fort Myers, FL. He has a degree in Psychology, so most things about human behavior and social justice fascinates him. Perfection may not be possible, but greatness is attainable.

On Being Great

I sometimes do not understand the world we live in today.  We are so connected yet so unfamiliar with each other.  We can do almost anything at the press of a button, yet we do not have time to do anything.  We spend hours posting on social media waiting for the rush of acceptance we feel when our fiends approve of what we posted.

There are many uncertainties in our world, society, and communities.  Many of those problems seem too big to be solved by a single person.  However, we must refocus our efforts on the things we can control.  We can go outside our protective bubble to get to help others. We can take better care of ourselves.  We can be better employees in the workforce.

I know our quests for a perfect six-pack or a respectful position at work have us distracted from our long-term greatness. Fear not, greatness isn’t easy, you have to want it bad.  The other side of success is sacrifice.  Those of us who are willing to endure the darkness before dawn are in store for a beautiful sunrise.  So, go forth and pursue greatness.  You will not be disappointed.

James currently lives in Fort Myers, FL. He has a degree in Psychology, so most things about human behavior and social justice fascinates him. Perfection may not be possible, but greatness is attainable.

Let Me Take Your Selfie

There is something I need to tell the readers of this blog…and those in the middle of the great unknown. I don’t want to seem uncool, not with it, not down, or however else younger adults describe themselves as being engaged. We are all guilty of staying up late relaxing with our tablet on Twitter or Instagram looking at the pictures of your girl or guy friends and giving your friends their props. Let me try to flip the script though and take your selfie for a second.

Let’s take a picture of this girl. A girl whose picture was chosen at random by the search words ‘average American selfie in ½ a second. She looks by almost all standards, beautiful; young; bright; perky; cheerful; and outgoing. I assure you brothers and sisters there is so much more to her picture than meets the eye.

It is a little known secret that I love women. I don’t mean in an erotic way, but in the way someone or something is to be admired. It makes me sad sometimes to hear people comment in real life and online that I am superficial or misogynistic. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I say women are beautiful it is not for superficial means but rites of admiration. For me this ‘all American girl’ could be the star of her school’s math team; with the athleticism of a gymnast; and the ear of a musician. She carries with her bits and pieces of generations crafted over time to be the joy of her smile and the light in her eyes. But I can’t say for certain because I don’t know her. I picked her at random. Rest assured girls who could be seen as ‘exotic’ for you are not a snake, handbag, food or beverage. Rather you may posses a rare and unique combination of physical characteristics and personality traits rarely seen by people unfamiliar with your cultures or hemispheres. All people can be beautiful. The most beautiful, magnetic people are the ones most unique. To me, my friend Dawn is beautiful because she has both the ability to learn new things, and the ability to apply what she knows to new situations with massive speed. She is funny and friendly too. The best part is: If you needed her to she would fight beside you to the death. How beautiful is that.

There is little difference for young men in the same regard as women. The stereotypes of what defines a man are changing too. There is considerable pressure for young men to appear athletic like DeWayne Johnson (or slightly smaller), think like an Ivy League graduate, have a sexy charisma that can only be described as ‘It.’ In reality, this young man could be an amazing nurse, writer, teacher, or musician. We may never know

So if I motivate you to try something knew—it might be to see beyond the surface. Aspire so be greater than your previous self. When you say to yourself I would rather not eat for a week than go without my phone—perhaps you can go further than a text, and say ‘Hello.’ If you find yourself needing a role model to create your next selfie of life look toward Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Laureate, or Niel deGrasse Tyson, a champion of the sciences and the Scientific Method.

Above all else: Be the best, first you.

James currently lives in Fort Myers, FL. He has a degree in Psychology, so most things about human behavior and social justice fascinates him. Perfection may not be possible, but greatness is attainable.