A Spinal Cord Injury Paralyzed My Body, But Not My Spirit

As a member of my tribe, you know I love a great warrior story. Natalie is one of the strongest individuals I have ever met. Her story will inspire you to get up and fight, regardless of what your current battle is. You may not be able to change the facts of your circumstances, but as Natalie changed her picture of the world, it was empowering to see  her turn her pain into purpose. It is with pleasure that I share with you her testimony:

“When I was fifteen I always imagined I would grow up, play softball for my favorite University, earn my degree in physical therapy, and help those less fortunate along the way—in any way I possibly could. I always envisioned myself as someone who worked hard and saw life as a series of opportunities all just waiting for me to seize. On December 29th 2007, during my sophomore year in high school, a skiing accident changed my life in a blink when I sustained a cervical spinal cord injury rendering me paralyzed from the neck down. After the inpatient rehabilitation and all of the doctors informing my family about the things I was never going to be able to achieve in my life, I decided there and then to defy all the odds.

I was going to live my life the only way I knew, and that was to continue to make goals and work hard to achieve them. Even though my path now was very different, I had this deep feeling in my gut that told me I was to stay the course I originally chose for myself. I felt a sense of confidence and focus inside me that I exuded to others. Being forced into a very different life direction, I began to change the definition of myself. It was up to me to make the positive changes necessary to achieve my goals and obtain the success I had always seen for myself.

I learned quickly that my new life was going to be filled with incredibly difficult daily challenges. Many people take for granted the small tasks they do every day; tasks such as eating, combing their hair, getting dressed and getting in and out of a vehicle independently. These are all things I struggled to learn again. One of my goals was to get accepted at USC and become independent enough to live there on my own.

As a young adult with abundant confidence, it was very frustrating to have to slow down and be taught basic life skills again. It definitely challenged my attitude and weighed heavily on my self-esteem—but I persevered. Since I could no longer turn to sports for a mental release, I turned to writing. The more and more I wrote, the more I found it helped people. I started a blog about my struggles of going through a spinal cord injury at a young age and I found so many people who were extremely interested and receptive to my struggles. I was invited to be a guest speaker at a high school to talk about my accident and road to recovery. Although I was nervous at first, I loved it. I had found a new outlet and thrill to seek: helping other people realize their true life potential.

After two years of intensive rehab, I was able to walk and receive my high school diploma. A year later, I was accepted to the University of Southern California (USC) for college. Adversity is a word known to describe people overcoming a hardship or challenge in their life. Even when doctors stripped me of all hope of ever walking again, I continued to remain positive in my hopes of reaching my infinite goal of being 100% independent again. I believe that if you set goals, work hard enough, stay positive, focused and patient, you will achieve whatever goals you set for yourself. Whether you consider yourself a warrior now or if you still have a way to go in your journey, there will be a time in your life when you will be faced with some sort of adversity. I have found that it is not the adversity that defines you but how you respond to it that ultimately shapes who you are.

While my life now is drastically different than I envisioned it to be when I was 16, I never let it hold me back from being able to achieve anything—whether it is conquering fears of the unknown or going out and attempting stand-up paddle boarding. Today I am known for my “Nattitude”, which is a nickname I received that defines me for my fearless spirit and WARRIOR attitude.”

One of the most important strategies to optimize success is having a powerful tribe around to inspire you. Your tribe will push you in the right direction, give you accountability and above all give you support. If you don’t have a tribe fitting with these characteristics, we invite you to join ours.

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