Mixed Emotions

I picked up my cap and gown Thursday, and that was when it sunk in.

I’m graduating in two months.

Even though I’ve known for months the day when I’d toss my cap in the air and move on to the next stage of life was coming, the realization that my days in high school were numbered was jarring. In two short months, the routine I’ve grown used to, the people I see every day, watching sports with my family…. all of that is about to change.

My AP Literature class on the first day of senior year. (Photo courtesy of my awesome teacher. 😉)

And I’m feeling a little conflicted about all of it.

On one hand, I’m incredibly excited. In just a few months, I’ll be a student at the school I’ve loved since I was a little girl, and the dream I’ve had since I was six years old will come true. (We’re still working out details, but me going to UF looks promising.) I can’t wait to be on that campus every day and be surrounded by people who have as much passion for the orange and blue as I do. I can’t wait to jump into college life and begin gaining the knowledge and experience I need to be successful. I found out yesterday that UF students get in free to all athletic events except football games-and football season tickets aren’t expensive- and I really can’t wait to cheer on the Gators. You can bet I’ll be at every sporting event I can make it to.

On the other hand, I’m nervous and anxious about life beyond high school. What happens if I can’t open a door on my own and there’s no one around to open it for me? Will I be able to balance the rigor of college courses with covering Florida sports? How do I find my way to classes and the dining hall? And-God forbid this happens- what do I do if I fall? What happens if no one’s around to help me get back up, or if I get hurt?

These questions bounce around in my mind and wind knots in my chest, but then I think back to my first day of high school.

I had similar fears. In fact, I was so scared that on the first day, I sat in first period with my hands in my lap so no one could see they were shaking.

I’ll be honest. That first day and the first semester weren’t the easiest. There were many times when I felt as if I didn’t fit in, and I wanted more than anything to go to another high school, the one the majority of my friends went to.

But you know what? It worked out.

I made friends, many of whom were seniors who helped me become acclimated to high school. I took journalism and joined a few clubs, and slowly, I began to feel like I belonged. As a freshman, I would’ve given anything to switch schools, but now, I dread the day I’ll have to leave. And when I think about the last four years, I think of memories I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. My W15H with Tim Tebow. Being named the Writing Club President, and running it with two of my closest friends. Junior year, walking the school’s halls as a member of our homecoming court, and then this year, being crowned homecoming queen. There were down moments along the way too of course, but they taught me lessons and helped me grow in ways I otherwise wouldn’t have.

Me, moments after being crowned Homecoming Queen. It was an incredible honor I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

My high school experience has been a ride to remember, and I have a feeling college will be similar. Will the first few months be difficult? Probably. Will I encounter challenges and obstacles to overcome? Definitely. Will the next few years be unforgettable? Without a doubt.

Note: I’m going to start posting more regularly- twice a week on Sunday and Wednesday afternoons.

Cerebral Palsy · thoughts

Worth It

I’ll be honest: I have a lot to do before I’m fully independent. A lot. And when I went to bed last night, I was feeling really overwhelmed by it. A good night’s sleep didn’t take that feeling away. Unshed tears were a weight on my chest and I took a breath, trying to breathe through it as I wondered how I was going to climb this mountain.

Suddenly, that pain morphed into a quiet resolve to overcome this obstacle. I have to- I got in to my dream school, and I’m not going to lose the opportunity to live my dream. Will it be easy? No. Is the University of Florida worth it? Absolutely.

I think part of the problem is I’m trying to ascend the entire mountain in one day, and that isn’t possible. I’ve got to take it one day at a time and learn to not be frustrated with myself when I can’t do something immediately. I’m a perfectionist, so when I try something and fail, I beat myself up about it. Why I do that, I don’t know, because whenever one of my friends is trying something new or struggling with a class, I always remind them to do what they can today and be easy on themselves. It’s time I take my own advice.

I can do this. I know I can. I just have to work hard, go day by day, and remember that when I reach mountain’s summit and I’m living in Gainesville, it will be worth it.

Cerebral Palsy · thoughts

My War With Technology

For Christmas, my parents gave me a Google Home Mini, so that we can sync a lamp to it and I can turn lights on and off on my own, without having to wait for one of my parents to come in and do it for me. I was excited by the way it allows me to be more independent, and I spent much of yesterday marveling at how far technology has come and the amazing things it can do. But then, this morning, my father and I were having a conversation and Google randomly began giving us NFL scores. We hadn’t asked for them. We weren’t even talking about sports. It creeped me out a little, and it made me wonder, When is enough enough?

Technology can do amazing things. It can give someone a voice, it can save a life, and in my case, gives me independence and aid I otherwise wouldn’t have. For example, when I was younger and needed my mom’s help in the middle of the night, I would call her name again and again and hope she would hear me. But now that I have a cell phone, I can pick it up and call her, and have peace of mind knowing that she’ll see it and answer. And the technology I saw when I was in the hospital was amazing. During rehab, I used a Functional Electrical Stimulation bike which fired muscles for me that I didn’t know how to use. While I pedaled on the stationary bike, electrodes on my arms and legs would stimulate my muscles for me, strengthening them more quickly than I ever could without it.

But then, there’s the other side of technology, the side that I feel is overtaking our society. So often, we spend time on our phones instead of talking with one another. I’m guilty of it. The first thing I do when I get to lunch is pull out my phone to check my text messages and other notifications. Email has replaced the art of letter writing, and more people read the newspaper online than holding a physical paper in their hands. Yes, it’s convenient and faster and gives us instant gratification, but… is it truly necessary?

And I have to wonder: with all of the technological and scientific advances we’ve made, why haven’t we found a cure for cancer? Why haven’t we found something to treat AIDS or discovered what causes Alzheimer’s? I don’t understand, and my heart breaks for everyone affected by illnesses and disabilities that can’t be cured. We’re smart enough to cure these. I know we are. We’ve got the technology and science to do it- we’ve got to make that a priority. Who cares about a newer model of the iPhone when a little girl is fighting for her life in a hospital room?

I’m not saying technology is bad and I’m not saying I don’t use it too much. It’s not and I do. What I’m saying is we need to learn boundaries with its usage and harness its power to help, not be a distraction. It has the ability to change so many lives and solve so many problems- but only if we use it the right way.

Cerebral Palsy · Faith · thoughts

The Two Sides to Cerebral Palsy

I came to the realization the other day that there are two sides to cerebral palsy: the side that is beautiful, and then the side that’s ugly.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been living in the ugly side- the side that’s filled with anger and frustration and tears and pain. So often lately, I find myself wishing I could snap my fingers and change all of this. I’d get rid of the walker, fix my bent knees, and be able to live independently, without any assistance whatsoever. So often, I try to do something myself and am overcome by anger and frustration. I’m angry at myself for not being able to do it, and frustrated for the same reason. I feel like my disability is a chain that’s confining me and holding me back, and I hate it. I hate that things are so hard and frustrating, and I hate that I have to jump so many extra hoops to be able to go away to college. So often, I’ve found myself questioning God’s plan and wondering why I have to go through all of this. That’s the side I try to hide; I push it in and hide it behind smiles and encouragement.

But then, there’s the beautiful side of my CP, the side that gives me a platform to be an inspiration and make a difference. I saw that side last Sunday, when I gave a sermon about my sweet friend Kate. People came up to me and thanked me for sharing her story, which reminded me that this is about something bigger than myself. It’s the side I see whenever I’m with Tim Tebow, because he always makes me feel so special. I talk about him all the time-all the time- and I realized the other day that that’s why: because he and his foundation put the beautiful part of my disability at the forefront of my mind instead of its outskirts. And it’s what I was reminded of today, when I watched the amazing video of a boy with CP score a touchdown. He reminded me that no matter how hard or frustrating it gets or how much I hate it, God’s got a purpose for me and my CP. He’s going to use it for good; He’s going to use me to spread His light and love, which is all I want to do. I want to shine for Him. I want to be His Hands and feet. So when the tears flow and the frustration is overwhelming, I have to take a deep breath, say a prayer, and remember that God is in control… always.


Countdown to Taylor Swift’s “reputation”: “Red”

I’m not sure if I’ve shared this on here, but I love Taylor Swift. Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved the way she is unafraid to say exactly how she feels about a situation. A lot of people criticize her for writing about relationships, but for me, those songs have been a source of comfort on multiple occasions. I’ve never gone on a date or had a boyfriend, but her songs are written in a way that I can apply them to my life, even if I haven’t gone through exactly the same thing she has. I’m beyond excited for the release of reputation, so I thought that in honor of its release, I’d do a blog series about each album and what it means to me, with each post coinciding with the release date of that particular album.

I was twelve when Red came out. Not long before the album’s release date, I went through something which hurt me in a way I’d never experienced before. “Red” felt like a hug in the form of an album, and listening to Taylor sing made me feel as though I wasn’t alone. “I Knew You Were Trouble” was especially comforting, as I felt as though I should have seen what was coming and blamed myself for what happened. The album and its personal and raw lyrics brought me comfort in a way nothing else did, and for that, it will always have a special place in my heart.

Top Three Favorite Tracks

Originally, I was only going to pick my favorite track off of each album, but I love every song of Taylor’s, (to me, there’s no such thing as a bad Taylor Swift song) so I decided to pick my top three instead.


I LOVE this song. I love how narrative it is, and the way Taylor’s imagery is so descriptive and vivid that I can easily picture what’s happening in the song. “Don’t you dream impossible dreams?” is my favorite line, because I think we all have dreams that are crazy and wild, but we dare to dream them anyway.

“The Moment I Knew”

This song is heartbreaking and beautiful and raw and incredible. As with Starlight, Taylor writes in such a way that I feel as though I’m at her birthday party with her, experiencing what she’s experiencing. And I think it takes a lot of courage to be as honest as she is in this track. Songs like this one have inspired me to also be raw and vulnerable in my writing. Taylor’s helped me grow in leaps and bounds as a writer, and that’s another reason why I love her.

“Stay Stay Stay”

While much of this album is emotionally heavy, “Stay Stay Stay” is a tune that always makes me smile. I love the line, “That’s when you came in wearing a football helmet/And said, “Okay, let’s talk.” How adorable is that? That’s the kind of relationship I want to have one day: a love that is real, and even after fights and disagreements and the craziness that is life, he stays by my side, no matter what happens.

Honorable Mention: “Begin Again”

I could have easily put “All Too Well” here (because who doesn’t love “All Too Well”?) but I fell in love with “Begin Again” the first time I heard it. It’s a sweet melody that tells an even sweeter story, and I think it’s the perfect way to end the album with its message of hope and optimism. “You pull my chair out and help me in/And you don’t know how nice that is/but I do” is one of my favorite lines on the record. Once, when a friend of mine took me to lunch, I about fell out of my chair as he pushed me in. He’d already sat down when my fear of falling began to overtake me, and without hesitation, he got up and helped me so that I didn’t fall. He didn’t know how nice that was, but I did.

What do you love about “Red”?

What’s your favorite track(s)? Lyrics?

Let me know in the comments!

My Writing · thoughts

Why I Write

In honor of today being National Writing Day, I thought I’d share why I write.

I write because I have to. For me, writing is as necessary as breathing. It’s how I process life; it’s how I handle the crazy, wild emotions that come with being a teenager. When I’m able to lay my thoughts and feelings on a page, the weight they once laid on my shoulders disintegrates. Writing allows me to breathe and gives me a way to heal.

I write because the characters within me deserve a voice. Since I was little, I’ve had characters and storylines dancing in my head, and when I was six years old I decided it was time to set them free. I wrote my first story about the friendship between two horses (I was little) and I haven’t looked back. For a time, I wrote stories using the characters from my favorite books, but now, my characters are all my own. Often, they- and the storylines I pen- are based off of my own life, and to me, there’s nothing better than turning a fragment of my life into fiction. Usually the inspiration comes from a situation I’ve been through or a person who has touched my heart, and on the occasions when it’s the former, I feel like I’ve put a message in a bottle: “You thought nothing of this, but I did. I appreciated it. I was touched. It meant more to me than you know, and I wanted to tell you that.”

I write to tell my story. In the past few years, I’ve realized just how powerful sharing my story can be, and if I’m ever asked to speak, I write out what I want to say. I feel like I make more sense when I write than when I talk, and I think I can leave a bigger impact on an audience if I’ve been able to write out what I’m saying beforehand. Sharing my story is a big part of why I’ve started blogging: because I want to show what life with cerebral palsy is really like, and also to show that while I may have a disability, I experience life the same way everyone else does.

I write to say things I otherwise wouldn’t be able to say otherwise. I can’t count how many times words have burned in the back of my throat, but fear has kept them in. To fight that fear, I pick up a pen and write every word I wish I could say in person. Then, I can say what I need to say without fear of what the other person will think, and more than once, doing that has given me the courage to actually say the words in person.

I write to overcome my limitations. When I write, I can walk, I can run, I can play sports, I can dance. When I write, anything my disability prevents me from doing is possible. I write to be free, and that freedom is unlike anything else.


Tell me: why do you write?

Cerebral Palsy · thoughts

Counting Descent: A Book, an Author, and A Story

For the last week and a half, my AP Literature class has been reading Counting Descent, a collection of poetry by Clint Smith. Mr.Smith is originally from New Orleans, and much of the poetry details growing up as an African American, and how it’s affected him and altered his viewpoint on the world. He doesn’t shy away from topics such as racism and police brutality, but discusses them in a way that is both respectful and eloquent. Several of his poems made me stop and think, and he made me change the way I view certain things.

I fell in love with his writing from the first poem I read. It was beautiful, it was eloquent, and I loved the way he took something so ordinary and turned it into something that was deep and meaningful and thought-provoking. I can’t count how many times I would finish a poem and then just stop, because I was so touched and moved by what I had just read. I loved every poem in the book, and I highly recommend it to all of you.

Not only did we get to read his poetry, but this morning, we were able to Skype with him. He was awesome. Talking to him felt like talking to one of my teachers, (which makes sense, he used to be a high school English teacher) and more than once, our whole class cracked up at something he said. He was funny, he was real, and he was honest, too. I loved getting insight into a few of my favorite poems and into his writing process. Of course, being the writing geek I am, I asked him what advice he has for aspiring writers and poets. “Read,” he answered. “Read everything. Novels, poetry, nonfiction, short stories- read it all. And,” he added, “allow yourself to be bored every once in awhile.” He said that every once in awhile we need to put our phones down, let our thoughts flow uninterruptedly, and simply take in the world around us, because inspiration can be found everywhere. I loved that advice, because I feel like so often we’re so engrossed in a text message or Taylor Swift’s new Instagram post or the latest SportsCenter update that we miss out on what’s going on around us. And oftentimes, the little things are the most important.

As much as I enjoyed getting to ask him that question and receive his advice, my favorite part of the video chat came at the very beginning. A friend asked him how he got into poetry and spoken word, and his answer nearly brought tears to my eyes. He told us a story about how, not long after he moved to New York City, he heard a woman with cerebral palsy give a spoken word poem. He said at the time, he didn’t know much about CP, and listening to her not only changed his perspective on it, but it made him want to do spoken word, too.

He heard a woman with cerebral palsy. A woman’s poem about her CP changed his perspective on the disability and made him want to do spoken word. A woman with cerebral palsy.

I was overcome with emotion because the woman he heard did with her poem exactly what I want to do with my writing: impacted his life and showed him what life with cerebral palsy is like. She’s a living example of the power sharing your story has, and hearing Mr. Smith’s story only made my desire to publish my book grow stronger.

The thing is, while my book is labeled as fiction, much of it is reality. My characters are based off of the people I love, and while I’m not yet strong enough to walk with crutches on my own, a lot of what my protagonist experiences are things that I go through. Because of that, some scenes aren’t easy to write. I’ve cried, I’ve written with knots in my stomach, and I can’t count how many times a voice in the back of my head has whispered, “No one will read this. It’s nowhere near good enough to be published. Why would anyone want to read about your experiences in the first place?”

But I write through that self doubt and I write the scenes that hurt because somewhere within me I know that one day, those scenes will be the scenes that touch someone. Those scenes will be the scenes that inspire someone else to keep fighting whatever battle it is they’re fighting. Those scenes make my book real, and I think that reality will (hopefully) impact, inspire, and touch thousands of people.

Hearing Mr. Smith’s story about the woman with CP reaffirmed that hope. Though I’ve never met her, she inspired me to keep writing and sharing my story, because she’s living proof of how that can affect someone. I’m glad she shared her story, because Clint Smith’s slam poetry (and all of his poetry) is incredible. It was amazing to talk to him, and if you haven’t read CountingDescent, you should. It’s beautiful, and will quickly become one of your favorite books.