Yesterday was one of those days.
I was getting ready to leave for the football game (benefits of being in Gainesville- I can go to ALL of the home games) and I was trying to get a bag to take with me. It hung on a hangar next to my dresser, and even after I raised my wheelchair to its full height, I still couldn’t reach it. As I continued trying-and failing- to get it, my frustration and anger rose. I was trying to pick up a bag. Something so simple shouldn’t be so difficult. I shouldn’t have to fight just to pick up a bag.
I could have easily texted a friend and asked for help, but I didn’t, because of the principle of the situation. Eventually, after a few more minutes and more frustration, I got the bag- but not after accidentally breaking the hangar.
It’s moments like that, when CP makes a simple task virtually impossible, that I wish I could snap my fingers and make my disability go away. Those are the moments when I hate it, when I wonder why, of all the babies born the day I was, that I was the one whose umbilical cord got wrapped around her neck. Those are the moments when I question God’s plan.
But then, I thought about Jordan.
Jordan, the girl who immediately offered to help me learn to walk with crutches when I told her it was my goal to use them instead of my walker.
Jordan, the girl who understands what I go through in a way no one else ever has.
My friend, Jordan.
A couple weeks ago, my family and I sat tailgating outside my dorm when I saw a girl walk by, expertly wielding crutches. Even from a distance, I could see the strength and confidence she possessed. I want to be like her, I thought.
My dad noticed, too. “You could do that,” he said, nodding in her direction. “You really could walk with crutches. You should start practicing again.”
Apparently, God agreed. The next day, I saw her come in the back door. I’d been about to go into my room, but at the sight of her, I passed my door and instead made my way towards her.
“Hi,” I said. “I’m Robyn. I’m trying to learn how to walk with crutches. Could you help me?”
“Absolutely,” she said.
She spent the next half hour with me, giving me advice as I stumbled around on my crutches and tried not to bite the dust. I told her that I was having trouble finding the right rhythm- I would get ahead of myself, go too fast, and nearly trip over my own feet. “I had that problem, too,” she said. She held her crutches out to me. “Here. Try mine.”
I did, and they were a game changer. Lighter than the ones I had been using, they were easier to pick up and put back down in time. Jordan said they’d made a drastic difference for her, too.
Hopefully one day I can stand in the sand with crutches, too.
Come to find out, that wasn’t the only thing we had in common. She also has cerebral palsy, we’re both in the College of Journalism here at UF, and we’ve even had one of the same surgeries. God, I thought as we talked, is amazing.
Jordan is a living example of what it means to be strong. She’s had ten surgeries, and over the years, transitioned from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane to crutches. Through it all, her faith has remained strong. In fact, she even credits the surgery that went wrong as what brought her closer to the Lord.
Jordan working hard in therapy.
Like me, she grew up bleeding orange and blue. Though she’d applied to nine schools, “as a die hard gator, once I got in (to Florida) I couldn’t go anywhere else,” she says. The other added benefit of UF was its accessibility, a feature none of the other schools she applied to had. It made her transition to college easier, and now as a junior, she’s thriving. She’s a leader in an on-campus Christian ministry, and maintains her own blog, From3West, named after the hospital floor she was on when she started it. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I think God sent her to me as a gentle push to start working out and practicing with my crutches again. Jordan even said she would go to the gym with me- having gone through this herself, she knows what exercises to do and how to overcome challenges which may crop up.
Jordan rapping the orange and blue after surgery.
With her in my corner, this journey to becoming fully independent doesn’t seem as daunting or impossible. Now, I have someone to turn to when the days are rough or when a task is difficult. I have someone to get advice from, to learn from, to get stronger with. But most of all, I have a friend I know I can always trust count on. And that is what makes cerebral palsy a blessing: it connects me with the most incredible, wonderful, inspirational people.
I took Jordan to her first volleyball game Friday night.