Category Archives: Day to day

Everyday life experiences

Lucky Number Seven

I don’t like making a big thing of it, but the fact is, today marks the 7 year anniversary of my spinal cord injury. My mom pointed out that this was the first year that marked an identical circumstance from a weekly standpoint. Like this year’s perspective, I was hit by that police cruiser just after midnight on that Sunday 7 years ago, which gave me a greater sense of nostalgia. I hate thinking that the spinal cord injury defines me. And everyone will say that it doesn’t, but it obviously does. Last time I checked, around 0.005% of the U.S. population has a spinal cord injury. If you’re one of those people, it’s pretty unlikely you have a more defining feature.

I was writing a paper for my MBA today that touched on my aspirations and I couldn’t help but relate them to my injury. Again, I hate that… However, after expressing many of my frustrations, I ultimately came full circle and ended with saying, “…but it’s okay.” My day-to-day might be altered from what it used to be, but it’s been 7 years, this is now my normal. Today, I remembered getting emotional on my first-year anniversary, but I don’t think it would have been possible to reach that emotional state today. In these 7 years, I have so far distanced myself from those struggles that used to seem so inescapable. Ugh, the constant urinary/bowel complications. The unrelenting back-pain. The perpetual belief I was going to die from a relentless urinary tract infection. The obvious inability to walk, or run, or so much as twitch my legs. Speaking of which, I wanted to share a thought I had this week. At the gym, I’ve been relying more and more on the arm bike for my workouts. The arm bike at the gym isn’t just any arm bike. This arm bike is adjustable from every which way, which is without a doubt imperative given my circumstances.

(A recent 1-milimeter backrest angle adjustment allowed me to cut my massage lead time in half)

I grew up an athlete. Some may not consider soccer to be a sport, but hey that’s okay, because I participated in much more than just that. I was pretty heavily involved in snowboarding, track, dirt biking, gymnastics, dodgeball runner-up Freshman year of high school, I mean the list goes on.

I went to the gym on Monday, got to the arm bike, made my adjustments, including a slight additional adjustment I had been thinking about over the weekend. After a few minutes, I found myself looking up so that my legs were out of sight. I then tucked my legs under the chair so that I felt slightly more upright. After continuing to pedal with my arms and increasing my speed, I began to close my eyes. Immediately, I began envisioning memories of my past. Running up and down the soccer field, running on the track, running in my neighborhood, running, running, running. I couldn’t even help it, but a great big smile came across my face – arm pedaling the hell out of the arm bike in the gym with my eyes closed shut. I always aim to finish my arm workouts on a high note. When I came towards the end of my time, I kept coming back to the many memories I had running up and down the Ginghamsburg parking lot. Ginghamsburg is a church that was right across the street from my parent house growing up. The stretch was approximately 1-mile, down and back. There were light poles throughout the stretch, about 20 yards apart from one another. The last and final stretch from light pole to light pole was always a sprint. I always aimed to finish my workouts on a high note. The feeling was back. I was running that last stretch once more. What an incredible feeling. I don’t know if I’ve had an experience like that since the injury 7 years ago. Throughout the week, it gave me motivation. Like anyone, making it to the gym is a constant struggle for me. I know I’ll continue to struggle, but I know this running euphoria recently experienced will ease the struggle, if only for a little while.

Advertisements

My Leg!

A few Sundays ago, Sophie and I had our last open water dive to get our certification. Our first dive the week prior went well, we were psyched for our trip to Cayman Brac June 16th. Unfortunately! Cayman Brac never came for us.

We were supposed to meet our dive instructor at Natural Springs Resort, Indiana around noon. Well we overslept so we didn’t have much time to get ready. We had to go. I was rushing around, Sophie was rushing around, we got in the car, and left.

We were on our way, but we were both hesitant. Sophie said she wasn’t feeling well and I really wasn’t either. I hesitated to admit it because there was no reason for it, but I felt off – particularly impatient – Sophie would attest to this. Although, we didn’t want to let Dave (our dive instructor) down.

When we got there, we felt better seeing all the other scuba divers there, knowing he didn’t make the drive to Indiana just for us. So we left.

I jumped on the bed when we got home. I needed to get out of my wetsuit. I pulled the torso out and continued to roll it down my leg. That’s when I lost my head for a second. “SOPHIE, WE HAVE TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL RIGHT NOW!”

I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew my leg did NOT look right. I had no idea what happened. Nothing fell onto me. Nothing crashed into me. Nothing hurt. Nothing…happened.

Because of this, things progressed very slowly at the ER. “Well what can you tell me?” nurses/doctors kept asking. “Honestly, really only what it looks like and feels like – to the touch,” I said.

It was very swollen, but that was really just my knee.

It appeared to be dangly, but aren’t paralyzed limbs dangly?

And it felt very tight when you touched it.

Based on this, they were convinced I had a blood clot. I had never had a blood clot – so I was very skeptical at first. It’s safe to say health issues pertaining to my paralyzed half are what causes me the most anxiety. It’s difficult to find answers when you can’t answer the questions like, “How does it feel?” or “Does it hurt?”

I was relieved they thought it was a blood clot. My biggest fear was that it was broken, and I’d have to wear a straight leg cast – I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything in a straight leg cast.

The ultrasound technician came in. “Yeah, they just want me to check the blood flow real quick, make sure it’s a blood clot and everything. We’ll getchya outta here.” The tech started and pulsating sounds immediately filled the room ‘whapoogsh wappoogsh schwappooosgshh’ insinuating good blood flow (no blood clot). And I kinda just put my head down. That’s when my mom says, “Hunter! That’s great! No one wants a blood clot!”

In no time they sent me over to the CAT scan room. This was gonna show exactly what was wrong with my leg. The doctor finally came in after an hour or so, and we all knew this was it. She had a pretty stern look on her face. “Hunter, both of your bones in your lower-leg are broken. You broke clean right through your tibia and fibula, this is something you would have heard,” she said.

After hearing the diagnosis and thinking on it for the next few days, I think I know what it was that happened. I was in my stander (adapted elliptical) the night before working up quite the sweat working out. All the joints on my stander cause it to be pretty squeaky/noisy when I’m working out – which would have masked the “breaking” noise.

Fast forward to Monday night/hospital-discharge-night. I was now in a straight-leg cast, which I felt very uneasy about. I was being sent home in a rented wheelchair with a straight-leg-rest for my cast, which I also felt very uneasy about. The wheelchair was heavy and bulky. It was hard to push. The tires weren’t pneumatic, or even rubber, they were hard plastic. I was just excited to go home.

Up until this point, I hadn’t thought much about transportation, only that driving would be more difficult. I thought it would take me maybe up to 8-10 minutes or so to get in/out of my car and situated, but I never thought I wouldn’t be able to. I think I lined up to my car over 30 different times just trying to figure it out. After giving up on the driver-side door, I moved onto another door, then another, then another. This was when reality started to sink in. Not only could I not drive, I couldn’t even get in my van. After about 30 minutes, with the help of both my wife and mom, I got in the back seat. The closer we got to my apartment, the more fearful I became. I remembered my greatest fear when I first went to the ER. I remembered the multiple times I told hospital staff, “The thought of a straight-leg cast scares the hell out of me.” Somehow, between all the lighthearted vibes (whenever I’d say, “can you help with my leg” Sophie responded, “My Leg!” in the Sponge Bob voice) from the Fam, I had forgotten.

When we got to my apartment, my dad had to leave work early to help me get out of the car. He picked me up and moved me from my car to my wheelchair, while Sophie held my leg initially from inside the car and later passed to my mom standing outside the car. I silently wheeled around once I got inside, drawing a mental map of the areas I’d be able to access in the coming months. I entered my bathroom to draw that picture and felt nothing but overwhelmed. I never said a word. My mom would ask me,  “How are you feeling, Hunter?” but I couldn’t get any words out. I hesitated to reply, and hesitated even more once I started, “…I’m just… I’m really not… There’s just so much that…” Honestly, I couldn’t picture the next 2-3 months without ending in defeat.

Getting a good night’s sleep in my own bed is when I started feeling better. Sophie had to help in moving to/from my chair, but she’s so sweet and accommodating that she didn’t complain (and never has to this day). My dad came in clutch by modifying my wheelchair, making a leg rest out of PVC pipe that honestly needs to be marketed. I was able to ditch my rental chair, and use my own char. In the following days, my mom and Sophie’s mom were over on and off to help us clean and get situated to go back to work the next week. My “vacation” week off work didn’t quite go as planned – we had to cancel our Scuba diving trip to Cayman Brac – but things really progressed during that week off after the hospital, and so did my spirits.

My first week back to work went well given the circumstances. I had to take one day off due to infection, but it wasn’t bad for a first week.  The second week went even better, and I’m now feeling better than ever going into the third week. The cast is pretty debilitating, I can’t lie. I like to avoid the word “handicapped”, but no doubt I’m handicapped now. I’m very limited. But hey, it’s only in the short term. The truth is, it has become easier every day to view this not as a loss, but as a gain. Because long term, I see nothing but benefits resulting. My wife and I are forced to band together on a new level and overcome adversity. Our marriage is great, but there’s nothing that can’t be strengthened. Without my family, my wife especially, I’d still be stuck in that bathroom the night I got home from the hospital, feeling overwhelmed and defeated.

Patiently Confident

Well, something big just happened.

I based this blog off of my having a spinal cord injury before beginning to write, about two and a half years ago. My spinal cord injury was the most substantial thing that had occurred to me within the first 20 years of my life, but now this. I can honestly say that for the vast majority of my post-injury life, I didn’t believe it would ever happen, but it just did. I got engaged! I dropped the question of all questions, and she said CHYEA! Now before you go passing judgment, hear me out, and if you still want to pass judgment, save it because I don’t care…

“Engage” is a strong word. I believe a lot of people have gotten so used to the term “engagement” as a noun and simply the time span leading up to the marriage of two people. These people mutually select each other and together, they decide on a date for the biggest day of their lives, their wedding day. The time span of their engagement could last anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years, or longer, whatever. When their big day comes, hopefully the two of them will still share the same feelings for one another and follow through with their marriage. And if they decide to follow through with their marriage, there’s a 50% chance it will last. The common goal is to remain together, but when faced with adversity, it’s possible they won’t fight to make it work.

I believe this to be a very brief, yet very fair summarization of how society views the typical engagement and marriage. However, the picture I have painted in my head looks much differently from the one I believe depicted by society. The focal point of this scene I see lies on the strong root of this word engagement, engage. I know a lot of people who have never truly engaged themselves in anything, and I’m sure there have been many, many people who have lived their entire lives without doing so, a significant portion of whom died married men and women, and were at one point “engaged” themselves. Engagement is a noun, but engage is a verb, which is how I believe an engagement should be viewed.

Engagement— The process in which two people share while engaging themselves in each other’s lives’, and preparing themselves and also each other for the longest, yet happiest struggle of their lives, marriage. Once the two have seen enough of each other to be sure, this process will begin with a proposal, the commitment to each other and to this engagement process, which is the first and most crucial step towards beating the 50/50 odds of divorce. A marriage is the closest representation of two bodies becoming one flesh, which requires an excessive amount of time and effort to be done correctly.

One thing I know for sure is I’m not doing a gaht damn thing unless I’m doing it right. I’m either all in, or I’m not playin’. I think the ancient Romans said it best when they said, “Go big, or go home… straight to your mommy, then straight to bed.”

I’m about to go so big because I’ve never felt more sure, or ready for anything in my life.

I almost wrote something recently about Sophie and how happy I was, but never found the time to do so. No, we haven’t been together long, but we have spent an outrageous amount of time together since we started dating at the end of December. At least technically, I can say we started dating last year. We really never took more than a few days off from seeing each other, until leading up to this weekend. I’m actually typing this book ahead of time, on my Sophie-down-time. The last I saw her was Sunday, January 30th, and we took almost two weeks off, waiting until Friday, February 12th to reunite. I miss her a lot, but I’m proud of us. Not only am I seeing me her mental/emotional strength, but I’m awarded the time to prepare for giving her the best weekend she’s ever had. Since I’ve posted this, its either coming to an end, or ended already. I guess I’ll start looking for that next big thing to focus on and look forward to. That’s what keeps us going, right?

…I’ve still have a lot to get through,  but it only gets better. Hopefully my brilliant and intriguing writing is grabbing you by the neck, pulling you in, and making your heart race like you front row at Keeneland.

KINDA LIKE IT ALWAYS DO.

Which brings me to my first word for 2016, confidence. I wanted to tie a little truth into my writing that I was trying to do earlier, back when I wanted to spread the word about Sophie, but couldn’t find dat time. I wanted to talk about the endless confidence that I’ve found because of Sophie, and how I was going to really focus on it during the New Year. But with seeing her so much, and killing all things school related and life related, I haven’t even found the time to wipe my own ass, in all honesty.

Nah, I’m pretty sure my ass ain’t dirty.

As of lately, my life has been moving in the most positive direction. I’m on cloud 9. My life decisions are indefinitely leading me to become a better person. I’m becoming a man now. I feel this. I know this. Being with Sophie makes me feel like I’ll never spend another day down for the rest of my life. I know that’s awfully naïve of me, but I also know I’ve never felt this great, confident, or happy in my life. I mean, all I can think is…

“You just love struck, like a candy-ass.”

“You just smitten, like a little bitch.”

I believe, at least at this point in my life that patience and confidence are the two most important traits for me to focus on and improve upon. I firmly believe that no man will make it far if he doesn’t have an extreme amount of confidence. I attribute the majority of my recent depression to a weak level of confidence.

Any girl, any real girl, will tell you that a man’s confidence is much more attractive than his looks. One’s appearance is typically a good representation of how confident he is. Although the two tend to move hand in hand, this doesn’t have to be the case, and often isn’t. Think about those sukka looking dudes you’ve known, or have seen that landed gorgeous girls. I’m talking about the 5s walking around with the 9s. I’m talking about the 6s posted with the 10s. I’m sure it’s not all attributed to these sukka looking dudes having confidence, but the one thing y’already know these sukka looking dudes had was confidence. Being confident is how I know I’m gonna mass murder all aspects of life.

I see confidence as a stimulative trait. Guys that are confident in themselves seem to inherently have many other positive traits, as well. A man’s confidence will give him drive. He will be motivated and personable, which will lead him to form all kinds of relationships. And if you’d ask me, I’d say it’s obvious that human relationships are far superior to any and all things materialistic. I’m aware of very few successful people that don’t have these traits down to a tee, and for me, the best way to acquire these traits is to first and foremost become confident in myself. CHECK; I have (for the most part) always had confidence. I’ve just never had so much continuous confidence. The stunning creature whom they call Sophdawg, and whom I now call my fiancé, shatters my confidence barometer.

I love psychology. I like to think I’d be a star in the psyche world if I had credibility, but I’d rather not obtain the credibility, and keep thinking that I would be. The Thomas theorem is my favorite theorem on the psychology front:

“If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”

-William Isaac Thomas

The point is that all you have to do is conquer your psyche. If you have it in your head that you’re The Man, you’ll start reaping the benefits of The Man.

My second word for 2016 is patience. You’re probably chuckling your tits off right now because I wasn’t very patient with my proposal, but like I said, hear me out.

I really haven’t dated anyone seriously since my injury. Anytime I’d hear about a friend, or really anyone who’s close to my age get engaged, I’d immediately look down on them. Like…

“Duuude you’re young! Be on your own! Learn! Grow!”

I’d scream in my head and at them, occasionally. Sometimes I’d take a few seconds to awkwardly fish around in my wheelchair bag before, “FLIPP!!” Pocketknife swinging out with vigor while getting in their face, flesh on flesh, threatening what, and mainly who, meant most to them in this world. *Tru.

Playin’; not true.

I’m breaking all kinds of beliefs, though, lately because of Sophie. I’ve always felt that way, though (in quotations^^), but I guess it was really only a matter of time until I felt otherwise. I’ve been out of a relationship for about four-and-a-half years now, which for me, at least, was absolutely necessary. I needed that time on my own to figure out who the hell I was, and come to some of my own life conclusions. Everyone beats to his or her own drum, though, people are just different, and shit. The world needs different people. I’ve learned. I’ve grown. I’ve figured out who I am, and my solo phase has now passed. Solo-dolo Hunnaboy is no longer with us, but this isn’t a day for mourning. This is a day for rejoicing. I’m confident solo-dolo Hunnaboy would have wanted it that way.

I went on a handful of dates over this four-and-a-half year,“No-Chica,” period, but nothing ever went down. It just wasn’t going down in the DMs.

Honestly, though, I felt like none of the girls I would be physically attracted to would pay me a minute of attention. This wasn’t necessarily true, but I thought it was and it got me acting funny, or at least off my game when I’d be around most pretty girls (What up Thomas Theorem?). Most pretty girls totally suck, though. I did actually go on a couple of dates with pretty girls, but never felt comfortable counting them because they were such terrible people. I thought I was doing everything right.

I got was so frustrated.

As it would turn out, I was doing everything right, though. Matter-a-fact, I couldn’t have been doing them better; I wasn’t forcing relationships. I never went on more than a few dates with a girl because when you don’t know, you know.

I recently had a talk with one of my boys; he goes by “Young Connor B.,” and often times, simply “Young.” I shared a lot about Sophie with him, and referenced the time (not long ago) when I told him I didn’t want a pretty girl. I remember clearly saying…

“ I’m looking for a busted-ass girl, Young.”

I had it in my head that the kind of girl I was looking for wasn’t out there (bighearted, intelligent, and beautiful). I became weak. I misplaced my faith, and I lost patience. I knew that if I dropped one of these key traits, I’d have better luck. I thought to myself about it…

“Well, you’re the kind of person who genuinely cares about others. Not to mention, you’re in a gaht damn wheelchair now. She has to be able to see and respect your genuinity.”

 – “Okay, she gotta have a big heart.”

“You’ve been on dates with stupid people, and each time, you’ve had to get a handle on your own suicidal temptations, and manage your very own psychopathic thoughts. Watch your step here because once you break, you might not be comin’ back.”

— “Okay, she gotta be intelligent.”

“Hm, you’ve never been attracted to someone that wasn’t beautiful, but at the same time, you’ve gotten so used to the beauty in a girl that it no longer did much for you. Physical qualities are sure nice, but I guess their reach is awfully limited.”

–”Okay, you can do without :,(.”

I tried, and I tried. I quit, and I tried again. I couldn’t do it.

“You just have expensive taste in women :,(. You need a babe :,(. You need a 10 :,(.” 

I cried so hard.

I remembered the Ancient Romans, I was gonna go big. If I didn’t find the girl for me, the girl with all the qualities that I wanted, I’d keep flying solo. I prepped myself because most times I didn’t think I had a chance. I mean how many bighearted, intelligent, AND beautiful girls are there in the world? Like 6?

My frustration got heavy, and my mental would run its mouth in my head (A.k.a. I’d think)…

“You just aren’t normal. You’ve never felt like the typical dude. You’re just different (like it was a bad thing).”

Then my emotional would run, spreading insecurities…
“Girls want big dudes, and you’re just not a big structured dude. Your genetics aren’t capable of getting you what you want. Everyone wants an awesome, gorgeous girl, not just you. You’re paralyzed. You’re in a  wheelchair. Seriously, who’s on the lookout for that? There are so many more attractive people out there, and they can walk. Their legs work. You have to settle for less.”

These are actually fantastic examples of thoughts that used to run through my head. They came mainly during my depression phase, but even out of my depression phase on down days. It was exhausting, and when they came, I couldn’t live in the moment and focus on my tasks at hand.

My recent depression was primarily due to my paralysis. For the majority of the time since my accident, post-injury Hunter has, if anything, been much better off than pre-injury Hunter. It felt like the third year post-injury was when reality had finally decided to break me. That’s not to say I’m blaming it all on the wheelchair, though. Everyone has bullshit in their lives. Everyone deals with insecurities, whatever they may be. Everyone wants to find love. Everyone worries about being alone.

Towards the beginning of January, I shared a long conversation with Kelly, Sophie’s gorgeous and freaking awesome mom. Kelly briefly described her daughter’s personality to me. Her description consisted of little breadth, but very fair depth. Kelly chose to share with me the size of her daughter’s heart and how it was incomparable to anyone else she had ever known. “Sophie genuinely cares for everyone, whether she knows anything about them, or not,” Kelly told me. She went into more depth, but she didn’t expand much on the breadth because it simply wasn’t necessary; her heart said it all.

I had already seen this, but it became more real when I heard it verbalized, especially by her mother. The strong attraction, the connection, started to make all the sense in the world to me, and for the first time, I knew I could trust my feelings. When two hearts collide, the rest begins to fall in place, rapidly.

The only other girl I’ve ever loved also had a huge heart, we shared four years of our lives together, however, our personalities never quite matched. I’ve honestly never met anyone, male or female, whose overall personality matched mine so closely, as does Sophie’s. For two people’s personalities/humor to match so well, I think intelligence has to be pretty on point, as well. And if matching personalities doesn’t say enough about her intelligence, I think her graduating high school with a GPA >4.0 and having full intentions of attending grad school as a speech pathologist does.

I guess I’d understand if you still weren’t convinced I found true love. I mean, I did say I needed a 10, but I’m so in love with the person Sophie is, that she doesn’t need to be a 10.

Only thing is…

Sophie=>>10

She’s so much more than your average looking girl! I’ve never been so attracted to another human being. For the first time in my life, I no longer desire other women. I mean, I recognize beauty, but it’s no longer followed by a sexual urge. Sophie’s like a Lamborghini, really, only she’s better because she can communicate and share experiences. She’s like an Interactive Murcielago, the only one of its kind, and I’ve got the keys.

There’s a time to be patient, and a time not to be because you could die tomorrow. You could die tonight, and not even see tomorrow. Never WASTE time. Be patient until you know, but when you know, you’ll know, and you need to pull the trigger. You need’a eat.

After giving my brother a whole lot of shit for rushing his engagement and promising myself I would never follow in his footsteps, here I am. “When you know, you know,” is a common saying for a reason, one that I never used to understand. It’s what my brother would tell me when I expressed disbelief, or disagreement. It makes sense to me now, though, that you need to feel it in order to understand it (which is NOT to sound condescending towards people that date for longer periods before making the plunge, after all, everyone is different, and NO relationship is the same). I’m going against my promise because I can’t go against my feelings, not this time. Sometimes, executive decisions need’a be had.

I hope you’ve gained something out of this monster. Please don’t think that I think I know better. Many things, I am, but ignorant is not one of them. I wanted to share my big news, and the rest has simply been heavy on my heart. After the severe amount of stage three carpal tunnel all up in my wrists from grinding so hard typing this, I think I’m finally pleased with the finished product.

I never have much of a plan, and certainly no outline before writing. It seems like it’s everyday that I type a number of notes on my iPhone containing a random thought, or idea. Every once in awhile, I’ll find myself searching for one of these notes and adding more to it. It’s when this urge to write more on a topic starts to feel too big for any note on an iPhone that I tend to form a new blog post. I like to think this “push” to write more and more on a topic is from a Godly figure. I like to think it’s this figure sukka-shoving me in the chest, and my own uncertainties and concerns about whether or not to go for it is really just my feet treading below me trying to regain support.

If that makes sense

..just be patiently confident.

Three’s a lucky number, right?

Eyy it’s my rebirthday. October 6 is the happiest day of the year for me. The weather’s great, the spaghetti’s good, what an awesome day to be a-l-i-v-e. I even started it on a good note, up from the Hilton Head tennis tournament. That don’t matter much anyway, my hamster could have died yesterday and I’d still be up today.

Whew, what a rough year though. I did a heck of a job hiding it, but year three was definitely the hardest year of my life, let alone post injury. Maybe it’s because I started it off recently coming to terms with the fact I’m about to spend the rest of my life in a chair and won’t ever move my legs again, maybe it’s because nobody likes you when you’re 23, or maybe I’m just salty because I didn’t do too hot on my accounting exam last week.. but it actually really was.

On a much less playful note, I’ve been prettty down this past year. It was bullshit to be honest – straight draining me mentally and emotionally. And physically because I been slacking in the weight room. It wasn’t all bad, it was more like a rollercoaster ride, just not as fun. I’d be counting the days down until I’m rich and famous one week, then feel the lowest I’ve ever felt the next.

Smoke all that though. I’m on a long ride up now. I’m just chillin’ at the front getting cranked up the tallest coaster on Earth – with my Beats on because that noise would drive me nuts. I’ve taken a lot of learning points from those down days…

First and foremost, I’ve been reminded by hearing about and seeing the effects of other tragedies concerning others that were less fortunate than me… that was a mouthful and probably could have been said much simpler, but I got a busy day and I’m typing this inbetween classes… Others that are no longer with us would smack me so hard if I was being a sour puss, which I have been a lot of this past year, big time.

Also, I found out I can still have fun and do exciting things. I got to live a lot this past year – a lot more so than the second year post injury, and a lot a lot more so than the first. I found a snowboarding replacement in monosking, which I’ll for sure be doing some of this winter, as well as every future winter that I’m fortunate enough to be here. And most of all, I found a gymnastics replacement in tennis that I’m very, very stoked about. I also found out that kayaking is pretty rad. The next thing on my radar that I plan on getting into is scuba diving. I’m really excited for some future trips to the Caribbean to swim with sea turtles and horses, and other life found only in the sea. When the time is fitting in year four, I’ll get myself scuba certified and probably an oversized frame for the certificate to obnoxiously and inconveniently cover my nightstand.

Another thing that was bringing me down was my appearance and boundaries caused by the chair. Sitting at 4 ft. tall being constantly looked down on has sparked a lot of insecurities. All I could focus on were my imperfections and the downsides of my chair. The first two years I loved my chair; it was like constantly riding a little bumper car while everyone else had to walk. Instead of having that mentality, I could only think about the limitations that stairs brought me. I despise stairs. Stairs can suck my left and right nuts both raw. The rawness wouldn’t even bother me because I can’t feel them.

The final thing I learned was that down times WILL come. They’re inevitable, but it’s okay because everyone deals with them on occasion. I’m not alone.

Back to tennis for a bit. Tennis doesn’t only bring the excitement in playing tennis. Weekends spent at a tennis tournament are constant reminders of not being alone. Players surround themselves with people from all over the world that are in the same boat, and it’s a wonderful thing. Not everyone there has spinal cord injuries, but most find themselves in a wheelchair every day, and ALL constantly deal with some type of disability. Everyone is also in the same boat mentally. They prioritize athleticism by taking three/four day weekends out of their lives to go play tennis tournaments. They are open about their down thoughts, and help each other surpass them. They enjoy life, and want you to as well.

Quick update on tennis: I played at the U.S. Open in St. Louis, which was incredible because I saw the top two players in the world, who made me want to get into tennis in the first place; Shingo (JPN) and Houdet (FRN). I did not play very well in St. Louis. The only match I won was a singles consolation match, but I had the best experience so far at a tournament. I also played at Hilton Head last weekend. I only played one singles and one doubles match and I lost them both. The singles match was very close; I had match point twice, but it wasn’t my day. I’m finished with tournaments for the season. It was a great first season. I’m glad I moved up to the B division so soon. I learned a ton, and now I’m back to Schroeder for some more strokes.

For now, I’m going to enjoy the rest of this day! Thanks for reading. Year four is gonna be sick. I’m sure of it.

My Happy Place – Grand Rapids

My second tennis tournament in Grand Rapids, Michigan really woke me up. It felt like a part of me was slowly drifting off into a dismantled world there for a little while.

I’ve been pretty good about keeping things in the works, but that’s simply what I have to do. It doesn’t take very long before I start feeling like my life is at a standstill and needs change. I don’t know if it relates to my injury – maybe I need more eagerness in my life in order to stay up – or maybe it’s just that I’m human – I constantly ask myself that question in relation to different things/everything – but either way, I needed to merge into the fast lane. I needed to get excited about something again.

Last Spring I was inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma. BGS is a nation-wide honors business fraternity with a presence at Wright State who hand selects members mainly based on GPA. Fortunately for me, I pulled off my highest GPA the first semester I was at Wright State – by far. “Membership (in Beta Gamma Sigma) is the highest recognition a business student anywhere in the world can receive…” – Haha, hell yeah.

I also had about a two-month-long high after going skiing in New Hampshire last December. And since New Hampshire went down a good seven-months ago, I’ma just hold onto that 17-page monster. I’ll save it for my book that has been a lot of hype, no show thus far. Having a chapter in the bank will give me motivation to get my feet moving in that regard, anyway.

The moral of that (those) tangent(s) is to say I’ve been doing fine, but my news headlines are dated.

However, last weekend I covered some ground again. The other thing I have going for me right now is tennis – which leads me to yet again, the main purpose of my blog post. I haven’t had many back-to-back posts on the same topic, thus far, but this may very well lead to the first back-to-back-to-back same topic posts. I have a couple tournaments on my radar for the next couple of months. Actually who knows, maybe back-to-back-to-back-TO-BACK same topic posts.

My first tournament was great and everything. Not to sound like I’m taking away from Fort Wayne, or my first tennis match experience, but last weekend was my greatest weekend of the year so far. Fort Wayne was only a USTA tournament – Consisting of only lettered divisions (not including the Open division). There are a number of years ahead of me before I’ll find myself playing in the Open division, but I was able to see what lies ahead if I choose to make that a goal of mine and succeed. I’ve only played two tournaments, so it’s too early to project very far into the future, but I’ve been moving at a quicker pace than most. It certainly helps that I’m only 23-years-old.

In Fort Wayne, I was experiencing a lot of pain in my back. I’ve been fortunate to avoid back pain since my injury, at least up until late last spring. It’s so miserable when your back hurts all the time. I had to quit in the middle of my doubles tournament In Fort Wayne. Tennis wasn’t the only thing on my mind. I had to be responsible and avoid a setback, so I threw in the towel: “No joke, guys. I quit.”

I began treatment at Xcel Sports Medicine when I returned to the Greater Dayton area. The folks at Xcel can do incredible things. I immediately started feeling better, and was able to practice harder while playing tennis. My game was improving at a faster rate than ever, after feeling better physically and having a few matches under the ol belt. I was feeling overly confident, as the Grand Rapids tournament was approaching. I was told before my first tournament that I would be playing in the C division for at least a couple of years, but I never believed that. I didn’t know how long I’d be playing in the C division, but I knew it wasn’t going to be long. I emailed the tournament director and asked to be moved up to the B division.

I showed up a couple Fridays ago to play my first game in the B division. Yeah, I was a little nervous, but after all, I’d rather get smoked out than have to smoke someone else out. I’m not gonna learn anything if I I wipe up on everybody. My opponent, who I’ve become friends with by now, had been playing awhile. I definitely had youth on my side, but he had been around the tennis scene for about 12 years.

We played a pretty unreal tennis match. I took set one, after playing a 10-point tiebreaker.

I felt myself calming down too much, knowing that I could still win even if he took the second set… or maybe he flat-out played better, I don’t know, but either way he waxed my cotton candy ass 5-7, taking set two.

I did my best to keep my composure during set three, we both did. The match time had exceeded three hours, and our play was very sloppy at times. I started strong, a little upset at myself for losing the last set. For the first set of the match, I took the first game. We consistently traded the next seven games or so. Our match was quickly approaching four hours, as we started the tenth game (of the final set), I was up 5-4. All I needed to do was take this game, and I could unfasten all of my straps and relax.

I was serving, and I felt the pressure I was putting on myself. I served into the net two of the first three points, and he ended up taking the tenth game.

The set ended up 6-6, and we entered the second 10-point tiebreaker of the match. I was able to keep my focus, as I vividly remembered my last match in Fort Wayne where I lost the 10-point tiebreaker to lose the final. I started talking to myself to get pumped up. That doesn’t always work, but it did that time – I won the tiebreaker 10-7.

I knew how close the match was, and how easily it could have resulted differently, but it didn’t. Winning that first match was exactly what I needed. It was all that I needed.

It was a good thing that was all that I needed, because my second match started 15 minutes later. I was shown mercy when I got those 15 minutes extended to 45 minutes. I went to the restroom and got a bite to eat, and then I was called to the court.

“Hey how’s it going, man?” I asked my new opponent, as we moved from our daily chairs to our tennis chairs. “Not bad, just excited to swing the racquet again,” he replied. “Aren’t you tired??” I asked. He was a little older than the last guy, and I couldn’t believe how much energy he had. “Not really, no. I haven’t gotten on the courts yet,” he replied. Oh great, I thought – he was the #1 seed in the B division and had a by the first game, while I played over four hours.

I got embarrassed. First set 0-6, second set 1-6. It was closer than it sounds, though! We deuced most games at one point, or another. I just couldn’t ever pull it off. I still kept my head up. I was just happy I won that first match, plus he had 15+ years experience on me.

This was when the social piece of the tennis scene began to show its colors. I had about the best night I’ve had all summer on that Friday night. Everyone got together behind the Holiday Inn Hotel for a big social. We ate some food catered in from a local Mexican restaurant and drank from a keg full of a local brewery’s IPA – I love IPAs.

I absolutely loved talking to all the players. I met a few paras that had found their way to the Paralympics, and not just for tennis – basketball and sled hockey, as well. I also got the down low on some other sports that sounded fun – like wheelchair softball. I was learning a ton. I had never been around so many active paras before. It was awesome! Hearing different stories was really interesting, too. I haven’t heard so many stories since RIC. I’ll never forget hearing one guy talking about his story. Maybe it was because he was one of the ex Para Olympians and I looked up to him, but probably because his thick Brooklyn accent made it sound so real. “Shot in the chest for a gold chain and 68 dollas cash,” he said. There definitely seemed to be more of a realness factor to his story. It’s just like, “Ohh shit man. That’s so messed up.” Then you turn your shoulder and hear another guy say he fell from a water tower 30 ft straight to the pavement, and you’re like, “Duude.” Then you remember your own story, and you realize you’re just surrounded by it. Each story was just as heart wrenching as the next, just as heart wrenching as my own. It really made me feel, well a lot of things – similar, which is not how I’m used to feeling around others – positive, which is impossible not to feel after hearing so many miracles – and alive, which is TRU because we all here right now going for it.

I was out of the singles tournament, but I still had yet to play my first doubles match. I woke up the next day feeling very sore. I played a good six hours the day before, which I’m still working on getting used to. There was a massage therapist on site that taped my left shoulder, which was the source of most of my pain. Taking an SUV to the shoulder at 50 mph is no joke. That stuff will have an effect. The tape did help more than expected, though. I definitely need to buy me some of that kinesiology tape.

I won’t go into much detail about the doubles match. It was a close one. My partner and I lost the first set, but won the second. Then we played a 10-point tiebreaker. We lost the tiebreaker 6-10, but eh whatever. It was a great match, and I played a great game so I wasn’t upset.

A lot of the tennis players and personnel went out to dinner Saturday night, which was a lot of fun again. I sat next to a girl from France, and really enjoyed talking to her. I absolutely love meeting and getting to know people from different parts of the world, cultures, ethnicities, etc. It was around this time when I decided I wanted to make tennis a higher priority. I wanted to keep meeting people from all over the world. I wanted to keep surrounding myself with people I can relate to. I wanted to keep feeling like I fit in.

As I said earlier, if I succeed, there are a number of years ahead of me before I find myself playing in the Open division, but getting a glimpse of what the Open division will look like has given me the ambition to make that “number of years” as less as possible. I’m gonna keep going to tournaments, taking lessons, exercising, whatever I gotta do. I’m excited again.

Tennis Strokes and Smokes, Folks

Last weekend I played my first tennis match. Matter a fact, I played four. There have gotta be some leagues out there somewhere, but the only opportunities I’ve heard of have been tournaments… which is fine. I’ll just play me some tournaments. This tournament last week was in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The next tournament I’m probably going to find myself at is in Grand Rapids, Michigan next month. This tournament put me in a great mood. I guess that means I really enjoyed myself. I had been hitting with my able-bodied coach at Schroeder Tennis Center since last October, Brian Dean. Although, I hadn’t yet played a match, and Brian is just an AB (people not in wheelchairs are literally commonly referred to as A.Bs), so I didn’t have many expectations. Now that I know what to expect, I’m pretty amped up about future tournaments.

The tournament went pretty well. I was meeting other paras, which is always very cool for me. I was learning a new side of sports, which was interesting. I was getting the familiar taste of my old competitive self, which was exciting. It wasn’t long before I was – painting the town? Thesaurus.com is telling me “paint the town” is a synonym for enjoy. Didn’t know that… definitely gonna start using it.

I won my first match. I won my second match. The third match was a doubles match and it was my third of the day. My partner and I lost the first set, and I forfeited the match. I straight quit: “Sorry patna.” I was playing like garbage and I didn’t care anymore. I was exhausted, sore, and my skin burned. Definitely packing sunscreen for Grand Rapids. My first two wins also already secured my spot in the singles final Sunday morning. Singles was what I cared most about anyway.

The final match started and I was a little nervous, no lie. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. I always do that. Just how I operate, I suppose. I was doing the darn thing in the first set, though. Each set is the first person to win six games and I won the first set 6-3. Then I chilled out a little too much. “You got this no problem man, even if he pulls something out his backside and takes set 2, you’ll just take set 3.” Set 2 was a battle royale. We traded each of the first eight games, but he took the last two winning 4-6. The sir then announced on the loud speaker, “Alright ladies and gentleman, we’re going to have ourselves a tie breaker!” Everybody in the large crowd stood up and clapped vigorously. I Definitely recall some whistling. “Sudden Death!!!” the sir finally continued announcing. The crowd gasped for 15 minutes, easy. Even the paras stood up from their chairs for this one. Finally, the sir – alright, I’ll quit messing around. We did only play a tie-breaker though to determine the winner. The first one to 10 points took the chip, the respect, and the bragging rights. I got nervous again, I thought I was going to have a whole set left – plenty of time and room for error to be able to win.

I’m reluctant to even write about the tie-breaker. It was embarrassing. He got the first 6 points on my candy ass. I ended up getting a handful, but he still punished me 4-10 and sent my caramel-apple-candy ass packing. I got runner up in my division, so ya know, not bad, but it almost makes it worse. It’s like getting a B+. I hate B+(s).

Nah well, I had a good time and I did okay, so I’ll call it a success – Couldn’t upload pics for some reason, but I got some pics on my FB and Instagram – I also had an awesome long weekend with my dude, Alex Marshall. We left for Chicago on Thursday, then to The Fort at 5:00 am Saturday morning. I needed the bro time. I’m riding this Chicago/Ft Wayne high for as long as I can. I can’t WAIT to make it back to The Fort. Indy is the place to be, man!

Sorry Hoosiers, just fooling. Ohio’s really not much different

…just way better.

On to Year Three

IMG_5309

A couple of days ago was the two year anniversary of the accident! My rebirth day! It might seem odd to some people that I get so excited about this day. I’m sure some of you are thinking — It’s the day half of his body was paralyzed, and he was permanently confined to a wheelchair. What the hell is he so happy about? — And yeah, things aren’t perfect. But whatever, I’m making it work, and most importantly, I’m still alive! Alive and well, at that! I have been into Roman Atwood’s Youtube channel lately. He posts videos of himself and his crew carrying out public pranks on the streets of Columbus. His “Gas Prank” video was the first one that I saw, and it had me laughing out loud. The other day, I saw that he uploaded another video. It was titled, “My producer got hit by a truck!” It sounded familiar, so I was sure to check it out. Well some of it. It was really long, so I skipped to the part where he meets his producer at the hospital. He had some road rash and a few broken ribs (also familiar). Then I heard him say that he was hit at 35 mph and thrown 20 feet. Roman made a face, and said, “35 miles per hour? 20 feet??” He immediately talked about how lucky he was to be alive. In the couple of minutes that I watched, I heard him say it about three more times… Okay I have a few things to say about this.

1. He is lucky to be alive! That’s a big hit being thrown 20 feet on the pavement. And if I can say that honestly about him, what does that mean there is to say about me? This example alone should give you a much better idea of why I get so pumped on these anniversaries.

2. The driver that hit me claimed, under oath, that he was traveling at 25 mph. I was thrown 176 feet. It was measured at the scene of the accident. So, that means… wait… According to my T.I. 83 calculator, supposedly, the guy who hit Roman’s producer was traveling at 1.4x the speed that I was hit. Yet, I was thrown 8.8x further… Yeah, something’s telling me that my lawyer and I got had. Big time.

3. I’m a military tank.

Roman’s video came at the perfect time. It was just a couple of days before my anny, and it reminded me of just how lucky I was/am. I think it helped me better enjoy my day on Monday. Since it wasn’t on the weekend this year, I didn’t throw any parties. The day was pretty laid back, but it was nice and filled with a lot of happiness. It was an emotional and heart wrenching day, and although I wasn’t able to cry this year, I got close a couple of times, which was good enough for me. Monday’s a busy day for everybody, so I didn’t have a whole lot of free time on my hands. My family and a couple of my close friends were able to go to my favorite restaurant, Sake (pictured above), which was a great time. And many thanks to everyone that reached out to me. You made that day more special for me.

I thought a lot about the impact that would have been made if things went differently. My family and close friends (less than 100) would have been torn up, that’s for sure. And some general friends/acquaintances (less than 500) also would have been torn up, but for a limited amount of time. There are over 7.1 billion people in the world. That means only about 0.000008% of the population would have been effected at all. With maybe a tiny bit more ever even hearing about it. I’m sure that would be a rough fact for anybody to swallow. But… things didn’t go differently. That WOULD have been the case, but I’m still here. There is still time for me to increase that percentage. Matter a fact, anybody that ever reads this still has time to increase THEIR percentage. On a bigger scale, everyone will have their own unique answer for achieving this goal, but on a smaller scale, the answer for everyone is virtually the same. And that is to gain respect from others. After all, unless people (disregarding family) have some kind of respect for you, they most likely don’t care about you. So as you keep your eyes and ears open for your bigger answer, start small by being caring to the people you interact with on a daily basis. Make sure you will be missed whenever your time comes.