Ask someone, “Do you wish you were rich?” “Do you wish you were beautiful?” “Do you wish you were popular?”
For most, I think that the impulsive response to these questions is a resounding “Yes!”
Now, ask them “Why do you want to be rich, beautiful or popular? Are they the ‘ends’ you yearn for in life or merely ‘means’ to some other end(s)?”
It sets you thinking, doesn’t it?
I have spinal muscular atrophy. This is a neuromuscular condition where my muscles weaken and waste away due to the degeneration of nerve cells in my spinal cord. I used a manual wheelchair in primary school and upgraded to a motorised one in secondary school. My mobility aid before my schooling years was a child buggy, which drew a lot of stares from strangers – they must have thought my parents were spoiling me by giving in to my ‘refusal’ to walk. I can honestly say I don’t know what it feels like to stand, walk and run and so I cannot say I miss it at all.
So, when now and then, strangers ask me “Do you wish you could walk?” my response is to smile and change the subject. They probably then knocked their heads and thought “Why ask the obvious,” but in fact, I am not so sure if I even really want to walk.
Life, as I know it, happens in a wheelchair. Physical barriers (think stairs, steep hills, road kerbs, swinging doors...) are tough to overcome in wheels, but they do not stop me from leading a full life: going to university, doing voluntary activities, getting a job, competing in boccia and travelling overseas.
I may not be able to walk, but I can still do many things by myself and I am “independent” in my own way. We all have inner strengths, and I see adversity as a blessing that helps us to tap into and release that source of power that is deep within ourselves. Could I have done all these things had I been able to walk? Probably (except for competing in boccia, admittedly), but I am not so sure I would have been half as motivated to live my life as I have so far. I may have been able to do more things more easily, but I may not have found the same level of appreciation in the things I did.
What do I wish for, then?
If I was asked “Do you wish you could walk?”, I want to able to confidently say “No”. Not because I do not hope to experience that, but because in my wheelchair, I am able to contentedly accomplish whatever I set out to do. I simply wish to be a useful person who contributes to society – this gives me satisfaction and makes me happy.
This is life as I know it and what matters is how I make the best out of it.
What about you - what do you wish for? Are you willing to make the best out of your life without the wealth, beauty or popularity you have always wished for?