This is the essay I submitted to the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2014 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it!
For most children, strep throat implies symptoms of a fever and difficulty swallowing. However for me, the strep virus attacks the neurological system, resulting in Tourette Syndrome. In general, symptoms are inconsistent and not easily recognizable because each patient has his/her own tic profile. My first symptom was an intensely competitive mindset. I was unable to tolerate losing. But, as time went on, my attitude evolved from being focused on winning, to winning when I perform at my best.
This winning attitude is best explained through my experiences as an ice hockey goalie. In hockey, you may think that tics would interfere, especially as a goalie. Surprisingly, I have learned that when I channel my focus on the game, my ticcing is inconsequential. Although I tic on the ice by opening and closing my glove repeatedly, I do not let it affect my game; proper mentality can conquer anything, even a twitch. This was one of many lessons learned on the ice that made me who I am off the ice.
Growing up with a Tourette’s tic that drove me to peak performance helped me learn that hard work creates success. Even when I was not on the ice with my varsity team, I benefitted from my positive mind-set. I used other practices with my club teams, private lessons, and skillenhancement exercises at home to keep my game at its best. During my junior year in high school, I was still competing for playing time on the ice hockey team.
The bottom line is this: whoever is best will be the starter for the next season. In hockey, a single moment can change everything. It can change the possession of the puck, the score of a game, and even a season for a player. My season changing moment was during a game against Montgomery High School.
Coming on to the ice against a fired-up team did not faze me; it fueled me. I knew I needed to prove to my coach that I was the best and I would do whatever it took. With a close game nearing the final buzzer, one of the Montgomery top scorers broke away from the pack. As he raced toward me, I came out of the net to cut-off his angle. He fired a shot so fast I could barely see it. I knew this moment would influence my senior year season.
I caught the puck in my glove while sliding into a split. After my save, my team scored another goal to secure the lead at 2-0. After the game my coach hugged me. At that moment, he knew I was a winning goalie and I knew I would be his goalie for the next season. More importantly, I learned that anything can be accomplished with hard work and a winning attitude. I have never felt sorry for myself for having Tourette’s, and at that moment, I became grateful for having this be apart of me.
My Tourette’s tics taught me lessons that shaped who I am today. I learned that I can do anything I set my mind to. As I was absorbing these lessons and incorporating them into my hockey and life as a whole, I was inspired to document this quote and hang it over my desk: “Never giving up is not repetitive failure; it’s a strategy.”
For some, Tourette’s is an annoying neurological disorder to be managed. For me, it has taught me what is possible. I am even more appreciative of my brain and what it has to offer.