Experiences Of a Young Keynote Speaker, part 1

        I am driven by missions. Missions to not sleep in on Saturdays, to eat ice cream whenever possible, to play a few notes on an instrument daily, to calm young children in my tiny robotics classroom, or yes, to ride my 75-pound, loaded bicycle thousands of miles. These missions define –and govern- my life. I wake up each morning, and the gradient of missions begins appearing on my cerebral agenda. First, to silence the 5:30am disruption of my seemingly-dreamless sleep, I hop out of my covers, bound over a colorful array of fabrics ‘left’ on the floor, and switch my alarm to the ‘off’ position. There was no time for snoozing on March 20, 2011.  Or any day, for that matter.

I believe that I have just one brief opportunity to change the lives of those struck by the misfortune and disaster that is brain injury. After all, these injuries normally take just one devastatingly quick moment to change –or destroy- a life forever. My intuition, my implication is that the time is now to minimize the frequency of that simple, fleeting moment during recovery from a brain injury when a soul has, just simply, ceased to try.

Amusingly, that peculiar moment happens along a wide sliding-scale of time post-injury. For the young and restless, it may take years for an unsharpened steel weight to send even a thin, irreversible crack marching across the surface of a survivor’s inch-thick plate glass worldview.  For others, I imagine the same plate glass, but the steel weight replaced by a sharpened, split-second 50-caliber rifle shot. I wouldn’t dare set the [statistically unlikely] weight of a physically-therapized foot upon that compromised clear mirage of good intention. Instead, I’ll work to replace the glass.

I’m reminded of a visit to a Subway deli at nightfall in South Lake Tahoe during the first week of my cross-continental bicycle tour. I pondered ordering a tasty foot-long sub. Make that a foot-long sheet of bulletproof Lexan, please.

But one sheet of that life-saving material isn’t enough, oh no. I’ll consider buying stock in Subway, because we’ll need lots of our metaphorical foot-longs. To be succinct, we’ll need at least 3 times the amount that you might have calculated. Why? Because not only do our survivors’ upbringings, good intentions, and lives get steamrolled in the path of a single centimeter of injured cerebral landscape, but so does that person’s family, caregivers, and healthcare providers’.

Finally: fast forward from that moment in a quiet franchise restaurant to present day. I’m now an appreciated keynote speaker, still seeking the acquisition of more stock in that Subway establishment. Or, perhaps just stock in bulletproof viewpoints, bulletproof mentalities, and bulletproof diagnoses. Hoping that someday, I can live with the knowledge that nobody is an advocate and caregiver of a disabled, head-injured loved-one. I hope that instead, each and every survivor of brain injury leads a life of joy, love, and of course, hope. Can’t that happen, like, right now?

The mission gradient, after a few hours of working, settles comfortably in a red hue, proving my passion for change.  And so it did, on March 20, 2012.

(photo by Sarah Lebo)

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