As a 19-year survivor of severe traumatic brain injury, I know people would not be mad at me if I decided to just focus on myself. Although it has almost been 20 years since my accident, I feel like everything happened only a few years ago. I still have a hole in my stomach from my G-Tube, a healed hole on my neck from a tracheotomy, left sided weakness, and days when I can’t move how I want! Sometimes I think that I don’t move as well because I am approaching 50! But I don’t feel close to being 50 nor do I look it, in my opinion. I always hear the best questions from caring people who have no clue what brain injury is. I’d receive random questions asking how long I had to go through rehab and how much pain did I have to endure. First, I am still going through physical therapy today, to do ‘fine tuning’. Second, I am fortunate to say that I am not going through the same pain as I immediately experienced post-injury. However, I believe the best tool I had while rehabbing was an awesome support system! My support came from family, fraternity brothers, close friends, neighbors, weekend friends, and classmates from my school days! That may sound like a lot, but I can say I had a bunch of people who cared enough to come check on me when they heard what happened.
When you have that type of support system it is most important that you do your best to return the love and support given during your time of need. I never thought that I’d go through what I went through back in 2003, but I know I would not have made it if it weren’t for the support I had. I will never forget that! I will also never forget the many therapists that put in the work to motivate and work me through my therapies. With that being said, I will admit the last 60 days, my wife and I have done more traveling than we have done in the past two years. This was my opportunity to give others the support I received from so many! Our first trip, we went to visit my nephew Jelani’s graduation from the prestigious Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA! I was a pretty proud uncle, as my nephew persevered all of the challenges a young man might experience in his ‘defining years’ of manhood. My sister, rest in peace, was definitely celebrating the goal she put on his heart. We had to be in person to watch him show his grandmother, father, uncle, and auntie he would not be denied this opportunity!!
Our next trip included going to Minnesota to meet up with my Fraternity Brother CJ’s family to watch his youngest daughter and my Goddaughter, graduate from High School. Even though we just saw this Goddaughter during her senior spring break trip to Tampa, it is always good seeing her and to reminisce on the growth she has made. We were also happy to hear that she selected a college that is in the same area as her older sister! This should remove some of her anxiety but might add some on her big sister!! The following weekend, we flew into Chicago to visit my mother before going up to my alma mater, Carthage College for their Alumni College weekend. At our alumni college weekend, the school asked for all alumni authors to bring books to school to be purchased and signed for other Carthage Alumni and staff. After the event on Saturday, we had the opportunity to spend time with my wife’s side of the family.
After returning home, we had the opportunity to see my second Goddaughter and her family while they were visiting the Tampa Bay area. After spending a couple of weekends in Florida, we flew to Las Vegas so I could compete in the USBC National Bowling Tournament. On Wednesday I participated in the team event followed by singles and doubles on Thursday. Unfortunately, I was never able to be comfortable with the oil pattern of the sport shot, so I was not as successful as I was last year. It was still a nice time to get away from home and see family and friends in Las Vegas. I did not come in with a game plan, so I learned my lesson for next year’s event, which will be in Reno, NV.
When I returned to Florida, my ‘other’ mother and niece came to visit so we could give Chloe, her first Disney experience. I think I was either her age or maybe younger when I had my first Disney experience with my grandparents. Anyway, our experience was nice, as we purchased a three-park hopper ticket to visit Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. If you have the time and resources, I recommend purchasing a multi-park hopper when you can stay on Disney property. We also went to Sea World on Monday, but when rain is in the forecast, half of your day can be occupied avoiding it. Despite the rain-out on Monday, we had a good time, but it made me realize that I need to make a better effort to come visit these parks, since I am a Florida resident and I receive a discount.
You know what I realized? When your focus is making other people happy and supporting them, I did not feel as worried, frustrated, or inpatient. While I had to deal with airline delays, miscommunications, and bad bowling, I was still happy to come support family and friends! I’m sometimes too hard on myself! I am very goal oriented, and if things get in the way of me achieving a goal, it can be frustrating. However, when the focus becomes more about making others feel comfortable rather than yourself, life is easier to navigate. I understand that I will not be able to do what I used to do with the same comfort as I did previously. But when I get the focus off of me and begin focusing on others, I feel a lot better! This was not an overnight realization, but one that took several failed attempts and a lot of humility. I believe if I can do it, other people can do it too!
Keep pushing survivors!