This is the essay I submitted to the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome for their 2012 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it! And here is my profile on the NJCTS website.
I stand squarely facing the judge. Giving way to the relief of a final eye blinking, I reach for my water bottle, hoping this last gulp will sufficiently keep my throat from becoming parched. Painstakingly aware of every part of my body, a sensation overwhelms me, as if I were willing myself to stifle a sneeze.
“Resolved: Private sector investment in human space exploration is preferable to public sector investment. We, the con side, urge you to negate this resolution for the following reasons … ”
As I read my case, my opponents take note of everything I say in their attempt to formulate the perfect rebuttal to my contentions. The debate judge listens carefully as he observes my eye contact, voice quality, general appearance and posture. What this judge does not know is that I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at age 11. Resisting the advice to “level the playing field” and explain my disorder, I chose instead to work harder and, for better or worse, let the chips fall where they may.
Ever since the beginning of high school, I made a promise to myself that I would not let my tic disorder get the best of me, and I would partake in as many activities as possible to help me get past whatever obstacles was in my way. Although this sometimes places unnecessary stress on my body, I feel that by embracing my disorder, I have been able to mitigate the effects of my Tourette; instead of treating my disorder like some sort of metastasizing disease, I realized that I would have to live with my Tourette and get the better of it before it got the best of me.
I once spent 80 percent of my time listening to teachers, 10 percent thinking about who was playing the Giants that week and 10 percent thinking “Oh my God, the girl sitting next to me is wearing the shortest dress I’ve ever see.” Struggling to focus, it’s now more like 50 percent teachers, 30 percent controlling my Tourette, 10 percent the Giants game, and the girl in the dress … still 10 percent. OK … having Tourette does not change the fact that I am still a normal teenage boy.
In ninth grade, I joined the debate team, which presented an entirely new set of goals. The thought of voluntarily joining a club where you are penalized for the very issues I possess seemed like the ultimate personal challenge. Having TS has certainly made me different than most, but in the end, the same; but by embracing my disorder, I have been able to own it and move forward.
While seeking and appreciating the need to assist others, last year I contacted the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome. I joined NJCTS and spearheaded a newly developed blog (this one!) written for and by teens with Tourette Syndrome. The committee has provided me with this opportunity due to my previous experience with blogging.
During my junior year, I applied for an internship at an online blog website, Radical Parenting, which features parenting advice from the teenage perspective. Realizing the importance of the written word after reading the responses from parents on my work, I saw that this communication platform is critically necessary to provide an open forum of communication for teens with TS. My message is strong and clear: “It’s going to be alright.”
I also have participated on my school’s varsity tennis team for four years as well and have been fairly successful as a player and mentor to younger players. This experience has shown me that as a teen with TS, I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to.
My experience on the debate team has not only improved my public speaking skills, but has taught me a much more valuable life lesson. This ongoing challenge that I face constantly tests my problem-solving skills. I have found that when an obstacle is in my way, no matter how tough it might be, there is always an opportunity to see things differently — accept this as part of and make it my own. By understanding my issues, I know that this is what makes me unique, as I gain an irreplaceable feeling of accomplishment and self-esteem that takes the place of uncertainty, fear and doubt.