Born to Run 

By Jillian, Phase I Scholar
Jillian participated in the web accessibility class in Summer Study 2023.

“I wish I could run faster.” 

“I wish I looked normal.” 

“I wish I could move like her.” 

“I wish I could talk like them.” 

No matter how much I wish to live a life of normality, it is only wishful thinking. October 6 is National Cerebral Palsy Day, but for me… every day is Cerebral Palsy Day. I never knew life without cerebral palsy. 

Cerebral palsy was the reason I lived in a Chinese orphanage for the first seven years of my life, and it was the reason some strangers from America asked for videos of me. Why? They were worried they couldn’t provide for a little girl with CP. When they saw the video of a girl picking up tiny pieces of a puzzle and putting it together, they could tell I was focused and determined. That determination helps me get through life. 

Sitting in my new room, I intently watched as one of my parents showed me how to tie my shoes. I memorized every movement. 

“Let me try,” I said. Cris cross, pull it under, pull away, one bunny ear. 

Cris cross, pull it under, pull away, one bunny ear. “I’ll try making a bunny ear with my other hand.” 

Cris cross, pull it under, pull away, one bunny ear, wrap the other string around… pull it through. “Oh, come on!” 

Cris cross, pull it under, pull away, one bunny ear, wrap the other string around, and pull it through.

Cris cross, pull it under, pull away, one bunny ear, wrap the other string around, pull it through, but not all the way, and pull the bunny ears tighter. “I did it!” 

The sun shined bright and hot as I stood and waited for my events at the elementary track and field practice. I read the list of events and started to sweat. I couldn’t tell if the sweat was from the heat or nerves; it was probably both. The track meet was only a week away, and I was terrible at all the events, especially running. 

“What am I doing? I can’t run. I will definitely be in last place. I’m too short and slow. I also look weird when I run. Everyone is going to watch me.” 

On the day of the track meet, all I wished was not to finish last in the 50-meter dash. I headed over to the starting line, feeling nervous. “Welp, I think it's too late to back out now. I can do this.” My breathing quickened as I got ready. Doubts filled my head. I heard the gun and started running. Everyone was already ahead of me, and I was starting to feel tired, but I had to finish this race. When I reached the finish line, for a moment, I was disappointed … until I heard cheering. I looked back, and there was still a girl behind me. I squealed in excitement. 

On a daily basis, whenever someone glances at me, they can see how I walk or run. You can imagine I look a little different, but until they hear me talk, no one realizes that my disability also comes with a speech impediment. Walking and running is something I just do. I don’t have to think about putting one foot in front of the other. I just do it. It’s different with my speech impediment, though. 

“Roll your tongue to the back of your mouth!” Jenna instructs, pointing to a picture of a car, which is a word with an R in it for me to pronounce. If I say it wrong, I have to say the R sound over and over again until I get it right. It’s repetitive torture, but I know she is training my brain to make my tongue work right.

I have to concentrate on connecting my brain to my tongue so that every part of a word sounds crisp. It’s kind of like my tongue has a mind of its own sometimes. Ever since my first year in America, I’ve been going to speech therapy. Even though I get frustrated sometimes, I know this will benefit me. I won’t fully speak normally, but if I get better at pronunciation, then people won’t feel uncomfortable because they’ll understand me more easily. 

I have started to think about the future and how I can go through life independently. “Oh my gosh, what am I going to do if I can’t even provide for myself? No one is going to accept someone who's different.” 

My dad wanted me to meet a friend of his one weekend. We drove an hour or so to meet her. We were on Oregon State University’s campus waiting for her. 

“I wonder what she’s like.” 

As she came closer to us on her scooter, with her service dog, I started to see why my dad wanted me to meet her. She had CP, too. 

“This is Shelley,” Dad introduced her. 

My mom and my sister introduced themselves and me. The adults began a conversation, and I realized Shelly had a speech impediment, too. After a while with her, I wondered so many things. My dad asked questions about Shelley’s life for my benefit, knowing that there were so many questions running through my head. 

After talking with Shelley, I felt more confident about my own future. Shelley had a successful career and lots of friends who supported her. Looking at Shelley’s life, I know whatever the future holds for me, I will have people who will support me and give me chances to prove myself.

I know that I still have a lot of time ahead of me. Life won’t be easy, but I just have to keep moving forward. People might discount and overlook my abilities. Doubts and worries will come along, but if I stay determined and dedicated, I can do what I want to do and be who I want to be. My wishes can’t be granted, but I can make the best of what I was born with. I look forward to how the DO-IT Scholars will help me along the way.