One day, my boyfriend was on his way to work and was close to leaving his job. After working as an engineer for ten years, he was preparing to fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor and starting medical school.
In the crosswalk, with the right of way, he was struck by a bus and his spinal cord was severed, rendering him paralyzed from the waist down.
Mere days later, someone asked him if he was still going to attend medical school. Without skipping a beat, just days after learning he’d never walk again, he clearly answered “Yes.”
In that moment, I learned the incredible power that our choices have in our lives. We cannot control what life hands us. The only thing within our control is how we choose to handle life’s challenges.
That was in 2005. He started medical school in 2008. We were married in ’09 and he graduated with his M.D. in ’12. He’s specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehab and will finish his fellowship in spinal cord medicine this year.
However, don’t for one second think this is easy.
It’s not at all easy to keep going when life kicks you in the teeth. You have to fight-every day you have to fight for the life you want. It doesn’t just get handed to you and it’s not something reserved for the lucky.
You have to choose it.
People stop at obstacles for all kinds of reasons. However, when you lack a clear vision of what it is you want and what it is you’re going after, it’s easy to give up at the first sign of trouble. When you don’t have a clear vision of what you’re walking away from, it’s easy to leave behind.
Arriving late is usually better than not arriving at all.
My husband’s accident delayed his plan to start medical school for a year while he recovered from and learned to adapt to his injury. He was 30 years old when he started his first year of medical school. Fellow students in his first year were celebrating their 21st birthdays. A delay in your plan is not a reason to stop.
You’re going to get delayed, distracted, or slowed down. It’s a part of life that we all have to accept at some point. We can’t always get what we want at the exact moment we want it but that doesn’t mean we can’t have it, that we don’t deserve it, or that it wasn’t meant to be.
It’s easy to get angry and resentful when you have to compromise on your vision. Med students are promised experience in and exposure to a variety of settings and placements before they graduate. This is to help med students see what’s available to them and what they might be interested in.
While his fellow students went here, there, and everywhere, my husband was based at the same hospital for the entire four years. He saw how one place did business and that was it. Staying in one place was easier than arranging and communicating about accessibility at different placements. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most interesting or dynamic way for him to complete his training but it got the job done.
There’s more than one way to get to your destination and sometimes, you’re not going to be able to take the exact pre-determined path that you’d anticipated or hoped for. Let those compromises go so that you can hold on to the big picture.
This can be the hardest part sometimes. When life gets in the way or hands us a challenge, sometimes it’s just not possible to keep on keeping on without some assistance. You might have to share your obstacles and struggles with someone to get help problem-solving. It’s preferable to ask for help rather than deny yourself your dream because of senseless pride.
People aren’t usually good at perceiving what you might need and offering it, but if you ask, it is quite likely that your need will get met.
Making your dream come true is ultimately your responsibility but that means you’re also responsible for asking for the help you need to make it happen.
You’re not expected to know everything or to be an expert at everything. A lot of people stop at the point where they don’t know something. They tell themselves stories that they should know what to do or how to do something and they take not knowing to be a sign that it wasn’t meant to be.
That’s just not true.
You don’t have to be an expert at every part of your dream just to make it come true. You simply have to be aware of what it is you don’t know and be willing to find out. Don’t stop at your questions. Find the answers.
You see your dream in living color. You know every nuance and every detail. Everything is perfect, just how you want it. Sometimes our dreams don’t come out perfectly. Sometimes the road getting there isn’t smooth. It’ll be bumpy and require detours. It can’t all be perfect. It can’t all be exactly how you imagine it but that isn’t a reason to quit.
If you’re waiting for perfect, you’ll never get there. Accept that there will always be room for improvement or things that could be done better but waiting for perfect can easily become an excuse for quitting. Allow good to be enough.
You’re going to face obstacles. You’re going to get knocked down. Quitting will always be easy.
Here’s the thing, though. If you quit at the first sign of trouble or when things get hard, your life is forever defined by the challenge, by that tough time. If you persevere and push through to the other side, you are defined by surviving the tough time. The tough time is something that happened to you, not something you became the victim of.
At the start of 2015, I was running a successful brick and mortar practice but I wasn’t happy. I started to dream of bigger things for my business and started wanting more.
My husband became seriously ill for the first time since he was first injured in 2005. He was out of work for 8 months. Five hospital stays and 6 surgeries later, he recovered.
Even though he was sick, I continued to work on expanding and improving my business. I remember listening to podcasts about business building in the waiting room of the ICU that July. I wasn’t capable of doing more than learning at the time so I focused on that and hired myself a business coach to help me clarify and implement my new vision.
If I’d waited for him to get better, I’d be 8 months behind in building my business. Facing yet another obstacle, he could have decided to quit but if he had done so, he wouldn’t be helping spinal cord injured patients today.
Stop waiting for the right time to make a change or get going on your dream. There is no good time. We really only do have right now.
You just have to do your best with what you’ve got and make the leap.
You’ve got this. We all do. So long as we choose to.
Originally published at www.choosetohaveitall.com on May 23, 2016.
Originally published at medium.com