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Local columnist inspires others with her words

The world often seems small. It can make us feel like we’re in our own little bubble and no one is paying any attention. It might even feel like we’re carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders.

I used to feel this way. I thought that it was OK if I was constantly in my own space, doing my own routine. I was always trying to figure things out on my own because I was so curious about everything. That was just the way my life seemed to be. However, I realized that I wasn’t alone.

I wanted to share my thoughts, but didn’t know to get them out into the world. I didn’t know how people would react, either. I eventually made the decision as I got older to be brave and bold in everything I did, even if I wasn’t sure where it was going to lead.

I knew that my cerebral palsy would somehow factor into every other choice I’d make. I realized that having a disability requires being brave and bold. I couldn’t afford to be a scared little girl in a wheelchair then — and I don’t let my circumstances get in my way as an adult.

I never imagined that choice would have such a profound domino effect — to the point where I’m able to share my experiences with so many others. Not only that, it’s surreal to have the opportunity to impact someone else’s life, simply by living my own.

There was a possibility that my life might become public if I found success as a writer. That has always been in the back of my mind — and so has every emotion that comes with being in the public eye. I’m a small-town girl who followed my dreams and wrote a book, but I was only supposed to “make it” to a certain point in life before reaching a peak due to my cerebral palsy.

I’d like to think I’ve quietly proven myself along the way, but I didn’t think people would be mindful of what I’m doing — let alone be invested enough to care. I think the publication of my first book last year opened the floodgates for others to see what’s possible when you’re willing to work for what you want.

I had no idea those gates would lead to having an army behind me when I was recognized by WISE Women of Blair County — or most recently, when I launched a GoFundMe campaign to regain my independence. I was just following my daily routine — writing and posting my articles on social media. However, I started noticing something valuable.

I wasn’t doing all of this because I wanted notoriety. Nor was I posting on social media just because I had something to say. I did what I did because they were things that I wanted to do, which ended up becoming important to other people. So much so that those people chose to reach out and help me — whether they’ve bought my book, donated to my GoFundMe or have read my work.

This kind of support is mind-blowing to me. It has taught me to handle success with grace and appreciation. It has also helped me realize that this is what can happen when something is put on display for the world to see. I’ve reached a point in my life where there’s no turning back or hiding.

I always hope to help someone else in any way I can. As it turns out, people from far and wide have helped me more than they’ll ever know — and for much longer than they realize. I just hope I can continue to spread the message that anyone can do anything with the right mindset.

Erin Kelly, 34, was born with cerebral palsy in Korea, and lives in Altoona. In addition to this column, she also writes for online publications The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, Upworthy, and Real Talk Magazine. Email her at WriterWheels28 @ gmail.com.

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