84. Redefining Limitations

84. Redefining Limitations

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Redefining Limitations

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

~Anaïs Nin

I sat in the guidance counselor’s office my senior year of high school, bright eyed about the possibilities of college. The counselor sighed and pushed her glasses onto her head. “Are you sure you want to go to college?” she asked. “It will be difficult with your limitations, you know.” My limitation, as she called it, was diabetes. I was in three AP classes, a varsity athlete on the track and field team, and nationally ranked in Speech and Debate. But according to her, I was limited.

“Well,” I hesitated, unsure of how to respond to her question. Was I sure? Yes, I was absolutely sure that I wanted to go to college. But I started to feel a gnawing monster in my belly, questioning my ability to succeed. Later that night at home, I helped my mom fold laundry in the living room. “What would you think if I just went to community college for a while and figured it out?” I asked her.

She looked at me, confused. My mother had left school to start a family. “What do you mean, figure it out?” I told her about my meeting with the guidance counselor, and watched her face change from confusion to anger. I was glad my mom was by my side for this battle, because I had a feeling it would turn into full-on war.

I talked to the admissions counselor at the school I really wanted to go to. All I was missing was my official high school transcript. I promised to have it in the mail the next day, and took a stamped envelope with my forms to the guidance office. Two weeks later, I received a rejection letter, and I called the admissions counselor in tears. “You promised!” I sobbed into the phone, disconsolate about what I perceived to be my dream school. Soothing me over the phone, she pulled up my file, and told me that they never received my official transcript. I never saw anger in color until that afternoon. I called my high school and demanded answers. I sat for hours in the guidance suite, and brought a ferocious mama bear with me. We couldn’t prove anything, and my counselor’s simpering smile totally and utterly defeated me.

I was burning. I knew that I could not lie down and accept defeat because then my “limitation” would win. I revamped my college efforts, and eventually accepted a track scholarship to Cabrini College, where I spent four magnificent years growing into a woman that I can be proud of. After the track team was cut for budgetary reasons, I focused on social justice, a specialty of Cabrini. I had started insulin pump therapy my freshman year, which gave me an entirely new outlook on living with diabetes. I was able to throw myself into the service of others.

During January of my senior year, I went on a life-changing mission trip called Rostro de Cristo to a small town called Durán in Ecuador. The week I spent there with my classmates and the wonderful residents of that town created memories that I will never forget. The people, the places, the food — they all hold a special place in my heart.

As I sat on the concrete ground of a schoolyard in Ecuador that week, with a child on each knee, I thought about how lucky I was to have had that guidance counselor in my life. The devastation of what she did to me propelled me to do my best and pursue my passions. As José fingered the tubing coming out of my pocket, I gently explained to him in broken Spanish that it was for my diabetes. He hugged me tightly, taking my breath away, and stood at the gate each day to hug me as we came into the school.

That mission trip lit a fire in me for helping others, and when I got back to the States, I filled out applications for yearlong service opportunities. I graduated in 2012 with two bachelor degrees and my teaching certification, along with high honors and accolades from the honors college. I was accepted by the Mercy Volunteer Corps and went to serve at the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation in rural Arizona. I spent the year after graduation teaching high school U.S. Government and Psychology, and working as a part-time secretary. Now, I am in grad school full-time and working in a high school in North Philadelphia as I study to become a reading specialist.

I still have diabetes, and unless there is a breakthrough, I will always have diabetes. What I don’t have are limitations. My ability to serve others and to teach — that’s something diabetes cannot take away from me. They are something an out-of-touch counselor cannot take away from me. My biggest “limitation” was not my endocrine system, but my inability to believe in myself. Once I overcame that fear, I realized nothing could stop me from reaching for the stars.

From the streets of Ecuador, to the hogans of the Navajo Nation, to my cluttered classroom in Philadelphia, nothing can limit me. Have insulin pump, will travel.

~Jamie Tadrzynski

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