I Did It!

I Did It!

From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul

I Did It!

The task ahead of us is never as great as the power behind us.

Alcoholics Anonymous

MAY 1989

My high school graduation was only one month away, and I was more determined than ever to roll across the graduation stage in my manual wheelchair. You see, I was born with a disease called cerebral palsy and because of it, am not able to walk. In order to practice for graduation, I began using my manual wheelchair daily at school.

It was very difficult pushing myself around campus all day while lugging four or five school books, but I did it. During the first couple of days of using my manual wheelchair at school, everyone offered to give me a push from class to class, but after a few times of my teasingly remarking, “I don’t need your help or want your pity,” everyone got the hint and letme huff and puffmyself around school.

I had always received tremendous satisfaction from using my manual wheelchair, but when I began to push myself around school, the personal rewards were far greater than I ever imagined. I not only saw myself differently, but my classmates, too, seemed to view me on a different level. My classmates knew of my perseverance and determination and respected me because of them. I couldn’t have been more pleased about the emotional and physical liberation that my insistence on using my manual wheelchair was bringing to my life.

My electric wheelchair was a tremendous source of freedom for me while I was growing up. It gave me the independence to move about in ways that I was not able to do under my own power. However, as I became older, I realized that the electric wheelchair that had once givenme so much freedom was quickly becoming an obstacle of confinement. I felt that I was an independent person except for the fact that I was limited by my dependency on my electric wheelchair. The very thought of being dependent on anything for the rest of my life frustrated me.

To me, graduating from high school in my manual wheelchair was a symbolic point in my life. I wanted to enter my future as an independent young man—I was not going to allow myself to be carried across the graduation stage by an electric wheelchair. I didn’t care if it took me 20 minutes to push across the stage, I was going to do it.

JUNE 14, 1989

Graduation. That evening all of the graduates marched around the pavilion in caps and gowns and to our seats on the stage. I sat proudly in my manual wheelchair among the first row of my graduating class.

When the announcer called my name, I realized that everything I had striven for as a child was now a reality. The independent life that I had worked so hard for was now within my grasp.

I pushed myself ever so slowly toward the front of the stage. I looked up from my concentration on pushing my wheelchair and realized that everyone on the pavilion was giving me a standing ovation. I proudly accepted my diploma, turned to my fellow classmates, held my diploma above my head, and yelled as loud as I could, “I did it . . . I did it!”

Mark E. Smith

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