I want you to ask yourself what your biggest fear is. Now that you've identified it, how does that fear impede your life? What is holding you back? I hate spiders, flies, ants, small airplanes, heights... well you get the idea. But one of my deepest fears was falling and breaking a bone as I learned how to ride a bike. An 18-year-old who does not know how to ride a bike?! Trust me -- I tried and have the emotional scars to prove it. But the reason I never learned was due to my physical disability. My lower extremities (ankles, legs) don't work so well and my feet and left hip are deformed. The good news is that I can walk even though my parents were told at my birth that walking wasn't going to happen. They have always been afraid of taking me out of the invisible bubble that protects me, but still my dad was determined to get me on a bike.
My dad and I attempted to get me balanced on two wheels, but to say it was unsuccessful would be an understatement. To his credit, he tried really hard to help me, but after a while, I ditched the bike and never looked back. Eight years later I discovered a desire to ride. I went for bicycle riding lessons with a professional teacher and by my second hour I was cruising. The elbow, ankle and kneepads, helmet and gloves assured me that, if I fell, I'd survive. I graduated after five lessons. I could not believe that I, Hannah, was riding a bike without falling!
I looked fear in the face and I knew that I would either let fear win and not try to ride, or try again and potentially fall. I wasn't going to allow fear to stop me from doing something that is so easy for others to learn. I triumphed and felt like I was on top of the world.
Just a few days later, I really was on top of the world. In fact, I was 15,000 feet in the air and ready to jump out of an airplane. I convinced my parents to let me go skydiving as an 18th birthday present.
Just before getting on the plane, I put on a red jumpsuit, was strapped in a harness and was fitted with a cap. I met my instructor, Alex, with whom I was going to jump. He named me the "Rule Breaker" after I told him about my physical disability. As we boarded the plane, he whispered, "All right Hannah, let's go break some rules." When we reached 15,000 feet, Alex and I were the first people off the airplane. Of course, I couldn't forget my disability. It tried to knock me down as I stood up to make it to the door. Little did my disability know, that when I jumped out of the airplane, I left it behind. With every passing second that I was in free fall, I felt every layer of fear, resentment and shame I've experienced during my life, peeling right off of me.
When I was in the air, I finally felt safe in my body. No matter what disability, disorder, impairment or other obstacle tries to rob you, it is not for them to dictate what you can and cannot do; it is YOU who decides. So before the summer ends take a (healthy) risk and be your own rule breaker. I am no longer Hannah who has a physical disability; I am Hannah who jumped out of a plane and can ride a bike. Who can you be when you look fear in the face?