By Tammy Culhane
I had always heard people talk about that life altering moment— the one that changes you. For most, it is when they get married or have their first child or even buy their dream home. They say you always remember that amazing feeling. Since I have yet to experience any of these particular life changes, I have wondered if I would get my moment. Well, I can now confidentially say I have had my moment and it changed my life forever and for the better!
My moment, actually I should say moments, happened this past summer. It’s funny how I knew the summer of 2013 was going to be pretty awesome, but I never thought it would change my life the way it did. I will never forget the experiences and the little lessons I learned about myself. Who would have thought turning a decade older could have such a huge impact on life? Definitely not me! I was the gal who was dreading this birthday. Little did I realize that the best was yet to come!
Looking back to the beginning of that time, I remember being excited about both my upcoming trips. Much to my surprise, I was not as excited as I thought I would be. Even when I was packing for my trip to Calgary and then watching other family members pack, it never really hit me. I drove to the airport with my family in a shuttle van, went into the airport and had my bags checked. Still, there was no real excitement.
I finally reached it when it came time for me to go through security. Not a whole lot was said to me during my search. I definitely understand the need for security, but I think the female conducting the check could have been a little friendlier. I felt vulnerable; not being told what was happening or how I could assist will do that to a person. After that, the emotions and nerves kicked in and the tears started flowing. My awesome family got me through that and had me laughing in no time. Everything was great until boarding time. I was tickled pink getting to be one of the first ones to get on the plane, however walking towards the entrance of the plane brought on more tears. They didn’t last long though, because I was immediately greeted by the awesome WestJet staff members. They were so helpful and friendly, I truly can’t say enough about them. They helped my mom and I with everything we needed and wanted. The flight was awesome, a little long without TVs, but I survived just fine. In fact, I was even looking out the windows, checking out the view. My first-ever flight was a great success for me!
My time in Calgary with my family was incredible! I got to see relatives I don’t see very often and I even got to meet two new family members. There were so many wonderful moments and laughs shared; these will stay with me forever. Something else that stayed with me was a conversation I had with my aunt from Calgary. She complimented me on having such a positive attitude towards life in spite of my disability and my challenges. It was so uplifting for me to hear! Before this, I hadn’t been feeling like my usual self. I tended to be more stressed, even about little things that never used to bother me. It was kind of a dark time. Our talk and her very encouraging words reminded me of the person I am, the girl who has accomplished so many incredible things, the girl who has been blessed with wonderful family and friends, and most importantly, the girl who told herself she could do anything she put her mind to. My trip opened my eyes and has helped me regain my drive and positive attitude! Thank you Calgary for my renewed lease on life. Even more importantly, thank you Aunt Cheryl for your honesty, support and encouragement.
After Calgary, I had about a week to get ready for my next adventure in Toronto. This was going to be a very different type of trip for me and as excited as I was, I also had a few nerves. The trip was my first time traveling with a friend and without my mom. It was also my first time on the train. I felt pretty fearless getting on the train. Hey, I had survived my first two flights. This was going to be a breeze, and indeed our trip there was exactly that. The staff members were extremely accommodating and friendly. Added to the thrill of everything was the fact that we were in first class (The wheelchair tie-downs are located in first class). Talk about making a girl feel like a princess! I truly recommend the train to anyone with a disability looking for the freedom to travel. It was an experience that I will always remember and I look forward to more rides on the rails.
Looking back, I learned a lot about myself while in Toronto. My weekend there was quite a different adventure from Calgary. About three hours after my arrival, my friends and I were stuck in a very unexpected rainstorm. The end result was four extremely wet people with a dead electric wheelchair. This has happened to me before so I knew what to do; however I have never been that far from my wheelchair repair company. At that point my friends and I had two choices. We could either freak out and let it ruin our weekend or we could just carry on and try to make the best of things and try to have fun. We chose the latter and it was definitely a trip to remember. I got to see my Jays and see a friend and her daughter. I look forward to visiting the big city again; perhaps next time a little drier. From this trip, I took away the fact that I was able to let go of the things that were beyond my control and instead go with the flow.
This was pretty significant for me because in the past, anything to do with my wheelchair being broken would completely stress me out. I was so relaxed about it. I even remember thinking, ‘Why am I not more stressed about this?’ I learned to make the most of what I have and to do what I can; the rest will work itself out.
All in all, this summer gave me so very much more than I could have ever imagined. I had some experiences that I will never forget and I did a lot of growing. Instead of dreading what may lie ahead, I’m ready to face my 40s with a new energy and a more upbeat attitude! I am ready for whatever adventure lies ahead and for the first time in a while, I’m excited for life in general!
Thank you Summer of 2013! You were exactly what I needed!