I gave myself the nickname "Wonder Woman" when I was sixteen, the summer before my junior year. It was during a time where I literally had to pick myself up and move forward, despite the loss that I was feeling. And when I looked back on it a little over a year later, I realized that I had survived somehow. Even though it didn't necessarily stack up against what I had struggled with in the past, I honestly didn't know how I was going to get through it, because it literally rocked me to the core.
It became more relevant after I graduated high school and started my freshman year of college. I wanted to prove (mostly to my family) that I was capable of succeeding away from home. I wanted those that had watch me stumble over the years to see that I was happy and that the difficult times were behind me (that was true in some ways and not so much in others). And I wanted to show the people that I was meeting and getting to know that having Cerebral Palsy didn't affect me in a big way; I didn't want to be recognized for my physical attributes, but for my personality and heart.
The entire time, my whole thought process was "I have defied the odds so many times before, and I can sure as hell do it again."
And so I did, or at least I tried. Physically, I did a lot of things that made me look like I was crazy; I carried around Lord knows how much stuff in a backpack that was a little too big for me. I hardly ever took the bus, regardless of the weather (that still hasn't changed very much). I did things even when I was absolutely worn out and needed to rest. I kept going until I couldn't go anymore.
Emotionally, I tried to put on a brave face and convince myself that this new phase of my life wasn't that hard. I would tell myself "hey, this isn't so bad. Things could be a lot worse. Stop crying and be grateful for what you have."
It was all so exhausting, but I was scared out of my mind. I didn't want to be looked down upon or pitied by anybody. I felt that I needed to act like an adult, not a child. That was how I carried myself for a little over a year.
But in these recent months, I have begun to taken a different approach to the concept of strength. It is not always about putting on a smile for the public, or simply saying "I'm fine" when someone asks me how I'm doing. It's about being authentic and honest. It's about having the ability to connect with someone and sharing your heart with that person.
And I think that's why I try to my best to tell the truth, especially on this blog. I don't think it's worth it to try to live a life without love and support, simply because we're scared of what other people might think. Or, because we're scared of getting hurt. As terrifying as it is, I find it ultimately a lot better and fulfilling to reach out to someone and risk pain, then to risk missing out on making an amazing memory, and possibly forming an amazing relationship.
I posted my new definition of strength on Facebook a month or two ago: true strength is not trying to hold yourself together all the time, but to have the courage and ability to say that you cannot do it on your own.
When it comes to personal strengths, I used to believe it had to do with what you were good at, and what you could give to the world. That is still true in a way, but I've also learned that it is about what makes me feel strong, and brave, and capable of doing just about anything that I set out to do.
For me, it is being surrounded by a good support system, especially my family. I don't know where I would be right now if not for my parents and my siblings. They have given me more than I can comprehend, and I feel blessed to still have them at this time in my life. I am blessed to have the friends that I have over time become incredibly close to, and that I now consider family. Not only have each of them been an example of guidance, but they have allowed me to make my own decisions in confidence.
It is about having a faith in God, a faith that I have at times questioned and doubted. Through that, I see the world and the people in it as a place of beauty and wonder. I am the kind of person that likes to stop and give thanks for the smallest of things, even something as simple as walking around or giving somebody a hug. From a worldview, I may be a bit naive and somewhat odd; however, it is what brings me joy and hope, and that is enough.
A third personal strength, and a gift, is writing. Throughout my life, it has been my second voice, and the most genuine way that I can express myself. In these last few months, keeping a journal has helped me to sort out my often conflicting thoughts, and to keep everything in perspective. I hope that my writing on this blog has helped somebody, if only one person. And I hope that one day, my writing might do some good for the world.
Through it all, I still view myself as wonder woman. I love with all I have, but I am also willing to fight with all I have. I can be a bit feisty, especially if you're trying to get me to do something that I don't want to do. I still push myself to do my absolute best, regardless of the situation.
Yet, I now take the time to step back and rest when I feel the need to. More specifically, I just let myself be Alyx. I let myself be a human being.
I still think that I have a long way to go. The choice to be strong, and how to be strong, is a daily journey. I am grateful for the walls that I have run into and the mistakes that I have made in order to be where I'm at right now.
But I will not forget that strength is simply not what you do, whether it be on a physical or emotional level. Strength is about how you treat your heart, and how you treat the hearts of others.
I am not Wonder Woman because of my body, or my attitude. I am Wonder Woman because of my heart.