Bennett is a graduate of West Morris Mendham High School and a 2018 NJCTS Scholarship finalist.
When people hear about Tourette Syndrome, I think they fixate on how limiting and inconvenient it can be. It certainly can be. Over the years I have had many different tics come and go, with some lasting years and others mere weeks. When I played soccer, you could often find me in goal turning in full circles, as I had to trace imaginary lines with my eyes, making it difficult to stay focused on what was going on in front of me. Later, various verbal compulsions made speaking more difficult, especially when answering questions at school, and I couldn’t get my sentences started, or sometimes I would have to halt midway through. And more recently (still affecting me today) I endure a kind of prolonged blink, where my eyes are closed for a period of time — certainly not ideal for things like running cross country.
But while my tics have presented challenges, I have chosen to focus on all of the positives that have come from having them.
From my earliest races as a kid, running for Team TSA at Disney, to this past season, winning the cross country state title with my team and setting school and county records, I have certainly earned plenty of hardware to represent the tangible side of success. But far more importantly, from the intangibles perspective, I have (particularly this past cross country season as a captain) developed self-esteem, which has translated into strong and empathetic leadership.
When I was younger, the growth I experienced from dealing with Tourette Syndrome was more in being comfortable with it, showing tics, and not worrying about if other people noticed or what they thought. It was about realizing it is just a part of who I am, and that that is not definitively good or bad. As I grew up, though, I understood how I could apply this to every aspect of my life. I took this comfort and turned it into confidence, giving me conviction in my values, my ideas, and my actions. It is because of my learning, because of Tourette Syndrome, that I am the way I am today — respectful and appreciative of other’s opinions, but aware that ultimately I decide how I feel and who I am, and no one else can turn me from my belief in my abilities and my future.