Friday, April 20, 2012

Inspire Me Today-The Uncut Version

Earlier this week, an essay I wrote was published on the website  You can find the essay, or as they call it "brilliance", here.  As will happen with my writing, my original essay was a little long, so it had to be edited to fit on the website.  

I've had truly heartwarming and incredible response from friends and complete strangers as well, so I thought I'd share the entire unedited essay along with some photos to add to the prose.  So, for your reading or deleting pleasure, here is the complete essay I wrote for Inspire Me Today.

I was born, as they would say today, visually handicapped. Back then it was called a burden on society. The doctors call it optic nerve atrophy, acute myopia, and severe astigmatism, with a few other maladies thrown in that have been healed.

What it comes down to is that I can do everything any other person can do except drive. That means I've had to adapt my life in countless ways. And I've learned that if you don't adapt, and often adapt quickly, you'll be miserable, filled with self-pity, and not be the person you were meant to be. Here’s how I came to realize I needed and came to use a skill set that few need, but is invaluable to those who need it.

Me and my parents before I started wearing glasses
I started wearing glasses when I was six months old in 1960. Back then it was almost unheard of for someone that young to wear eyeglasses, especially since they were made of heavy glass, incredibly uncomfortable to wear, and expensive. But my parents and a very special group of doctors wanted to do everything they could to give me as normal a life as possible. So they put me in eyeglasses, gave me thousands of eye drops during my youth, and most importantly told me over and over again that I could do anything I wanted and be whatever I wanted to be.

The key to overcoming physical or psychological challenges is simple, but very hard to learn. If you want to do something, get something, or be something badly enough, you can’t let other people or old thinking get in the way of your goals. And you can never give in or give up.  Once you do, you’re defeated and you’re headed towards a life of boredom and depression.

In the early 1960s, school districts wanted to send people with low vision to the state’s School for the Blind. In those days that's what they did with children with special needs, shipped them off to an institution so that they wouldn't distract all the “normal" kids in the public school system. A very few bold, deeply committed parents, as in mine, refused to accept that option and fought almost to the death to get their children enrolled in regular school and keep them in the public school system, a truly extraordinary position to take in those times. Now of course, almost every student is allowed to be "mainstreamed" into the public school system regardless of their disability.

You’ll learn a lot of hard lessons over the years. You’ll develop skills that are stronger than the physical boundaries you face. How not to get rattled by teasing and verbal abuse. How to not feel guilt or shame when you have to use friends and public transportation to get around. How to NEVER be embarrassed by your condition, no matter how “different” you come across to others. If they choose to see you in a different way than you and the people who really know you do, it’s THEIR problem, not yours.  You can choose to just chalk it up to the ignorance of others or you can be an advocate and educate people to how to deal with others who aren’t just like themselves.

But the most important thing you’ll learn, and sometimes it’s the thing that takes the longest to really sink in, is that who you are is not defined by what you can't do, who you are is defined by what you can accomplish. And, you can accomplish just about anything you want if you put your mind to it. Yes, there are things that need special accommodations. There are even some things that some people just will never do. But if there's something that you really want to be able to do, I know you can find a way. It's all about thinking you are gifted by the abilities you have and not penalized by the abilities you don’t, learning to adapt, having a support network of friends and family who believe in you almost as much as you believe in yourself, and not being afraid to try something at least once. 

In 2010, I got to live a dream. The Chicago Cubs let me throw out the first pitch for a game at Wrigley Field. I couldn’t see the catcher sixty feet away, but I guessed where he was and got the ball close to home plate.  I believed, others believed, and it happened. If you want something badly enough, you can almost always find a way to make it so.  It sounds like Pollyanna, but it is the truth, whether you choose to believe it or not at this moment.

There are so many people who don't have what they consider to be a perfect life. Regardless of the cause, the truth of the matter is that NOBODY has a perfect life. If you keep that in mind, you can learn that there are no reasons that you can't accomplish almost anything you want. Yes, you have to make accommodations, you may have to do things in a less graceful manner than your friends or co-workers, and you might fail the first time.  But you CAN do it and prove to yourself and those around you that you have strength, commitment, and self-awareness that far outweigh any physical challenge you’ve been given to deal with.

I have three children, and two of them have what the politically correct call "special needs". I’ve told them from the time they could understand me the same thing my parents told me: Don't let anything or anyone get in your way or make you think you can't be or do whatever you want. 

And when life throws you that curve ball, just figure out how you’re not going to let it hit you.

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

Chicago vs. Chicago, The Arguments continue

Here we are on Chicago Cubs Opening Day, and I just ran across a commercial from New Era on that is the first in at least two looks at the ongoing rivalry between the Cubs and the White Sox.

I've had far too many of those conversations with my friends who choose to like the White Sox.  Someday, they'll come to their senses.
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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Who Is Mark Edwards?

I was speaking with a potential client yesterday and she asked me to describe myself.  I did, and it made me think that there's another way to describe who I am and what I've done and can do.  So, here for our viewing pleasure is the Official Mark Edwards Word Cloud.

Get to know me better at!