Ethan was a winner of a 2021 NJCTS Scholarship Award.
This was the essay he included with his application.
Most people perceive me as an average seventeen-year-old. They would describe me as a friendly, hand-working, and goal-oriented boy from my involvement in sports, clubs, and socializing with friends. What they do not see is the boy who has lived with Tourette Syndrome since he was four years old.
“Ethan, stop sticking your tongue out.” “Ethan, stop jerking your head like that.” These are two of the many common phrases that I have heard since I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at age four. I remember the day I was diagnosed, especially when I was told I was going to have tics for the rest of my life. As such a young boy, I did not fully understand what Tourette Syndrome was, and I remember thinking, Oh no! I don’t want to have to live with little blood-sucking creatures on me forever! Thankfully, the doctor was talking about vocal and motor tics, not tiny bugs haunting me my whole life. When I asked my mom about Tourette’s, she told me that I would have them forever and that it would be like a never-ending roller coaster; I would endure ups and downs, for the rest of my life.
Imagine having an itch that never goes away. An itch that always needs to be scratched. This describes every moment of my life with Tourette Syndrome. Growing up with vocal and motor tics was definitely a challenge. There were times when I could control them and times when I could not. At an early age, I learned how to suppress my tics while in school and out in public. Many of my teachers and friends did not even realize I had TS. My mom always asked how I suppressed them; the answer was always the same, “I don’t know.” She always said this restraint I exhibited was attributed to my strong character and self-discipline. Thankfully, I have developed ways to cope with my tics over the years. Exercise and sports help to release some of the energy that causes the tics. When I feel like my tics are going to overwhelm me, I go to the gym or out for a run. I feel that I certainly have developed strong self-discipline by learning to transfer the energy from my tics into the sports I participate in. Most of the time, these coping methods are successful in helping to minimize my tics. In addition to exercise, I am able to release the tics in a comfortable, safe environment, like home. I feel fortunate that my diagnosis of Tourettes is mild compared to others.
Having Tourette’s has made me want to bring happiness to others. Volunteering my time is a big aspect of my life that I am never going to give up. I am heavily involved with the community, volunteering at my local lake to events throughout the town. I have also been coaching soccer teams for the past few years of my life. Having played soccer for most of my life, helping develop and seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces is one of the most pleasant sights I could see. Not only am I helping them, but I am also proving to myself that Tourette’s isn’t something that should hold me back. It should make me put myself out there and show everyone that I am just like them. Volunteering my time and interacting with all of these people has helped build up my social confidence that will take me far in life.
In August of 2018, I was selected to attend the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome Tim Howard Leadership Academy. I was excited to meet and have conversations with peers who also had Tourette Syndrome. This camp taught me that having Tourette’s was not something that I should feel embarrassed about, but something to be proud of instead. One quote that made an impact on me is “I have Tourette’s, but Tourette’s doesn’t have me.” This really made me reflect on how I should live my life. I know I will not allow tics to stop me from being involved in school activities, hanging out with friends, or advancing academically.
I am proud to have close friends who accept me for who I am. I am also proud to be a part of three varsity teams- Cross Country, Indoor Track, and Spring Track. Not only am I a member of these teams, but I am also the captain and key runner for all of them. I have even won many awards from cross country and track. My proudest achievement is being recognized as one of the top runners in North Jersey. These everyday moments of my life prove to me that I am no different that any other teenager my age. I have learned to accept my “gift” because it has shaped me into the individual I am today.