Mentality: Beginnings 

Oprah Winfrey stated “What I know for sure is that there is no strength without challenge, adversity and resistance and often pain. The problems that make you want to throw up your hands and hollah, “mercy!” Will build your tenacity, courage and discipline and determination.” I agree with statement, especially since I was able to overcome many obstacles growing up. The biggest and most worthwhile obstacle in my life was getting adopted. Letting go of all I experienced growing up in the orphanage and learning the meaning of what family is all about was a worthwhile challenge.
My parent’s Nick Nicolakis and Marianna Valsamakis adopted me from Ukraine at the age of ten. They didn’t adopt me because they couldn’t have children of their own. They actually already had three younger children. There were two boys and one girl. The ages at the time were, the oldest boy who was six year old followed by a girl who was four and finally the youngest child was two years old. At the time of my adoption, I was known as the “problem child” as the director of the orphanage stated to my parents when they chose my picture from the thousands that was given to them. Mr. Nicolakis and Mrs. Valsamakis began to do their research before traveling from United States all the way to Ukraine. They actually chose a young girl before finalizing the proper documents needed. Sometime in early November they were finally ready to go and give this young girl a family. The flight from United States into Ukraine was 10 hours long.
Have you ever been on a plane which had Television right in front of you? I believe that when a flight is a certain amount of hours, they do have entertainment. I wonder if Timo Nicolakis, the oldest child they brought, understood what was happening. When they arrived at Kiev the capital of Ukraine, they went straight to their hotel to drop their belongings. They are already aware of where they should go to meet the young little girl they chose. After their arrival at scene they were informed that the little girl they chose has already been adopted. They were furious not because the little girl had found a family but because the people who were in charge of the adoption’s were irresponsible. They were thoughtless because they should have informed Mr. Nicolakis and his wife of the current situation prior them getting on a flight for ten hours. 

Nearly 95,000 children of the country’s eight million have been either been abandoned or cast adrift. According to the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, There are over 11 thousand children of preschool age in the orphanages of Ukraine, 2.7 thousand of whom are physically or mentally handicapped. In my personal opinion, due to having so many children in need of help the people in charge figured to give this lovely family a different chance to pick the lucky child they would call their own. As disappointed as Mr. Nicolakis and Mrs. Valsamakis were, they weren’t going to turn due the the goal they set for themselves. They promised to each other that they were going there for one purpose, to give one of these helpless children a house they can call home as well as a family. So this kind family swallowed their frustrations and began the process of choosing a child from the beginning. They were brought into a separate room that contained many albums which acquired photos of children who were in an orphanages. Mr. Nicolakis and his wife had some preferences on the child they were interested. They understood that all these defenseless children needed help, but they only could take one lucky child. They were looking for a girl, who also was eight or nine. This made it easier for the people in charge to narrow down their albums. As this family patiently sat for hours glancing through many albums, they came across a minor who didn’t really fit in their preferences. Something really attached this family to this stranger. They didn’t care that she was ten years old, even though they wanted a child who was eight due to all of their children being two years apart. 
I still remember the very first time I laid my big hazel eyes on these total strangers. I recall the outfit I was told to put on in order for me to meet this family. We. the orphans, had everyday clothes and “nice” clothes that we only were able to put on for special occasions. In my opinion the “nice” clothes was similar to the everyday clothes. I was wearing a blood red knitted sweater which had black perpendicular stripes with a pair of jeans. I was not aware for the reason I was told to come to the director of the orphanage’s office. As I walked into the office, I saw these three people with a young child smiling at me. I was not completely comprehending why I was meeting these people. I just thought to myself; why are they staring at me. As they introduced themselves in a language I have never heard before, the translator began to speak to me in a similar language. I actually later learned that he was speaking Russian which is similar but not identical to Ukrainian language. I could understand 90% of what this young gentleman was saying, but that was good enough for me especially since I didn’t like meeting new people who were so ecstatic and energized. 
In the orphanage, the only home I’d known, we were taught how to stay silent, especially with strangers. In my opinion I believe the director of the facility didn’t want the children saying anything negative about the way they facilitated these minors. Speaking from personal experience, if we did talk about their way for raising us, they would have been shut down, but maybe not because Ukraine was one of the poorest countries. So many of the orphanages did what was expected of them. We the orphans didn’t have any power to speak up for ourselves, and if we did we would get the beating of our lives, which would teach us the lesson to never open our mouth. 
After spending couple of hours with these strangers who were affectionate, I was required to make a decision whether I wanted these people to adopt me. With the director of the orphanage watching and listening to my every move, I found it difficult for me to open up and get to know them. Being a ten year old girl, who didn’t really comprehend what exactly was happening, but I was eager girl who was presented with the opportunity to get out of the “hell hole” as I would call it. After making the decision to allow these kindhearted family to adopt me, they began to come on a daily bases to get to know me. I was actually very thankful that there was someone out there who finally showed interest in me, without expecting anything in return. 
Returning to my assigned group after meeting this gracious family the first day, I began reminiscing whether I made the right choice because the staff in the orphanage began to tell me horror stories. 
“They want to adopt you just to sell you.”

 “They will cut you up in pieces!” In this orphanage everyone knew everyone’s life and secrets. Being a ten year old orphan, of course I believed the only people I knew my entire life. The following day I was surprised but thrilled that they came back to see me after classes finished. The second visit they brought me candy, I was overly ecstatic because we didn’t get any opportunities to have any type of sweets besides on our birthday’s. Since it was only the second, I was told to sit in the director’s office again. It made me feel uncomfortable but happy that they brought some candy. When they opened up the bag of candy my automatic question to the translator was, “Can I bring the bag of candy back to my class?” I wanted to share it with the others. as the family smiled at me, the Director counted the amount of candy there was in the bag, and separated exactly the amount of candy needed to give each child one piece of candy, keeping the rest for herself. As the translator repeated Mrs. Valsamakis statement about how the rest of the bag should go to me, she answered with “of course she will get it at the end of the visit”. I didn’t want to wait to return to my group to open MY piece of candy, so I ate it at that moment. That was the very first moment my future family saw my big beautiful smile. Since I save my smile, I’ve been told when I let it go, it’s infectious.

They began to come consistently which was new to me, especially since I have never had that in my life. I began to open up to this family, and when I say open up, I’m talking about communicating more and I began to look up, instead of staring at the floor. I never felt comfortable looking at people’s faces. I believe it has to do with the way I was treated at the orphanage. We the kids were taught the wrong kind of respect. We were taught not to look up when the staff was speaking to us, and being a stubborn and relentless child, I often disobeyed many of the rules. There were many children in that orphanage and the way they divided kids was into categories based on their age and mentality. Actually only one child was placed in a lower grade due to not completing first and second grade at the previous orphanage. This orphanage began with third grade all the way through twelfth grade. Each grade contained about fifteen to twenty pessimistic children. Mr. Nicolakis and Mrs. Valsamakis always tried to ask questions about the type of facility this was, they also asked about many other children. They asked me if I had siblings, I didn’t give a response to that question, just shifted my shoulder’s upward hoping they would understand that I wasn’t comfortable enough to speak about that yet.     

Today was a big day for both Mr. Nicolakis and Mrs. Valsamakis but I didn’t grasp why I was missing school that day or why they dressed me even better than the “nice outfit” we had for special actuation. It was the very first time I was able to exit the premises with this family. I later realized we were headed to court, to make the final decision whether this family had the proper documents and proper reasoning for wanting to adopt a child while having three of their own. I remember sitting a row behind my future family. I was glad that the language spoken in court was Ukrainian. I remember these two specific moments in that two hour court session. The first day I met this family, I was taken to a separate room with a lady asking me whether I wanted to be adopted. Well she was the first person the judge asked what my decision was. Then they spoke about other factors I didn’t even understand. The judge shifted his focus to Mr. Nicolakis and Mrs. Valsamakis. The only thing I remember from that moment was the judge asking if they were sure about adopting a child. He looked a piece of paper and asked all puzzled why they were adopting a fourth child. They were beaming as they explained that yes, they wanted me. 

Here was the moment that changed my entire heartbroken life. The judge called me to the front, so he could ask me privately.. Nervously holding my hands together in front of me I stated one word “da” which means yes in Ukrainian. He asked me once more in a different manner. Do you allow Mr. Nicolakis and his wife to adopt you into their family? I nodded my head saying yes. As I take a glanced to the back of the room, I saw my new these parents and brother smiling which made me feel very uncomfortable. I began to think about what the staff at the orphanage was telling me about being chopped up into little pieces.

There are going to sell you, They will murder you!!!

While walking back to my seat, I could not manage to pick up my head because I didn’t want them staring at me. This continued until I said goodbye to everyone and my sisters at the orphanage. My nerves didn’t stop me from going with them, though, and the rest of my life began as I stepped onto that ten hour flight to New York City.

Ambition

Lately I’ve been thinking about this question:  what is more frustrating not being able to strive in a sport or learning to play sports in a wheelchair? There really is no right answer, the answer is based on your mentality. If you’re ambition is to succeed in the sport you have chosen to play then there should be nothing that prevents you from striving in that sport. My ambition, desire and dedication will get me as far as I want to go. My dream for Paralympics will get me training even harder for my passion. These questions led me to wonder what my coaches and teammates think of me as a player and how I can use that to be the best version of myself as I train.

Many of you are aware of my recent accident. I’m a lucky girl surviving after being hit by the truck. Many of you also understand how devoted I was when I played Rugby. I have always been exceptionally good at sports. Any sport I tried, whether it was in high school during gym class or at PowerPlay NYC summer camp for young athletes. All my coaches have expressed my ability to learn a sport quickly and my endurance playing that new sport. My goal has always been to take sports to a professional a stage.

Rayna, my old coach, has witnessed me grow as an athlete since 8th grade all through high school. She has supported my athletic skills from flag rugby which later turned to high school tackle Rugby. Rayna has also been my biggest mentor from the moment I met her in 8th grade. I remember the first day of gym class in a new school with new faces and names to learn. Of course I had to be the class clown and get myself into foolish situations. I remember Rayna stating how impressed she was with my foot skills. I was too worried about making friends at my new school, The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria to realize that I had a true talent. Rayna introduced me to flag rugby in 8th grade. She believed I could strive in this sport. I was honored when she said, “Karina would learn any new sport skill and practiced it until she mastered it. Amazing determination and talent”. That’s the moment I fell in love with the sport.

As a young athlete I was also focusing on basketball. In my opinion I was a fair player. I have always believed that basketball was such a common sport with many people so much better. At that moment of my life I didn’t have the ambition for basketball because I was a very short athlete. In today’s society even the point guards are 6 feet tall. I still had the desire to play basketball in high school. That quickly changed when I tore my ACL during a basketball game in 8th grade. As I ran towards the basket and jumped into a layup I felt something snapping. I quickly came out of the game and placed ice on my leg because it began to throb. I’m a short player but quick on my feet. Timand Bates my basketball coach reflected on my playing, “Sometimes Karina’s love for the sport clouds her judgment about how far she should push herself. One of my worst coaching decisions ever was to allow her back into a game in 8th grade after she had already hurt herself. But she kept pestering me like a 90s era crackhead. So, I relented. And then she tore her ACL about 10 minutes in. It was my fault, and the episode solidified my impression of how important sports is to her. She can’t live without the game.” That was the worst decision I made as an athlete.

I’m 5’0 tall with small hands and feet. What made me an exceptional player was my speed and quick thinking. Being a stubborn young athlete I ignored my coach’s advice and the pain just to get back into the game. I’m an eager player who cares more about the game than the injuries I face. Timand was my basketball coach in middle school all the way through High School. He was the coach that taught me the meaning of sportsmanship. What made me try to excel at the sport was playing against the coach and trying to beat him. (Mind you my coach was 5’10.) But my passion for the sport never stopped me,as Timand recalls,

“Karina is ferocious in her pursuit of the win – every time she steps on the floor. Some people play sports, others love the game. You can see the love in her face as she plays. I know she loves to win, but more importantly, she simply loves to compete. Any coach of any sport can build a team around a player like Karina. Her love for the game is contagious and her work ethic unmatched. It is a lifetime opportunity to work with a young player so committed, so in love with the game.”

I began my athletic adventures in 8th grade. Playing many sports I was introduced to many athletes. Jessica Toro was another exceptional player. I began playing basketball with her in 8th grade. After my ACL surgery, I rushed into playing tackle Rugby with her on the NYRC rugby team. I was such a stubborn person that I didn’t want to miss my opportunity to play high school rugby. My coach commented on this, Karina is someone with such determination and great passion. Before having her accident she was still determine to continue you playing even with all her knee injuries and she was a great teammate always made sure to give her 100%. Seeing her transition to wheelchair sports you still see the determination she has to make herself better every day”.

Shortly after my ACL surgery I began playing on NYRC rugby team. I ignored everyone’s advice and jumped straight into the sport. I was so focused on playing sports in high school and getting noticed by colleges that I ignored my doctor’s instructions. I got the opportunity to play in my first NYRC game against Columbia College. It was an intense game especially playing after a surgery. That’s when my ignorance came out and I began making poor choices. Knowing that my knee is damaged worse I continued to play rugby. I disregarded everyone’s suggestion and continued to play rugby to the point I needed another surgery. My senior year, my school didn’t offer Rugby as a sport. Which I was actually glad because there were too many injuries due to Rugby players not understanding the technique to tackle players.

Transforming into college rugby was beyond exciting and nerve racking. I can honestly admit to being  scared and cocky at the same time. I had the knowledge and the experience to begin playing college level Rugby. My teammate Emily Cronin best describes me, “Smallest players to grace the rugby field but always had a huge impact. You never gave up, you could get tossed around all game but you got right back up as if nothing happened”. My enthusiasm for rugby never changed. I was honored to be part of SUNY Brockport rugby team. The team thought me the meaning of teamwork. They were supportive to each individual, and were not afraid to  make suggestions on how the player can improve.

The best description of me as an athlete is this Tay Mari statement. “Your are tenacious on the field and relentless of it. Just your desire to keep coming back injury after injury says a lot to your dedication to sport. Watching your physical and emotional transformation after your car accident through wheelchair sports has been inspiring to say the least”.

I’m honored that people view me as an inspirational person, but I feel like people give me too much credit. Yes, I was in a tragic accident and I was able to overcome the depression, heartbreak and hopelessness. I feel like I haven’t achieved anything for me to get so much credit from former teachers, teammates and friends. I should not be saying this statement but I’m grateful for this car accident. I’m truly sorry someone had to die and for me to lose feeling in my lower body. Sometime I wonder where I would be in life right now if I kept going down the same path. So excuse me if this statement sounds selfish to some people. My mentality and appreciation for the world changed for the better. My favorite quote that sums up this whole experience is “ When you become conscious, you’re going to be mad at the entire world. Then you will be at total peace with yourself”

As I transition into wheelchair sports I became more frustrated than usual. The reason for the frustration is because what made me a great athlete was my legs and my speed. One weekend Sports Federation had an event at Queens College. It was that day I realized I have to stop feeling pity for myself and become successful or/and successful wheelchair athlete. My new wheelchair basketball coach and I  met the same weekend. His first impression of me was…

“Well when I first met her at the Paralympic experience, she seemed very eager and determined, although I only observed her through basketball I can see that she got frustrated easy, as most athletes do when they first start, nothing comes easy so frustration began that first day just because she could push the sports chair that obviously was too big for her, after that she experienced other sports and you kept the same mentality of I was a great athlete why can’t I do this the same way, overall she will be able to adjust once she overcomes her frustration of what was and what is”

Now that I have lost my lower body I have to train my upper body. Weather it is going to Paralympics or getting a degree in Occupational Therapy with Recreational Therapy. After having a discussion with my wheelchair basketball and softball coach I began to realize that I’m a selfish human being. After hearing my goal and desire to go to Paralympics he agreed to train me twice a week from 6am-1pm to become stronger, faster and better. David Deas best describes me as “An achiever who strives in the face of adversity.” Hearing my ambition and aspiration he was willing to put his own time and energy to train me. I was playing wheelchair Basketball, Softball and Tennis to see that sport is the best fit for me. The more I played each of those sports the more aggravated I became. My frustration were not towards the sport itself but towards not being able to strive in a sport for the first time.

Here I was alive with my second chance of becoming something worthy. Something  my former coaches and teacher were inspired by. So I quickly changed my attitude and changed my life tyle and converted my focus from losing my ability to play sport to a positive attitude and giving wheelchair sports a chance to grow on me. I have always had many supporters by my side. I have many former teammates from both high school and college. I have always had many “friends” and acquaintances but In situations like this you get to learn what people are truly behind you and who are not. My former High School  counselor Lawrence Alexander wrote the best quote that has been stuck in my head, “It’s nice that you know people, but try being someone worth knowing” That is exactly what has my attention. I wasn’t given a second chance at life to participate in foolish circumstances. I’m in this world as an example that you really can do anything you put your mind to.

Gateway To Gold

At this time of my life I’m focused on getting stronger and bigger for two main reasons. I want to get strong enough so I’m not relying on anyone to help me transfer, or picking me up from the floor when I fall. I want to be able to go to school in the fall without someone accompanying me because it’s a long distance for me to push myself on my own. The second reason why I would like to get stronger and faster is my ambition for Paralympics in 2020. I’m prepared and willing to train tough and hard to get my body where I believe it should be. I understand that the chances of my dream to go to Paralympics might be slim to none, but even if I get the honor to try out, I will be satisfied. I can accept if I don’t make it to Paralympics, because I would recognize that I have done my best. Muhammad Ali once stated, “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them; a desire, a dream, a vision.”

I found my goal after I spent the day at Queens College with other paraplegic adults playing different wheelchair sports. I realized that if I focused on wheelchair sports and change my mentality from the rugby life I used to have since 8th grade, I can take it as far as the Paralympics. I began to consider the possibility of wheelchair sports and not to mourn about all the things I can not do any longer. This all began in April 2016.

My alarm went off on a Sunday morning at 6 am. I remember thinking to myself I can’t wake this early, especially on a Sunday. I was looking forward to this event, so I knew I had to stop complaining and get in the shower so I could wake myself up. I did the total opposite, I shut my alarm off. I ended up setting my alarm to go off again in 30 min. I went to lay back down expecting my alarm to ring again. I opened my eyes and it was 9 am and I was expected at Queens College at 9:30am. I woke up, washed my face and brushed my teeth, put my sneakers on trying to see if my best friend Berevan could order me a cab on her lyft account. I wasn’t expecting her to be awake this early on a Sunday, especially since she is attending school during the week.

I asked my foster mother, Maritza, if she would consider driving me. Instead she called me a regular cab and gave me $50. I remember sitting in the cab and getting very aggravated with the driver. It was Watson Car Service where 90% of the driver’s spoke English as a second language. I was getting so frustrated at the driver for not speaking English instead of being mad at myself for not waking up when the alarm went off the first time. The campus is so big that they left multiple security guards with little index cards with directions to the huge tennis gym where we were all gathering before being put in specific groups to begin wheelchair sports. I was already an hour late, so I didn’t get to participate in one sport. I came to learn that the sport was Paraplegic Rowing. I began with wheelchair basketball and I fell in love with it. The intensity and roughness was everything I loved about rugby. The speed and upper body strength required to play the sport attracted me even more. I have played rugby since 8th grade so I need that challenge in a sport. A great athlete once said “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying” -Michael Jordan. That quote especially stuck with me because here I was complaining and whining about losing the talent in sports, but most of all losing the ability to walk. That all changed after I played wheelchair basketball.

Just after one wheelchair sport I knew that I discovered the cure to my overwhelmingly despondent state of mind. I have always been an athletic girl, so I needed wheelchair sports.

Sports has always been therapeutic for me. I never liked going to a psychologist and discussing my personal issues. Sitting in a small room across from someone who took notes on your problems made it hard to feel comfortable as she/he aggressively judges you. That’s why I have always played rugby. It was appealing to me because it was the first time in my life where I felt like I was in control. I got this sense of power every time I tackled a player.  I was not a big or muscular player, but I was quick on my feet.

I remember playing in  a high school rugby game at Randalls Island. I was in 9th grade, it was my first year playing tackle rugby and I was still learning how to properly tackle. I remember this specific moment where I actually used the correct technique while running after a hefty girl. As I dove in to grab her ankles, her body plunged to the floor. I remember feeling so amazed and proud at the same time. At that moment I understood what Rayna, my rugby coach, had been trying to teach the team. It’s not about your size, it’s about the techniques rugby players use to play. I can speak from personal experience when I say that there will always be someone bigger, better and faster than you. That’s the main reason why I loved rugby so much, because I understood that no matter how good I was I can always get better.

After wheelchair basketball at Queens College, we rotated to volleyball. It’s called sitting volleyball for handicap athletes. I have always loved volleyball but playing it in a sitting position on the floor is difficult. Handicap players must have a good trunk support in order to play sitting volleyball. I personally didn’t like it because I’m so gaunt and bony that sitting on a hard surface was difficult. I told myself once I get my core and back straight, I would play sitting volleyball. I felt more comfortable playing a sport that I have played before because then I don’t have to learn every skill from the beginning. For example, in order to play wheelchair basketball, a player must have upper body strength to push and to be able to shoot from the sitting position and height. For sitting volleyball, the player must have a good trunk support and the speed to move on the floor while sitting. I have to work on every muscle as a walking athlete would. My best quality in sports was my speed, however, now that I’m wheelchair bound, I have to focus on upper body strength and my trunk support. After finishing sitting volleyball, we were called for a lunch break where we sat all together with other players and coaches. This was the moment for players to ask questions and get information about the sport they were interested in. There were roughly 100 people in the room and I was the only player asking questions. I was trying to get as much information on the wheelchair sports I was interested in pursuing.

The thing that stuck with me was the banner with “Gateway to Gold” all over it. That day really stuck with me because I have been sitting at home thinking about all the things I cannot do anymore. The biggest thing I was disappointed about was losing rugby as an escape from my problems. Paralympics ranges with disabled athletes, including spinal cord injuries, amputations and cerebral palsy competing in wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, archery, dressage and swimming.

The Social Media Distraction

 

Lately I’ve been thinking about social media. Have you ever realized how much social media affects our society? I have never been a big fan of watching TV, and the only shows I grew up watching living with my parent’s are Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Criminal Minds, CSI original, CSI Miami, and CSI New York. Now I understand why my parents had parenting controls on electronics. I understand why my parents liked their children watching shows like that. Having a household full of kids with ages from two years old up to sixteen years old, we all have different interests in shows, music and movies. I would do exactly the same thing as a parent.

The first show that should not be playing Bad Girls Club. It’s a reality television series created by Jonathan Murray for the Oxygen Network. The show focuses on the conflicts between seven rude, aggressive, reckless women. I personally never understood or watched that show because I never understood why grown women are fighting each other for childish reasons. In my opinion young adults should not be acting so ugly. When I use the term ugly to describe someone’s action I’m talking about their behavior.

I have been in foster care for 4 years now and I have seen adult females acting in an ugly way too. I began to think about social media and how it advertises the people we look up to. For example Kylie Jenner who is coming out with all these new makeup products, giving advice to my generation. What many people don’t understand is that when you have money you can look as you wish. I’m sure no one want’s to look ordinary especially when we witness famous people changing and changing their appearances to look even better. I personally have never been a big fan of make up. Even for my 12th grade prom I established the minimum amount of make up considering I don’t wear makeup daily or for special occasions.

 

I also began to think about music and what artists sing. I grew up in Astoria Queens. The only music that I grew up listening to is Greek music or FM radio, specifically stations like CBS Radio 92.3 Now and 103.5 KTU. After becoming ward of the state and moving to the Bronx, I was always around rap music and spanish music. I personally never liked hard core trap music because I never comprehend what they are saying or why these artists are rapping about shooting one person and getting with another person. But at the same time these composers are only doing what their fans are asking for.

I still to this day don’t like rap music, there are few certain songs that I love. I personally love Rihanna and I love her new album but a few days ago the children were on youtube on our TV. They were watching the video to Rihanna’s music video Needed Me, and I witnessed naked with a clear, delicate and open robe, smoking weed. The video shows her naked, smoking weed and shooting people. I’m 20 years old and even I find that a little extreme. There is a 9 year old, 14 year old, and a 16 year old in this household. I would understand if the older girls wanted to watch that, but for a 9 year old girl to see Rihanna naked in most of her videos from this album is unacceptable. What is the lesson the artist is trying to teach young girls and even young adults?  I understand that the composer’s are giving what the fans are asking for but there should be a limit to what is shows in the music videos. Our world is officially broken. Grades are getting low, teens are sending nudes, and a 14 year old is drinking beer. No one seems to care, and we wonder why all these children are doing these things. Social Media is a big influence on our society.

There is one song that I love because it’s a story told by Lukas Graham. I was listening to the lyrics to the song 7 years by Lukas Graham, it’s a catchy song about his childhood and how he looks forward to turning 60 years old. The reason why I love that song is because the song has no guns, no cars, no fireworks: street murals and a house. It’s a song both honest and catchy, A song that is appropriate and it’s easy to understand the message he’s trying to teach. I have also been listening to Eminem and the lyrics he wrote. In my opinion his songs are truthful and honest, he’s not  rapping about car’s, drugs and violence. He is writing about his personal life and his daughter. Nothing is more attractive on an individual then their love for their family. If more people sang about their life struggles and less about sex, violence and car’s. The society would learned better, positive and appropriate life lessons.

Now that I have focused my attention on wheelchair sports and finishing college, I don’t really watch TV, I even pay for Hulu premium and I just don’t use it much. I began to read more and go to sleep at acceptable time to get my sleeping habits back to normal. My only focus in life is reaching my goal. I just don’t waste too much time on social media let alone on the famous people and what they have. Because I have finally accepted and understand that I can have all these things they are advertising if I work hard. I don’t want to buy all these nice things and not deserve them. I want work hard get a degree and train for paralympics. I feel like anything I get now is because of people feeling pity for me. I want to be able to say: I worked hard and I deserve this, and nothing distracted me.

Success Story

 

The more I spend time with certain people the more I begin to realize how my classmates view me as a person. I don’t like the way people view me which made me turn my life around. I realized people will tell me what I want to hear but they won’t admit their true feelings towards me. So as of today May 23rd 2016, I’m only focused on my success. I refuse to waste my second chance at life entertaining hate. I’m focused on success making something worthy of my life. The more time I spend with people who are so driven on killing my dream the stronger I get. God didn’t give me a second chance for me to throw it away. I don’t have to become a Paralympic winner. I just have to become a success story.

When people make a disrespectful comments towards me and my survival tattoo just shows me how low their mentality is on understanding the meaning of my tattoo. I might have rushed on getting that tattoo. But if you understood my story and where I’m coming from, you would not make that irrelevant comment.  When I hear my foster mother telling her friends “does she think she’s better than everyone else with everything she has done” that comment just makes me work harder for success. I don’t think i’m better than anyone. I’m staying humble and positive because I want to succeed in life. I told her “there is no expiration date on changing for the better”. So I returned my Dominican Republic ticket, I’m registering for summer classes that I start in July 11th, 2016.

Sports: My Constant

As a child is born he/she adapts to their surroundings and parents or family members begin to teach the child between right and wrong.  In time, we begin to form their own mentality, affected by their surroundings. It took me twenty years to build my mentality and I finally realize that it’s no one’s fault for my wasteful life. Growing up in an orphanage definitely affected my mindset. Constantly seeing the horror in young children’s eyes and experiencing the grisly attitude from the staff, I never got the chance to learn how grow up like a normal child. So I began to build walls around me to protect myself from getting hurt. Then a family adopted me and showed me all the care and support a family would show their child. They treated me like I was their own. But because I never experienced the affection as a child, I began to push my family away. I always say I don’t like clingy people, but I can honestly admit that it’s because I’m afraid of getting hurt emotionally and mentally. A women can not be physically abused without also being abused emotionally and even mentally. I don’t want to blame my past for my decisions. I just want to help you understand how a child’s mentality is formed from a young age.

I believe that my mentality was never properly formed while I held so much anger. I was adopted at age ten to a family who a perfect example of a normal American family. A working father with a stay home mother to raise the children. Everything was going great until I turned 13,  I started acting out and pushing my parents away. I was not raised with a mother figure asking me how my day was at school, or cared about how I was doing.  I wasn’t built on receiving so much love and affection. I was not constructed to be able to trust someone, instead I grew up fearing the first adults I knew in the orphanage. There was one thing that I held on in life to feel normal. One thing that I understood I was great at.

The orphanage was built of 75% boys. The only activity we were able to do on our free time was play sports. Growing up playing sports with boys build me into a very competitive young athlete. The main sports that was played in Ukraine were soccer and basketball. We went to Italy to meet prospective parents who may adopt us, and the most important thing that I wanted to bring back was a soccer ball. The orphanage was designed like school, we had 1st graders through 12th graders. There was one class per grade and seniority always took place. So the most important thing that I was trying to bring back was a soccer ball so us the youngest grade could have a ball to play on weekends. I wanted parents, but I didn’t think beyond the soccer ball.

I still remember sitting in court, playing with my hands looking down nervously and not understanding the situation. As my name being called to the front of the room to give my decision I stare at the floor, I’m nervously walking towards the front of the room. From my understanding at that age, that’s where a man would give his permission for these lovely parents to adopt me. After court they were so enthusiastic to have me be part of their family they brought me to a fair that was happening. Marianna the mother spoke while the translator repeated “choose anything you want”. The first item I pointed my finger at, when two strangers and a translator took me to a fair, was a soccer ball. They were so stunned, because I think they meant for me to pick out some clothes. We were in one of the poorest country in this world. So she was trying to give me a little more than what I had in the orphanage. But the only thing I wanted was that soccer ball.

Coming to United States I was surrounded by sports. Sports that was for boy’s and girl’s. I remember the moment I got to shine in a sport event, it was 5th grade when we all had to do the punt, pass, and kick test. The person with the highest score got to go and compete against other individuals that were chosen from their school. I didn’t understand what was going on until we were sitting at home talking about who would take me to the punt, pass, and kick competition. I don’t remember every detail but I remember entering a big field with Jets and Giants jerseys that were given to us. I remember being put on a line with children my age, I was very shy that day and quiet. There was one player from each school that scored the highest from their school. Being twelve years old barely understanding what’s going on was the biggest challenge. Once I got on line and completed my punt pass and kick I didn’t feel as shy as I felt in the beginning of the day. At the end of that day they were giving trophies out to players that got the highest score for their age group. My name was called as the person with the highest score for my group. I remember being so shy and not understanding the language, I just sat in my seat as my grandfather went up to receive my trophie. That was the prime moment I got to shine in sports being a new student in America. That’s the first occasion my parent’s realized how exceptional I was at sports even at such a young age. Sport’s has always been here for me and it’s something that will continue to be he for me now and in the future.

No Longer Numb

I can’t keep living life always trying to feel numb. I realized that it’s alright to feel, especially to feel grief, rage and hopelessness. It all started after I became a foster child living in a group home. I began smoking weed, going out with the wrong people. Then I was introduced to molly. I’m only writing about this because I have been doing this for so many years that I want to show people that it’s better to feel something then be numb your whole life. The group home forced me to think about life and what I wanted. It also made me heartless because I realized that life is full of disappointments. I realized that the only way to stop getting hurt is not to care. The next moment changed my life negatively. I tried a drug at this rave, and liked the feeling it gave me. So I  started smoking and doing this drug. The staff of the group home began to realize that living there was changing me in a negative way, so they started to look for Foster Home’s. I continued to do as I pleased with no consideration towards the people I was pushing away. I got a job, but realized no matter how hard you work minimum wage wasn’t enough. I began to do my chores because I  was spending the  money on buying drugs.  Which lead me to make more horrible decisions.

I was introduced to someone who  was constantly there for me in the beginning. In my situation I was glad that there was someone who was helping me. But I was so blind by the fact that she was a negative miserable person. I still don’t understand what made me deal with such a pessimist. I have ruined so many relationships and friendships with many people because of this person. I don’t want to excuse my behavior and role in these situations. None of my actions are excusable, because I have my own brain and I should make my own smart decisions. I got so used to going to parties with her that I started losing touch with my dream. It began to go down the hill from there.

Healing from this accident has given me so much time to think. To think about my life before the accident and what my life can look like now that I have had a second chance to do something worthy. There is so much I would love to accomplish. Instead of feeling pity for myself I can turn this experience into something positive. My new thoughts always come back to one sentence: “I can’t continue living life trying to feel numb.”

I would like to get back into school. Get a degree in occupational therapy to have a day job. My dream is to play sports in paralympics. I have started playing as many sports as i’m qualified to play, to notice what sport I pick  up. Once I pick a sport I will put all my focus and training towards becoming the best in that sport. When I get invited to parties now, lately I have been going to show respect. I have been trying to feel numb for so long now that I don’t know how to go and just have fun. So for now I’ll just focus on sports and school to keep my mind off the things I can’t do. After time passes and I have something to keep me focus I’ll be able to go out without feeling depressed. Without thinking of all the things I can’t do, because I’ll be to busy focused on my dream. The other day

I found a quote on my best friend, Beeevan’s laptop,

“True confidence has no room for jealousy and envy. When you know you are great, you have no reason to hate.” This quote stuck in my head because it made me realize I have to stop hating on the things I don’t have and create something people can applaud to.