A Letter to My 10-Year-Old Self
By Chris Windley
Writing for CP Family Network
Writing for CP Family Network
Chris Windley is well-acquainted with the challenges facing children with cerebral palsy. As a child growing up with a disability, he experienced bullying, feelings of isolation and self-doubt. Now a thriving 27-year-old, Chris reflects back on his life and shares touching words of wisdom with his 10-year-old self.
Dear 10-year-old Chris,
Hi. I’m you 17 years from now. You’re in college, loved by a wonderfully awesome girlfriend, and have your very own dog! Things are going really well for me (us?) right now, and I decided to write you since I know you’ve been feeling frustrated and confused that you have cerebral palsy on your left side, and you want and need answers. I’ll do my best to help answer some of your concerns now; so here goes:
Pursue hobbies that interest you, whether or not anyone believes you can or can’t do them. Our ability to “turn a wheelchair into lemonade,” as Zach Anner puts it so well, and the ability to overcome obstacles are two of our greatest strengths. Follow your heart and stay active! When things get hard, more often than not, doing those two things will help keep you happy, healthy, humble, honest and point you in the right direction.
Be patient. I know it’s hard to deal with the staring, mean words and bullying, but things will get better! Those people being mean or treating you poorly just have different lessons than you that they need to learn. Life isn’t just unfair for us, it’s unfair to everyone at some point or another. Strive to be prepared. Never forget this, as it’ll also help you remain happy, healthy, humble and honest! We all have our own paths, challenges, successes and failures. Focusing on one being better or worse than the other is time better spent laughing with or helping one another.
Never lose faith in anyone, especially yourself. You and those you trust are your greatest defenses when you need to keep anything negative away from you, and are the key to allowing how awesome you are within to continue to shine. When times get tough, you can always find comfort and strength in yourself, your friends and your family! People are going to say and do things that will hurt. When that happens, it’s usually because they feel down or unhappy themselves. They don’t know how else to deal with their own faults or mistakes, so they take those feelings out on someone else. Try not to take it to heart. Remember, you can’t control others, but you can control how you respond to what others say and do. I guess what I’m basically trying to say is this: Don’t let anyone change who you are or how you feel about yourself, unless YOU think the change is right or good for YOU.
Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for something or express yourself. There are exceptions, times when keeping your thoughts, feelings, or needs to yourself is the right or best thing to do; but generally, no one else’s thoughts, feelings or needs matterany more or less than your own. Trust yourself. I’m not going to tell you it’ll always be easy, but you can handle any and everything that may be thrown your way (I’m proof of that!). Deep down in your heart of hearts, I know you know this is true.
You are NEVER alone. Even though you may not always be aware of it, a lot of children are also going through a lot of the things you are going through. Don’t worry though; there are TONS of people who are dedicated to making things more accessible and better for you, me, and everyone else with a physical or mental disability each and every day. And we are all cheering you on!
27 year old Chris
27 year old Chris
PS: Keep up the good work and stare at the TV a little less. You’ll get glasses soon. We both know you look pretty funny until you get contacts, when you’re 17! You eventually start beating Mom, Dad and Mike at Scrabble. You get so good that Dad and Mike won’t even play you!
Chin up, smile wide, laugh often, and “Foot down, Buckaroo!” I know how much you hate hearing that, but now that I’m older, I understand why Mom and Dad get a kick out of saying it! Trust me, they still say it, so don’t waste your time trying to convince them not to. It doesn’t work! And whatever you do, continue to improve your writing skills. They come in handy too many times to count later on!
About the Author
Chris Windley lives in West Virginia. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a focus on people with physical and mental disabilities. His dream is to start and operate a charity designed to help people through hard times or to get back on their feet. If you’d like to write for the CP Family Network, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org