There’s a difference between the things I am and the things I have.
I have a walker that I use to get around, I have knee-high braces that give me the support I need to walk, and I have cerebral palsy, a disability which impairs movement and makes completing every day tasks a challenge. I have all of these things, but I am none of these things.
I am a Gator. From the time I was little, I have bled orange and blue. Back home, I was known for wearing orange and blue every day, despite living in the heart of Bulldog country. I didn’t care that I received daily commentary on it, with people asking if it was laundry day and informing me that I should be wearing something else- anything else. I love UF, and that love has created memories I’ll hold onto forever and relationships I will always cherish. That’s who I am. I am not my disability.
I am a fighter. From the time I was born, I’ve had to fight for what I have. I fought to stay alive for thirty days in a Pensacola hospital as a newborn. I fought to prove doctors wrong when they told my parents I wouldn’t walk, I wouldn’t talk, I wouldn’t be the young woman I am today. I fought to get here, overcoming obstacles, breaking walls, and turning a deaf ear to the people who told me I couldn’t handle the University of Florida, and that it would be better for me to take classes online. I am the girl who has jumped hurdles and proved people wrong her entire life, and that will never change. That’s who I am. I am not my disability.
I am a storyteller. From the time I was little, I have poured my thoughts onto paper, creating new worlds and bringing to life ideas that once only existed in my mind. But a few years ago, I began telling a different story: my own. I began sharing about my CP and the struggles I face, and I began to see the power that comes with being honest. Sharing my story has opened doors and created relationships that will make my dreams a reality. But beyond that, it has allowed me to do something else: make a difference. I share my story to show others that nothing is impossible and even the greatest odds can be overcome. That is who I am. I am not my disability, and it does not define me.