Focus on What You Can Do Rather Than What You Can’t

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by Hawken Miller |

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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.

My first day of seventh grade. (Courtesy of Paul Miller)

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.

Gathering b-roll for a story on deportees in Tijuana, Mexico, during spring break in 2018. (Courtesy of Zeke Hanson)

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.

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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.

Waiting to participate in the coin toss as an honorary team captain. (Courtesy of Paul Miller)

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.


Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.


Damian Culhane avatar

Damian Culhane

Great positive article...

I’m a father of a 20y son with DMD and a professional trainer and personal development coach.

I offer complimentary coaching and a specific training programme for any adult or family living with DMD.

I’d be delighted to share more details with you.

Madhuri Chatterjee avatar

Madhuri Chatterjee

so well written.
I can empathise as my 19 year old son is also blessed to have qualities like an avid reader and being compassionate to all


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