This is the essay I submitted to the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2015 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it!
I carefully listened to the orthopedist explain the new limitations on my life. He gave me rule after rule of how to configure my activities to my injuries. I could not participate in sports or any physical activities. I was restricted from many of my favorite hobbies—horseback riding, gymnastics, softball, soccer, and even roller coasters! I had two herniated disks in my neck and three bulging disks in my back. At nine years old, my doctor told me I had the spine of a woman in her 60s. I didn’t understand why my spine was so deformed until a neurologist explained the cause of my spinal injuries as well as the mysterious jerking, twitching motions I couldn’t control. At nine years old I was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome.
That was the moment I began the transition from child to adult. I knew things would be harder for me than most other kids, but I was determined to live my life the way I wanted to. After almost a year of back braces and grueling physical therapy, I was cleared to resume the activities I loved. I still struggled with tics, but I worked hard to manage them and still participate in my sports teams and classes.
Even with all I had overcome, the ongoing restrictions from my Tourette’s Syndrome built a wall between me and my classmates. I was not the most popular girl in elementary or middle school. However, I learned something most kids do not learn: when everyone else is doing the same thing, don’t be afraid to be different. When other kids were chatting online, or shopping, or sleeping in on the weekends, I decided to volunteer at the local hospital, work as a lifeguard, take piano and dance lessons, and join the school play. Being myself and learning not to care so much about what other people thought made me more outgoing and social as I grew up. I learned to speak with ease and comfort in front of my peers.
In high school, things started to get more challenging. Although I had become more comfortable with myself as a person, school became more difficult. Tourette’s Syndrome can be accompanied by ADHD, and I noticed in high school that it took me twice as long as the rest of the class to complete my assignments. For a short time, I cared less and less about my grades because it was harder and harder for me to succeed as I used to.
Then one day when I was working as a lifeguard, I was struck by the happy, successful
families I saw around me. It hit me. People don’t become successful unless they work hard and earn an education. I remembered how hard I had worked at 9 years old to achieve my goals and become independent, and I knew would have to do the same thing again. I realized that things do not just get handed to you—you have to earn them. Just because things were harder for me didn’t make them any less important to achieve. I dedicated myself to excelling in school and I brought my grades up through perseverance and work ethic. I understood that to live the life I wanted in the future, I needed to work more and save money. The only way to get a job that can provide the lifestyle I want is through education. Now, I know I want to study Business and Spanish, in order to be a resource to foreign business owners who want to expand their operations but face a language barrier. Just as I have overcome challenges with the help of doctors and family, I want to help other people face their own obstacles.
I have seen how wonderful success can be. I understand that things do not come with ease into my life. However, I take every opportunity I can to better myself and my education. I enjoy working, volunteering, and participating in activities because those accomplishments exercise my brain and help me develop useful life skills. I am motivated and excited about going to college this upcoming fall because I am eager to see what new challenges await me, and I know the experience will positively change my life forever.