From the time I started quoting Shakespeare in preschool, (okay, I recited lines from Romeo and Juliet that I picked up on PBS’s “Wishbone”, but still) my future as an author was pretty clear.
It wasn’t going to come without a few obstacles in between, however. When I was ten months old, I was diagnosed with Athetoid Cerebral Palsy, a neurological disorder. This would go on to affect my motor skills and balance. Even at that young age, though, my doctor could see what kind of person I was, as he told my parents, “She’s a fighter! You don’t have to worry about her.” Never have any truer words been spoken.
Yes, a fighter I was, as my older sister, whom I’d fearlessly wrestle to the ground, can tell you! As the doctor had predicted, that attitude was one of the things that propelled me to where I am today. I wasn’t going to sit in a wheelchair and watch the world go by…and my family would’ve never let me try! My parents treated me just like my sister. My mom took us bowling together, and my dad even taught me how to play baseball and football—or a version thereof! My disability was merely a word I heard in therapy and at doctors’ appointments.
Of course, being handicapped came with its obstacles, as hard as my parents tried to help me to overlook them. Since I had no mental limitations, I went to mainstream school, where I was an honors student. Nonetheless, my physical challenges stood in the way of a typical childhood, and my inability to do the things my peers could do made for a few rough years.
When I moved into junior high school, my life, thankfully, took a positive turn. The head football coach at my school had heard about me from my dad—who also worked there—and he used my resilience as an example for his players. That moved some of them to want to get to know me and take me under their wing. In 2004, I began walking independently, and they were all behind me, encouraging me to make progress and even having me lead them onto the field for their last game that year. In many ways, those players gave me the jumpstart I needed to go into adulthood with confidence, and their support has inspired my writing.