“I found everything I expected to find in Claremont, California. I also found so much more.” 

When I pictured what this blog entry, reflecting on my time in California, would read like, I assumed it would focus on my physical recovery during my time at The Perfect Step Paralysis Recovery Center. But each time I sit to write this entry, that is not the part of my stay that immediately comes to mind.

Reflecting On My Journey

As I gather my thoughts, I keep asking myself questions –what did I gain in California? What did I learn? What did this trip mean to me? What is it I want to share about this place?  There are so many answers to each of these – I’ve still been wrapping my mind around how to appropriately represent my stay.

Though this update won’t focus only on the physical recovery side of things, I will say how thrilling it was to push myself in the way I was able to during those weeks. When I arrived, the two-hour days of training alone were challenging and the three-hour days were even tougher – to the point where at the end of each session, I was struggling to remain standing. But after just one week, my body began adapting and each session became easier to get through. Eventually, I felt myself craving the exercise.

Up until this point, my recovery has constantly been interrupted. Each time I begin getting in the swing of a routine and can feel myself on the brink of another milestone – either a scheduled surgery arrived or there was a complication that crept up. This was the first time my body was finally healthy enough to endure this many consecutive hours and days of physical work. I could see just how rewarding it was to be able to simply show up each day.

That in itself, just being healthy, was a milestone of my recovery. But it also brought along new ones throughout this stay. I watched as my walking grew quicker and easier, my balance improved, new muscles became defined through my legs, and my endurance stood to match. 

I felt healthier, more confident, more energetic, and my days simply felt easier to get through.

I felt like I left California changed in more ways than just this alone.

Finding A Community

When you enter the doors of this recovery center, the air simply feels different there than it does anywhere else. The aura it holds, the energy that is felt… is magnetic and addicting and always left me inspired to be the very best version of myself I could possibly be.

Inside the walls of the recovery center, I met some of the most amazing people – staff and trainers and the other clients working hard right beside me as well. All of us clients were there with different abilities, different injuries, different personalities, and different interests. Yet one thing was the same among all of us – we were each showing up, putting in the work, striving to be the healthiest versions of ourselves… no matter what that might look like. No matter what may have happened in our pasts, we were all just trying to move forward.

I never heard a complaint. I never saw an unhappy client. I only saw us, all of us, with some type of neurological damage, either from some illness, disease, or injury, pushing forward. Cheering each other on. Doing the best that we can. I saw some spectacular recoveries and some incredible people.

I felt privileged to be a part of a community like this.

Feeling Inspired About The Future

Feeling inspired as I was, I decided not only to make the most of each training session but to make the most of the trip altogether. 

I spent a weekend in Santa Barbara, a night in Malibu, visited downtown LA, made my way to wine country, the beaches, to cute little towns, lakes and neighborhoods, and impressive cities. And there was always so much more to see, so much more to do.

As I traveled my way through California, I became more independent both with a wheelchair and without one. I realized I was looking forward to where I was going, not just surviving each moment. As my mom and I would sit at restaurants with waterfront dining or as we sped along the highway to our next destination, we now discussed these questions – where do I see myself five years from now? What do I want for my future? Who do I want to become? What about graduate school, a career path, a family of my own? 

These are all questions most people my age are asking themselves, but these are questions I had told myself I didn’t deserve to be asked anymore. Or maybe, questions I’d told myself I couldn’t ask or couldn’t consider due to the always-present fear that something new would force my return to another hospital bed, another hospital room, and another long hospital stay. 

But now, I felt ready to find the answers to those questions. I felt ready to envision a future. I felt ready to leave behind the fear of something new going wrong and to embrace the fact that I finally was healthy enough to just move on – again.

I certainly don’t have the answers yet, and probably won’t for quite some time. But I feel thankful to have gotten to a point where I can remind myself to keep asking these questions and to always keep asking them. To keep wondering if I am who I want to be and if I’m heading where I want to be going. And if I’m ever not on a path that feels right, I hope I then ask myself – what now? Where do I go from here?

I found everything I expected to find in Claremont, California. I also found so much more. I found people who have changed my life, a place that has changed my life, a place all the way across the country that now feels like a second home.

As I left that place behind, I knew this was not a permanent goodbye, and I hope to be back soon for another stay. So, stay tuned… because I know at some point (maybe sooner than I even know) I’ll be sharing that I’m going back once more – to see what this next trip brings me.

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