When I was just a little boy growing up in the small suburban area of Greece, N.Y., my parents told me when I grew up I would be destined for great things. They told me that I could accomplish anything that I set my sights on; there was nothing I couldn’t do as long as I put my mind to it. Roughly 15 years later, I’m beginning to learn that my parents were right and also that message is true for anyone.
I’ve experienced a few events in my life that not everyone my age can say they’ve gone through. I was diagnosed with Henoch-Schonlein Purpura, a rare form of blood vessel inflammation at the age of seven. I’ve been living with Anorexia Nervosa for the past seven years and been on anti-depressants for the past five years. I pretty much haven’t been living a normal life since my parents told me that I was destined for great things.
Hardships are events that shape who we are and who we will become in the future. Some choose to simply give in to hardships and let them take them down into a life of desperation and despair. Others see hardships as a way to grow stronger physically and mentally. Nobody asks for their leg to get shattered during a high school football game or their grandmother to be stricken with Alzheimer’s, but it’s the way we handle these hardships that define us as individuals.
Some of the greatest athletes in the world of sports share a similar story of coming from poor family backgrounds, where their parents couldn’t afford to put food on the table and could barely afford to keep a roof over their heads. Some of them even ended up homeless. But their will to survive got them where they are today. Now not all of us want to grow up to be professional athletes but the message is still the same: don’t let tough times drag you down so far that you can never recover.
When I was 19 years old and in a rehabilitation center for my eating disorder, I started thinking that maybe my life just wasn’t meant to be filled with happiness and love. But I didn’t have a death wish and the words of my parents kept creeping into the back of my mind. I wanted to make something of my life. I didn’t want to be remembered amongst my friends and family as the one who died prematurely by his own doing.
Today, I like to think that I have made my parents proud of what I have accomplished as I am about to take the final steps toward earning my college diploma from the School of Communications as a journalism major, a field I have been interested in since I started high school. While I am not a religious person by any means, I feel blessed by the opportunities that I have been able to take part in. I’ve been a part of a great college newspaper for the past four years. I’ve covered the men’s ice hockey team for the paper for three seasons. I’ve built great friendships that I will cherish forever. And I’ve even found a girl that is willing to put up with me on a daily basis.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything, because there are people out there that have survived great odds and gone on to do amazing things with their lives. On my right arm I wear two bracelets, one black and one yellow. The yellow one is the common Lance Armstrong “LiveStrong” bracelet and the black one is a personalized gift from my mother that reads “Live Well, Mike.” The message printed on both of these bracelets serve as a reminder of how I never gave up on myself and how a bright future awaits.