I am a strong believer in the two common adages, “you can do anything you put your mind to” and “wherever there’s a will there’s a way.”
I first tested these beliefs with my determination of walking 100 consecutive steps. It took me a while, but sure enough I accomplished my goal, and surpassed it. I walked 127 steps before falling; my drive didn’t stop when I hit 100. It took my own determination, drive, and patience in order to reach my goal.
Determination and drive go hand in hand. I learned at an early age that I was the only person who determined my outcome in life.
I contribute my walking ability to all of my physical and occupational therapy I participated in as a kid, but ultimately it was my determination to walk that made it possible to reach my goal of 100 steps. My drive to hit 100 steps made it easier simply because it was an attainable goal for me. Every time I got up and fell, I got a tad bit closer to my goal, which made me want to keep trying to achieve it. It took me a while to get to where I was standing on my own, to walking 100 steps consecutively. Patience was key.
This is how I approach every obstacle I face or anything I want to accomplish. In middle school,my house was the neighborhood hangout. There were easily ten kids over at any given time, most of which were my brother’s friends. My parents were always supplying our household with soft drinks, until one day they noticed a ton of the cans were being left half full. This caused them to stop buying sodas for us. Knowing I wasn’t the cause of this, I became frustrated that there weren’t going to be any more “free” Dr. Peppers for me to drink. I took it upon myself to remedy this. I started selling sodas out of our refrigerator, for fifty cents each, using the honor system. I got my “free” Dr. Pepper, and I was earning some money on the side. My parents ended up getting me a real vending machine of my own
for Christmas the following year, which allowed me to earn more money. Shortly afterwards, it snowballed into me starting a small vending machine business, called JCFVending. This was all because of my determination and drive to keep my “free” Dr. Peppers, and not let the actions of others keep me from something I wanted.
I have a constant drive to better myself. All through my life I have been in and out of therapy including Occupational, Physical, and Speech. In high school, nearing my 18th birthday, my physical and occupational therapists told my parents I couldn’t improve any further, that I was as good as I was ever going to get. Frustrated with this, I started looking for other ways to improve my muscle control. After reading a few articles about people with physical disabilities improving their capabilities, I started seeing
the problem; I wanted to find something tailored towards helping people with disabilities, but I had been working out with a physical trainer, who are often used for muscle control by everyone, disabled or not. The trick is to find a trainer who is willing to adapt to you. I was told the same thing for speech therapy in college, and similarly, I found a non-conventional alternative to speech therapy. I found someone who taught professional English speaking to people who had a strong accent or spoke English
as a second language who said she would gladly assist me with my speech. I didn’t understand why the therapist kept telling me I couldn’t improve anymore; ultimately it is up to the individual in therapy to set their limit. In my mind you can always improve; it’s just matter of how.
As an example, I am the only kid in my family who dislikes reading. For a time, I even refused to read subtitles in movies. Around the age of 16, I remember watching a Japanese anime movie with my brother, which required subtitles, and telling him, “One day I won’t need subtitles.” I was instantly fascinated with Japanese culture and language. I ended up taking a Japanese class in college, and continued to teach myself using Rosetta Stone and other resources online. I got comfortable with reading subtitles and was intrigued with everything Japanese.
Later in college, I had the opportunity to take a trip to Japan. I began researching disabilities in Japan, and sadly, I couldn’t find much. Everything I did find painted Japan in a bad light as far as disability support and awareness were concerned. For additional research, I watched movies and TV shows that focused on people with disabilities, and it seemed like their representation of having disabilities in Japan were good, which led me to believe they were cognizant and understanding of people with disabilities. The closer and closer I got to fulfilling my dream of going to Japan, I kept reading and hearing how inaccessible Japan was, and I started to think that the trip may be a bad idea. I was thinking to myself that there were only two outcomes; I would either have a terrible time getting around and lose all interest in the country, or love it and want to live there one day.
A few days prior to leaving, I explained my worries through online disability support groups, and the majority of the people sided with my worst fears, afraid that I would not be able to get around on my own. With my departure rapidly approaching, I took a chance and kept my trip as scheduled, but decided it would be a good idea to bring a friend along. Long story short, it was the best experience of my life and I’m counting the days until I go back. Japan was beautiful and exciting, and even though many places were inaccessible for wheelchairs, I was treated with the utmost respect. Japan’s culture is known for being very respectful towards others, which seemed to translate to equal treatment for all, including those with disabilities. Thankfully, I didn’t listen to all the naysayers and was determined to experience Japan for myself. Don’t let anyone hold you back from your dreams.
Even though they are sometimes overused, the sayings, “you can do anything you put your mind to” and “wherever there’s a will there’s a way,” I believe they hold merit. You’re the only one who controls your outcome in life; do not let anyone else control it. Don’t be afraid to experience things on your own and do not listen to all of the doubters. With determination, drive, and patience you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.
Justin Farley, founder of UNlimiters, is a passionate advocate of unlimited living. He was born with Cerebral Palsy and every day is determined to find ways to live more independently and confidently, and share that knowledge with others living with a disability.