In fifth grade, it was hard for me to grasp why some people could play handball, run, and join the flag football team, but I couldn’t. I gave more weight than I should have to the things that I could not do. Looking back, I’m not surprised I thought that way.
All my friends were doing these things, so why couldn’t I? Of course, I went against my mom’s orders and tried to participate, but it made things worse. I knew I wasn’t ever going to do things the same way my friends could, but I tried all the more — and failed.
It took a few changes in my environment to flip that idea on its head, and my perspective is a lot different now than it was in fifth grade. As I got older, physical activity became less important and was replaced by academics, friendships, passions, and faith.
There was no recess in middle school or high school, and certainly not in college, though some might wish there were. The change of pace in school allowed me to take a step back and see what I was good at apart from physical activity. Sure, I wish I could play sports and express myself that way, but that’s not what God has intended for me.
I have always been interested in photography, and I love the idea of showing people my world through my lens. On top of that, I realized I was a good writer, but not so good at math and science. My natural inclinations for photography and writing steered me to my high school newspaper, which led to a journalism degree at the University of Southern California. Now, I can make an impact on the world through my storytelling skills.
Once I understood that my God-given gifts weren’t linked to physical prowess, I saw what I could do rather than what I couldn’t. It didn’t occur to me immediately, but with strong support from my parents, I have been able to develop the perspective I have today.
The same idea applied to my high school football team. Obviously, I wasn’t going to play tackle football, but my dad encouraged me to think about different ways I could help the team without being on the field.
I met with the coach before freshman year began, and we determined that I could assist with taking statistics at games and filming practices. Another contribution that grew out of that one was “Hawken’s Motivational Corner.” At the end of some practices and games, I would read an inspirational quote by one of history’s greatest movers and shakers.
Would I have been able to impact my team in the same way if I didn’t have Duchenne? Probably not. I did it using my unique gifts, without having to don pads on Friday nights.
I know that those of us who have Duchenne can’t do a lot. It’s hard — trust me, I know. Every day is a grind. I’ve shed my fair share of tears because I felt like I was so much less than everyone around me and there was nothing I could do to change it.
We are more capable than we know. Take time to find your own abilities and develop them. It’s no use dwelling on the things you can’t do.
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