This is the essay I submitted to the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2013 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it! And here is my profile on the NJCTS website.
Since the 2nd grade, I have been diagnosed with — among other things — Tourette Syndrome. I’m one of the lucky ones, if you can say that. I don’t blurt out obscenities, and I don’t convulse violently. I have minor things. So what if I whistle from time to time, grimace, jerk my neck, chirp, blink or stick out my tongue? I live with these tics all of the time.
Do I get jeered from time to time? Yes. Do I get odd looks when I walk into a room filled with new people? Occasionally. I don’t like to think of myself as a kid who has been smitten by an illness, but someone who — like everyone else — has his own definition of normal.
Back when I was diagnosed with TS, I was in the 2nd grade and I could not stop whistling in class. I got in trouble multiple times, and my parents were called in. A doctor then diagnosed me with TS.
I have to be honest here: I was bullied in elementary school because I was different, and it wasn’t until around the 7th grade that I became confident with who I was and began to take everything in stride.
Having TS did not stop me from pursuing my ambitious goals as a kid. In spite of my condition, I played in a recreational soccer league, rode a bike, snowboarded, fenced and even became a black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do.
Junior high school was where I began to settle and build TS into my identity. I have always been an extreme extrovert to a fault, so if people made jokes about my TS, I would just dismiss them or laugh with them. Honestly, how can you even think about laughing at anyone else if you can’t laugh at yourself?
My close friends no longer notice my tics, and neither do I. Over time, my tics have calmed down, and I have managed to put them under some control. But some, such as a blink, I cannot hold back for long.
On the topic of fencing, I have been fencing for around five years now and have the honor to be representing Team USA at the 19th Maccabiah Games this summer in Israel. I succeeded in securing one of only three available spots on the team.
The Maccabiah Games, for those who do not know, roughly equates to the Jewish Olympics. I fence sabre competitively, and my tics have never seemed to throw me off. I train three days a week, meaning I have to balance school, training, youth group and jobs.
To be frank, I am just like every other kid in my high school — different. I have friends with a plethora of different conditions, but I always keep an open mind. You might find this weird, but the best computer programmer out of my group of friends is legally blind. Another of my friends has Asperger’s Syndrome, and we have technical discussions on a monthly basis.
Throughout my life, I have never let Tourette Syndrome define who I was. I am a professional snowboard instructor, an internationally competitive sabre fencer, an AP student and a poet. I am not a scared little boy hiding behind a mask. I am a loud and proud individual. I wear my heart on my sleeve and my mind on my lips. I never blend into the crowd — I stand out.
This is who I am — not a child scared of the world, but a strong individual who brashly takes on the world one step at a time.