‘We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.’ — —General Douglas MacArthur
Since I was six years old, I’ve loved football. I counted down the years until I could play for my school in 7th grade. However, two months before the season started, I woke up to swollen, stiff hands and feet. I couldn’t catch, tie my shoes, or barely walk. I was diagnosed with a severe case of JIA which was later determined to be Ankylosing Spondylitis. I distinctly remember sitting in the doctor’s office, just 12 years old, tears rolling down my cheeks, as I heard what I did not want to hear. This lifelong disease tore me from something I dearly loved. Football became completely out of the question, and my life would never be the same. However, as MacArthur remarked, I didn’t retreat – I chose to advance in another direction. I became a swimmer, met my best friends on the swim team, and was voted captain of my high school team. The friends I made in this sport introduced me to computer coding, which became my passion. I’ve published 4 free apps that have a combined 5000+ downloads, and I’ve started my own LLC for my coding projects. I’m studying computer science with a minor in business at my university, and I intend to become an entrepreneur in the technology field. Living with AS has taught me to pivot and that life can be amazing when a challenge pushes me in another direction. Just like a swimming flip turn, I hit a wall, turned, and advanced the other way. I’ve learned that the challenges in life shape who we ultimately become and that life would be boring without these adversities. AS did not drown me in pity; it propelled me to a new goal and taught me to be adaptable. Likewise, I am approaching the rigors of college CS courses with resilience. I am thankful for this obstacle in my life. All the injections, the blood draws, and the doctor’s appointments do not define me, but they are part of my journey and will continue to refine me.