Throughout college, I also had several part-time jobs. When I began tutoring at-risk children in a local elementary school, something clicked. It felt like I was coaching again. I felt joy in working with the students. It was then that I realized that coaching and tutoring both require similar abilities, such as teaching, being an encourager and having patience. Sometimes it is the gifts we have – not the title we wear – that is important in discovering who we are.
Slowly, I became more comfortable with the Jenny who had a spinal cord injury. I became involved in sports again, including rowing. I’ll never be a Paralympic-level athlete, but my competitive, driven nature and the feeling of accomplishment after reaching a goal in relation to physical performance had an outlet once again. And it felt really good.
This year will mark 12 years of rowing. The weird part is, I was a gymnast just one year longer than I have been rowing. Being a gymnast gave me the traits of who I am today: a hard worker, driven, willing to put in long hours, willing to push through pain. (And I’m a recovering perfectionist. Not all traits are good.)
But the interesting part is how I worded this: I was a gymnast versus I have been rowing. My identity is not as a rower. I have learned that if I define myself by what I do, or who I am, in relation to an activity, job or another human being, it can be stripped away. For identities are only temporary.
So, who am I?
I am Jenny. I am a chair user (and proud of it!). But my chair does not define who I am or what I am capable of doing. In fact, it probably makes me more willing to defy others’ expectations. I am here on earth to be used by God in whatever capacity He sees fit.
Right now I’m using my abilities to encourage, serve and listen to others. It is not glamorous and does not warrant a lot of attention. My job is what I do, but flows from who I am, just as rowing is an activity I enjoy and is an outlet for the skills I learned in early childhood.
Finding my identity took a long time. For those of us with disabilities, we have the opportunity to better understand that who we are is not necessarily equivalent to what we do.
Take the time to discover who you are.
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/0116/0137