A tiny glimpse as to how two little girls have changed my life
I'm always happy to connect with anyone in the community!
Alex and Penny, 7 yo twins with Cerebral Palsy, are now a huge part of my world, my motivation and my inspiration. These girls have changed my life. They have given me a constant reminder of exactly why I am in the position that I am in. I am their role model...and that is not something I take lightly.
That is something that I hold at a very high standard. I want to be everything I can for them. I want them to be able to gain strength in me the way that I do in them.
I don't want them to ever struggle in the ways that I have.
I want to make the world a better, more inclusive and loving place for them.
I want them to have opportunities and to be seen for more than their disability.
I want them to have opportunities and to never second guess their ability to be a part of life and to do the things they want to do. I love these girls more than anything.
They came into my life when I needed them the most and I will never take that for granted.
But besides how cute, and amazing and special in every single way that these little girls are...the reason I wanted to write this blog was to try my best to explain one of the many, many ways in which Alex and Penny have helped me on my journey to self-discovery.
Recently, I have signed up to attend The Rollette's Wheelchair Dance Experience, a three day wheelchair dance camp in LA.
And let me tell you...dancing has never been my forte!
But what is my forte... is pushing the limits of the societal constraints and negative self-perceptions that I face on a daily basis being a person with a disability.
And throughout these past two years I have watched little Alex dancing around, expressing herself in such a carefree way, and yet on such a deeper level at the same time.
I would watch her dance and I would think about so many things...about myself, about life, about people, about society as a whole.
We all know there is a certain stigma often attached to people with disabilities.
But that stigma is only able to attach itself if we let it.
And as I watched Alex dance...I had to face the hard truth that I was still allowing that stigma to surround me and affect the ways in which I viewed myself and others.
I had been encouraging Alex to try all of these things that I knew about such as adaptive sports...but on her own, Alex showed me that there is so much more that we can and should do to express ourselves and change the negative stereotypes that surround us.
There is something more to dancing in a wheelchair than just dance.
I used to feel like dancing was something that, when able-bodied people did it...looks sexy, exciting, fun, free...
it looked all of the ways in which I felt I could never be as a girl in a wheelchair.
I used to be able-bodied. I know how I viewed people with disabilities...I felt bad for them.
Because growing up, I only ever really knew one or two people in wheelchairs. I was always an athlete and I never saw anyone with a disability play a sport. And I saw very few, if any, opportunities provided to them.
I used to think I never made the judgment that people with disabilities can't do anything simply because they have a disability...but at the same time...I really didn't know.
And it wasn't until I left that able-bodied world and began my new journey as a person with a disability that I began to understand just how biased I been.
I began to realize a lot about people, about life, and about negative perceptions.
I realized that I suddenly thought less of myself simply because I have a disability.
And I have spent the last ten years of my life working to overcome those negative perceptions about myself.
Signing up for this dance camp is a way for me to face the stigma that that still surrounds me. It is about facing my fears, my insecurities, and doing something that frees my mind and the minds of others from all preconceived judgments.
As for Alex and Penny, I have been the role model of an athlete for them. I have shown them something I never saw when I was growing up, sports for people with disabilities. I have been able to be a strong female leader that they can watch play in the midst of what can, at times, look like a male dominated sport.
I have been able to show them that hard work pays off and that if you put your mind to something you can go far.
But Alex and Penny have shown me so much more than I could ever show them.
Because Alex and Penny's minds are already free of those judgments that I have had to work so hard to overcome.
These girls truly believe in me and I would never want to let them down.
When I first got injured...I learned the importance of having role models to look up to. I spent the first year in the dark feeling so alone before I found my first role model on youtube (Alana Nichols) and finding her completely changed my life. She showed me what pushing the limits can really look like. She showed me that life goes on and that the possibilities of what you can do are endless.
And just as Alana did for me, I want to do that for others.
And if I have limiting perceptions about myself...so will those who look up to me.
Two weeks ago, Alex participated in her first dance recital <3 <3 <3
There is no doubt in Alex's mind as to whether or not she can do something...she just does it...and her amazing family wholeheartedly supports her every step of the way <3
Alex has none of those preconceived ideas that she is somehow less than anyone else around her just because she has a disability.
Alex and Penny, and so many other little kids, are living proof that these barriers we feel surround us are barriers that we create ourselves and choose to accept throughout life.
And because they are barriers created by man...they are barriers we can take down. And they are barriers that we can work to prevent others from building <3
I will always try my hardest to be a better, stronger, more accepting and open-minded me. But the beauty of these girls is that they love me unconditionally.
And I am pretty sure that, no matter what, Penny will always be my basketball buddy ;)
...even if Alex leaves us for dance :P
Another beautiful realization I have had lately is just how valuable all of our individual journeys are in this world.
Chelsie Hill, the founder of The Rollettes Wheelchair Dance Team, was a dancer before she was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident at the age of 17. Chelsie made the decision to not let the wheelchair stop her from doing what she loved...and because of her, thousands of girls all over the world are watching and realizing what they are truly capable of, myself included <3
I got to meet Chelsie Hill a few weeks ago when I was helping out at the Angel City Games Adaptive Sports event in LA and, after getting to know her a bit, I whole heartedly believe she is truly the perfect girl for the role she has taken on. She was put in this position for a reason, as we all are.
Thank you Chelsie for being a pioneer in this world.
Life is a journey, and self-expression, as well as opportunities for that self-expression are incredibly important components of that journey. So thank you for providing this opportunity and for lighting the way for so thousands of girls all over the world, myself included <3
I was also able to get Chelsie to send a little congratulations video message to Alex, whose recital was that same weekend. <3
I signed up.
Because, although I have come a long way in my own self-discovery...
Those negative thoughts still appear in my mind.
The thoughts where I wonder what other people are thinking about me. Where I wonder if they truly see me for who I am...Or if they only see the wheelchair.
I signed up for the times I want to cry, or hide, or not be me anymore.
I signed-up because I will never stop doing everything that I can to let go of those pre-conceived ideas about what a person with a disability can and cannot do.
I signed-up because Wheelchair dance is a movement that I 100% believe in.
And above all...I signed-up because Alex showed me something about myself that I realize I need to face <3
I can't imagine my life without these girls in it. <3