Fuel Your Special. Joy & Purpose Your Personal Unique “Normal” Frame of Mind.

One of the most painful and frustrating things about being ill is not always the illness itself but the anguish of “missing out” on life.  But what are we actually missing out on?  After my recent medical improvements, I’ve had the chance to experience some things in life I’ve always wanted, or thought I wanted, because that’s how everyone else lived their lives and the lives I saw on TV.  If it’s on TV, it must be the right way to live, right?

While I’ve had many amazing experiences, the “normal” lifestyle hasn’t lived up to hype I’ve fantasized about all my life.  More importantly, it wasn’t worth all the pain and disappointment of not doing what everyone else was doing.  Even when I was involved in school or band, I did things differently as workarounds or illness exemptions and so saw my differences as a bad thing.

But I was comparing myself to other people’s definition of normal.  And just because more people, or at least we hear and see it more because it’s the life of those more vocal about it, we only see how we’re not living that way.  Oh, how much pain throughout human history has that caused people of all ages and health conditions and economic statuses to be subject to the illusion that they were lacking.

How wrong I was.

I’m writing these experiences to help those who are different as well as the family and friends around us.  It’s hardest when those closest to us desperately want us to be normal. It’s hardest when our joys and disappointments hang not so much on our own understanding but the happiness and sadness on our family’s faces of how we do according to their goals for us.

There’s a million “normal” things I can’t do or experience and I was frustrating until I stopped fighting it and say, how does my unique experiences help me think and do stuff no one else would? There were times I could barely see and walk and it actually made me more efficient because of the workarounds I figured out, and I got more in tune with my thoughts instead of distracted by visual noise. I have an amazing photographer friend who’s nearly deaf, but he’s so in tune with people’s body language he anticipates the perfect moment.  Another friend with childhood cancer, shriveled up like he’s a 5 yr old puppet even though he’s 22 now, sought humor in his dire circumstances.  He got so good at it he’s now a comedian in a wheelchair.

Only now at 32 yrs old have I really appreciated all the unique experiences and thoughts my illness has given me. It’s truly a gift.  The cost of that gift may, depending on your values, seem expensive, probably too expensive for what was earned in return.  But this illness and I are one.  The cost of this journey is inescapable, the only question is what was the fruit of that journey.  Funny enough, the celebrities that everyone looks up to and use to define “normal” are actually some of the weirdest, most unique individuals.  Some have weird personalities which makes them stand out, and almost all have insane work ethics rare in society.

By “normal” worldly standards, I may have been shortchanged, and for much of my life I thought so and strove to be a fictitious version of normal I’ve found out doesn’t exist.  No one is exactly normal.

The more abnormal one is, such as I, the more unique perspectives we can provide the world.  I may not be smarter, stronger, or faster than anyone.  There are many things I do that, if I didn’t do them, the world wouldn’t miss me as someone else would step in and do it just as well or better.  That’s the fear for so many people.

But we would be missed, if we showed our unique ideas and techniques no one else can even imagine.  The world has enough blacks and whites, but its’ incomplete without our shades of reds, blues, yellows, cyans, magentas, and greens.  And that’s the truth.  My thought process, my creativity, is all born from how my illness makes me different.  I have shortcuts of thinking that makes me seem smarter, or work faster, but only because I my illness forced me to do things differently and faster.  I tire so easily and never know when I would be well enough to work again, so I must seize the moment and work as fast as I can.

In that aspect, I’ve also learned to take every opportunity for I don’t know when I would even be awake during the day to have lunch with a friend or say sorry to someone.  An indirect consequence of that is the amazing friendships I’ve built because my immediacy makes friends feel appreciated and relationships feel genuine.

I’ve now found peace within myself that I’m who I’m supposed to be.  I dig deeper into my differences and that fills unique gaps in humanity only I can fill.  The opportunities have come easier than when I fought my own existence.  For example, in 2015 I’m signed on as a speaker with The Brightest Star organization  that helps build dreams and self-esteem in abused and abandoned children and adults.  I’ll also shoot some photos for Vogue Italia as well as video projects I can’t discuss yet, and take our Stock Sessions investing 101 workshops to university campuses.

There are so much we can learn from each other if we embraced the differences.  If, instead of saying “oh this is how it’s done, you’re missing out”, have the curiosity and the humility to ask, “why do you do it that way?”

It is not in the similarities that we help each other grow but incorporating the differences, completing the color spectrum rainbow or filling in the periodic table.


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