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    23rd December 2005

    At Home and Hyperactive

    The drive home was outstanding. Obviously by the time I had been driving for 17 hours I was getting a little antsy, but the guy who I was driving with – David Hartwell, a freshmen from Colorado Springs whom I had never met before – made delightful company (I hope he agrees that the trip was even a little better than barely bearable).

    I went out cycling today as it was about 55 degrees and dry outside. There are traces of the snow from the weekend left on the ground, but most of it has melted. The last couple days have been some sun with some clouds, which makes for sunsets that look like they were painted over the mountains. I spent the better part of 3 days hanging out at Craig Hospital being “re-evaluated”, which they like to do at least once a year for a fine medical miracle such as myself. They seem to think that I’m doing well, and I concur. And now I’m chilling, writing this update while a four pound poodle named Toby falls asleep curled between my arm and my body (Michael is watching Toby for a friend over the break)…

    I have finished my first semester of school as a paraplegic, and it is nice to have that under my belt – but then again, it was always nice to finish a semester. I would venture that this semester will be my lowest GPA at Calvin – maybe even lowest ever – and yet I’m not terribly disappointed because I’m getting what I earned. Undoubtedly I could have focused more on my classes or written papers which were exactly what my professors wanted, but grades have never been my motivation for doing well in school (except when in competition with Sarah Steen). I learned a great deal from the academic world this semester (just ask my sister who has received several lectures about the things I studied) and this is my only real goal in school – to learn a few things here and there and be able to use them (or at least teach my sister about them).

    But more than school, I have succeeded in finding out what it is like to be a paraplegic living away from the security of family, and succeeded in finding out what it takes to be a paraplegic going back to school. I have learned many more things about life – or relearned a few important things. Three things in particular stick out:

    1) I can’t do as much as I used to be able to – but its alright! I took a full course load (15 credits) and I was able to do it, but it ate away at me because I wasn’t able to do it as well as I would have liked. I’m the kind of guy who feels bad about coming to class unprepared, even if I never show it. It is true that school has always been below people and running and music on my list of priorities – but I still like to have enough time to do my reading. I am a person who lives best when I have a balanced life of different sorts of activities; I’m not really capable of putting all of my energy into school only – I love being physically active and getting to play music and hanging out with people. If I can’t do all those things and take 5 hard classes, than I’m not sure I want to take 5 hard classes. Maybe 2 hard classes and 2 less hard classes… One of the best pieces of advice that I received this semester was from my academic advisor at Calvin, Richard Plantinga. He told me that he knew I was capable of getting the grades and writing the papers, but maybe this semester I could worry about it less knowing that the most important part of my being at school had nothing to do with my report card at the end of the semester. Its also very reassuring to me to remember that its not the things that I do that make me who I am – my identity is first and foremost, found in Christ; and my personality is not something that changes when the things I do change. I will be me whether I’m out climbing mountains or stuck inside somewhere doing paperwork…

    All this, but I have also been realizing more and more 2) the importance of discipline in leading and active and fulfilling life. At the end of this semester I see how much more disciplined I could have been and it might have helped me in classes or to be able to do more of the things that I hoped to do. I’m not kicking myself in the pants or anything; I’m content with the past four months – but that doesn’t mean I don’t see room for improvement in the future. This first semester back I pretty much talked to anybody and everybody on any terms and at any time, regardless of what I could or should have been doing. Part of the reason I often meander through the day is a lack of focus. When I was running, even if I wasn’t running for the team, I still had something to do everyday in the afternoon after classes. Now its like there is a void of space where my body thinks it should be doing something other than homework, but its not quite sure what. In the spring semester, I would like to spend mor time working on rehab – getting in the pool and whatnot – to try to strengthen the oh-so-weak signals that get through to my leg muscles. I know that the only way I will have time to do this is if I am disciplined in my studies and my socialization. I would also love to become more involved with a church in Grand Rapids (there isn’t one in specific right now), but I know that this too can only happen if I am disciplined. In addition to this aspect of discipline, I have been impressed this semester with the notion that I would like to really learn a lot about just a few things – but to know them really well. OK, so all that to say that in the spring I will be trying to be more disciplined.

    And finally, I have been learning again and again 3) the desirability of focusing on the people and situations that are actually in front of you rather than the people and situations that you wish would be. Last summer, my friend Drew Wills (who was in rehab with me at Craig) told me that he tries not to think about the things he can’t do as much as the things he can. Obviously it is appropriate to mourn losses – even losses in ability – but this kind of attitude helps to continue living as full a life as possible. It has actually been fairly easy for me to think this way in terms of my own physical ability. Of course I miss running, but I try to think more of the things I can do, like weightlifting and handcycling. It has always been more difficult for me to apply to people and social situations. It always seems like those other people are having more fun over there, so why can’t I just quit what I’m doing and join them? I asked that question a lot during my first two years at Calvin, thinking about how much fun my friends at other schools were having. Or I am always wanting to hang out with this one guy that I think is really cool, but our schedules never work together, and so I end up hanging out with this other guy that isn’t as “cool” but is still lots of fun. Or I end up getting a huge crush on some girl that I don’t really know that well and we don’t see eachother that much and then I don’t even notice the people right in front of me – or (even worse) I want to be more than friends with this girl and so I don’t let myself just be friends, which would probably be more fun anyways. Remembering to do the best that you can with what you are given each day also means that you have to look at what is actually in front of you and not what you wish was in front of you.

    This is a very long post, but I haven’t posted anything this long in a while that didn’t involve the police. Merry Christmas and remember today to tell someone you love them and then give them a big old hug!


    2 Responses to “At Home and Hyperactive”

    1. ralph says:

      Good job w/ school. I’m a C5-6 quad and operate a blog about disabled sports. Come check it out.

    2. Steve Pisano says:


      I met your dad at church a few sundays ago, and he said that you may come up to visit him some time.

      e-mail me back and let me know if you are going to come up to the YMCA to see him.
      Steve Pisano

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    Copyright 2005 by Daryl Holmlund - All rights reserved.