Written by Amanda Young, adult with Spina Bifida
“Dear Younger Me,
Catchy song title, right?
First off, I’m not giving away the plot of this wild thing of your life. So don’t ask.
I do have a few things to offer up. Your life is full of promise, potential, challenge, joy and ridiculously fantastic experiences. That’s all you get.
Can I let you in on some life secrets? If you’ll listen? You’re stubborn like that. Go your own way kind of woman. Stay that way.
What I have is really simple.
First and foremost. Stay kind. But take no crap. Be strong, but compassionate. With yourself and with others. Do not let the world, your disability or the challenges you’ll face make you bitter. Life’s way too short and bitterness gives you wrinkles in all the wrong places.
Secondly. Be a problem solver. Do not shrink from problems or challenges or failings. Let them teach you and be a part of building your better tomorrow. You have a choice, your world can stay small and walled in, or you can grow into this great, big beautiful world. And when you do, make sure to leave a path for those who come behind you so that they may be the next generation of problem solvers and world leaders. Life shrinks or expands according to your courage. Be courageous, be bold, be willing to be foolish, be willing to make mistakes, because that is what Life is all about. It really is all in the experience.
Third. Stay curious. Learn something new every day. No matter what it is or what anyone else says. Stay curious. Your life is one big lesson if you’ll open yourself up to it. Life doesn’t get easier or better after the lessons, it just expands. And moves you on to the next thing. It gives you wisdom and scars and stories. Risk more than you think you can or should. Yep, I said it. Live with a healthy respect for fear but don’t hide behind it. Something to always remember, and you come by it honestly. Life’s journey really isn’t to arrive safely at the grave, clean and put together. It’s about living and being disheveled and torn up and laughing and being used for a larger purpose than just for your life.
Fourth. Invest in the people, experiences and education that Life puts in your path. You’ll never be sorry about that road trip you took; when you found an explosives dump, three times, and sat with complete strangers around a fire in countries other than your own. Or the time your hand controls came off mid round about. Or that semester of history that gave you a whole new outlook on the USA. And, while that pizza freshman year might sound like an emergency, it’s not. Learn the value of a worked for dollar and invest it wisely. Learn from someone smarter than you how to use your money and invest in long-term goals. Credit scores are for life, be smart, you hear me? They don’t teach you that in any school, seek out wise counsel and keep a firm financial footing. Experiences not things.
And last. But certainly not least. Please soak up every moment of this beautiful life. Whatever that love looks like in each moment. Surgery, scars, road trips, family, new wheelchairs, your first set of hand controls, organic chemistry. Whatever it is. Find the love in it. Because it brings you to your next moment. Get down and dirty with Life and Life will reward you. Laugh, cry, feel all of it. Get dirt under your nails. Your disability is just one part of the grandness that is you. Do not let it define who you become, the world is a hard place. It doesn’t bow for anyone. Don’t think that just because you live this life with a disability that the world owes you a lick. It doesn’t. Your disability wasn’t a choice, your attitude is your choice. Life will never be perfect. Get used to it, it was never meant to be. Now, go live your gloriously wild, imperfect, messy, frustrating, joyful, adventurous Life your way.
Photography by Redefining Spina Bifida.