Erin was a winner of a 2021 NJCTS Scholarship Award.
This was the essay she included with her application.
“Breathe, Erin… you’re in control.” These words echo in my mind all the time. It has always been my mother’s way of reminding me that I still have control over my life. If you told me 12 years ago, they would diagnose me with Tourette’s Syndrome; I would say you were completely crazy. Tourette’s syndrome is something that I have been living with for 12 years. A doctor diagnosed me with Tourette’s Syndrome in kindergarten when I was 5, and it was a day that changed my life forever. When I was younger and living with it for the first couple of years, Tourette’s was something that I liked because it made me feel unique, and I thought it set me apart from everybody else. I loved explaining it to people- of course, only when they asked or were curious- what Tourette’s was, how it affected me, and other relevant questions. Throughout the years, however, this started to dwindle. As I became a teenager, I became less willing to talk about it and hid it more often. Every teenager goes through puberty and maybe an “awkward phase,” but for me, Tourette’s only made my teenage years worse. When you go through puberty, you usually start to become insecure because you begin to worry about what everyone thinks of you. I became self-conscious, had low self-esteem, and questioned my ability to do well, and it was ten worse than the average, awkward teenager. I became highly anxious and closed off as a person. Even though my mom had reassured me several times that there was nothing wrong with me, she, as she has said many times to me, could sense my nervousness. Because of this, my mom went through a period of researching different techniques for me to relax of make my “tics” less visible, such as listening to classical music, drinking chamomile tea, and limiting my screen time on electronics. As you could imagine, this took a toll on my relationship with myself. One incident stuck with me and made having Tourette’s horrible for me. I was at a diner with my mother and sister, and I guess I was particularly jumpy that day. We had just ordered our food when the woman sitting in the booth behind my mother turned around and asked my mother to “quiet your child down because she is a little loud and distracting.” My love for my Tourette’s slowly turned into hate, becoming one of my first lowest points in my life. I had slowly start to look at my life from a different perspective and stare the hard truth in the face. Yes, I have Tourette’s, but like my mom always said, “I am meant to be your mother because I have always raised you not to be a victim of your circumstances.” I had to learn that who I am is who I am, regardless of my “disability.” I put quotes around the word disability because I do not consider myself disabled in any way. I can accomplish anything that any other person can and maybe even more. I choose my destiny and my path in life, and whenever I need a reminder of that, I remember the last line from the poem, “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”