I have never considered myself a very political person. For as long as I can remember, I've always felt that politics were much bigger than me and, despite being a pretty regular voter, I have often focused on being a contributing member of society. Feeling that politics are somewhat beyond my control, I try to make a positive difference by showing compassion in my daily life. I make it a point to be friendly, I seek ways to help people, and I try to use my voice for good.
Having grown up with cystic fibrosis and an abbreviated life expectancy, I realized and accepted that my life would be measured by its intensity rather than its longevity. For me, life hasn't been about money or career advancement or retirement. Instead, it's been about making a difference, a cliché that I am constantly working to define. As a child, I wanted to do something incredible that the whole world would know about, thinking success was largely measured by fame. However, as my childhood dreams evolved into adulthood, I've redefined my concept of making a difference.
Ideally, I'd like people to think that I was a positive presence in their lives.
At a minimum, I'd like for nobody to think, 'Gosh, she was a true impediment to my happiness.'
I know this is a small step below being a worldwide icon, but it's something I can wrap my head around and a mindset that can guide me every day.
Sometimes my mom retells a story from when I was in the first grade. She found me in my room counting money from my piggy bank. My mom asked why I was counting money, and I said, "For the book fair." She said, "I already gave you money for the book fair." I responded, "Well, Misty said she never gets to buy books." At six years old, I wanted my friend, Misty, to have a book, too. Was it Misty's fault that her parents couldn't or didn't provide her money for the book fair? No. Did she ask me for money? No. Did I think Misty would like to be able to purchase a book at the book fair? Yes. And I was right.
We can all agree that life isn't fair. People are born into different situations, and they are far from equal. There are areas in which I feel like I've hit the jackpot, and there are other areas (see: terminal illness) where I know the cards weren't dealt in my favor. It's obviously unrealistic to think that everyone can enter the world under the same circumstances.
Think for a moment about the concept of the handicap system in golf. It essentially allows for score adjustments so that golfers of different talent levels can play against each other on more equal terms. It's better for everyone involved. Bowling bumpers are another good example. Children (or adults like me) can enjoy bowling without watching every ball roll into the gutter. Likewise, parents can endure a tantrum-free birthday party at the bowling alley. It's a win-win because it makes the entire situation more pleasant.
Life isn't fair, nor will it ever be. If you were born into a difficult situation, you are not the reason that happened. If you were born into an extremely fortunate situation, you are also not the reason that happened. No matter where on the spectrum you fall, you deserve a chance to live a happy, fulfilling life. The better we are as individuals, the better we are as a whole.
I don't want to be anybody's impediment; in fact, I want to be a source of encouragement. Whoever you are, I want you to find happiness.
I want you to feel like the color of your skin is not a liability.
I want you to be able to love anybody you choose.
I want you to have access to the healthcare you need.
I want you to obtain the education level that you desire.
I want you to practice your chosen religion without fear.
I want you to live somewhere that feels like home.
I want you to be able to pursue any career of which you dream.
Simply put, I want you to be who you want to be.
I know it's not as simple as reaching into my piggy bank to find the solution. However, I will try every day to further what I believe is right. In my eyes, equality is worth every penny.