In my life, noticeably within the last year, I have experienced difficult situations, disappointments, and frustrations. For a teenager, or what we all love to be called, a young adult, these experiences have been at times toilsome to overcome and make peace with. Although I will not be asked in ten years about many of these events, at that moment in time, it is perceived that the expansive universe is very off balance and the world is chalk full of everything but honesty and equality. I am the first one to admit this is naïve. However, I am nearly certain that there is not a single person on this planet who has never felt this kind of temporary grief and dwelled upon it for a short while. I so know of one person who has without fail always proved me wrong in the previous statement. My truest friend, an amputee, is quite the exception.
Nick is my closest friend. Nick is also an amputee suffering from KTS (Klippel – Trenaunay Syndrome.) KTS is a rare congenital disorder in which the common conditions are combined vascular malformations. The characteristics of KTS are a port wine stain on the skin over venous or lymphatic malformations. I’ve only known Nick for about two years. In that time he has suffered from serious infections, phantom pain, and numerous stays in hospitals. Through all of this, he has never stopped being the most hilarious, positive, altruistic, and determined person I’ve yet to meet. Being born with KTS affecting the right side of the body, Nick made the excruciating decision to amputate his right leg above the knee at the age of ten. To this day, I can’t even decide if I want white or wheat bread. For only having one leg, Nick still manages to do more than what seems humanly possible. In middle school he participated in basketball and infinite musical opportunities. In high, he added more to his plate and became involved in show choir, madrigals, and even the school swim team. That’s right, the boy with one leg always on crutches was doing more than most people who are perfectly healthy. I must say, that’s rather astounding.
When I first met him, Nick told me over a pot of tea where he was born, what elementary school he went to, and then without pause told me in the most nonchalant manner his vivid memory of saying goodbye to his toes on the gurney. He took a quite sip of tea number seven, looking over his glasses at me while they steamed up from the heat of his beverage and proceeded to ask me about my story. I knew instantaneously I had met an extraordinary person; such an extraordinary person I had come across who reformed my attitudes, challenged me to think in new ways, and taught me acceptance, unconditional love and enduring faith.
I thought I was the most caring person in the world. Well, I thought I was the most sufficiently accepting person in the world. Nobody could really be that nice and care for everybody. Once again, I was proved wrong. The problem here is that I tolerated people. I put up with them. I didn’t accept them or get to know them. I failed to realize every individual is unique with unique personalities and furthermore, unique issues often unknown to the public. After all, and thankfully I might add, not everyone has a tabloid tracking their lives announcing to the world their issues. It’s embarrassing to say, but somehow I didn’t fully register this. Never did it occur to me that classmates had their own private problems weighing heavy on their shoulders and minds. Not until I met Nick did I truly understand this. There are millions of circumstances shaping an individual. Luckily, Nick let me into his life; let me see, experience, and share everything. I see the physical toll his body takes that others don’t see. I know the pain he feels that not everyone can sympathize with. I know him. I know him as an individual him, not as a stranger him. This understanding has transformed my life. I try to remember that every person I interact with is unique with a unique personality and unique affairs. Nick’s altruism, which includes his eye twinkling smile, is infectious. It is obvious to me that my growing patience and concern for others is much due to him.
Additionally, I prided myself in my strength and bravery. What a dynamic duo to have paired with patience. So sure was I that nothing could bother me. However, upon introspection, I soon became aware that I was not immune to everything. A poor test grade sent me deeper into my studies until exhaustion. I became discouraged daily by disappointment after disappointment. I wasn’t first chair in band. I didn’t get the solo I had been working tirelessly for. I became insanely acute of all my misfortunes and minor setbacks until it seemed I had another sense. The sense of hopelessness. Finally one day it clicked. Nick has one leg and never complains. Yet here I sat moping about little details in my otherwise pristine life.
In the grand scheme of things, I’m blessed. I am a healthy, determined young woman with an infinitely open future. I have full dexterity of all my limbs, I have a sound mind and dry, witty humor that sometimes doesn’t get me many laughs. I have infinitely more than I could ask for and am fully aware of that fact now. And although it occasionally seems that my adolescent life is statically mundane and extravagantly disappointing, I know I’m being absurdly hyperbolic. I see Nick and see not only my best friend, but also my mentor. I’ve learned to look at people in new lights; let their attributes shine. I’ve learned to handle my sorrows with grace and humility. I’ve learned to be strong and true to myself in the face of adversity. Nick has taught me to be a better person, to enrich others’ lives. He has taught me to live life for the happiness and joy, and refuse to dwell on the struggles, for they are what define a person’s character.