Earlier this week, I attended Episerver’s #Ascend2019 Conference in Miami, FL. Our keynote speaker was one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever encountered, Amy Purdy. I was first introduced to her as I was scrolling through channels and saw her on Dancing with the Stars. I was immediately smitten by her ability to dance so gracefully, never mind that she did not have any legs.
Fast forward 5 years, and much to my surprise, I learned she would be our keynote speaker the day I was attending this conference. She opened her talk with a question.
“If your life was a book and you were the author, how would you want your story to go?”
She went on to share the day her life took a detour at age 19 when she contracted bacterial meningitis, a vaccine preventable blood infection. This resulted in the loss of her spleen, kidneys, hearing in one ear and both of her legs below the knees. I immediately was overcome by immense sadness and asked myself what would I have done?
What struct me next was Amy’s commitment to embracing the new normal. She started thinking about all the benefits of having new legs. She would daydream about what she wanted and could vividly see herself doing those things before it even happened. This is ultimately how she willed herself out of her depression. She would not let her obstacles stop her. She decided to get creative and build a set of legs that would enable her to live her dreams. Her determination and commitment empowered her to get back on a snowboard in four months. Amy went on to win bronze and silver medals at the Paralympic Games, which made her the highest ranked female adaptive snowboarder in the world. Three days after receiving her first bronze medal, Amy started her journey to second place on Dancing with the Stars.
I was able to spend a few brief moments with Amy that will have an everlasting impact on me. On my flight home I reflected on the powerful question she asked us at the beginning of her talk. There are three big learnings I took from her:
1. When faced with adversity, it is up to you how you choose to see it. Amy began to see all the benefits of not having legs and has learned that it is more of an ABILITY vs a disability.
2. Your imagination is powerful! Use it as a tool to take you to places you want to go. Doing the things, you never thought you would do. Use that tool to provide the fuel you need to get up and take small steps to achieving it.
3. Embrace your uniqueness! It’s okay to standout and be your own kind of beautiful.
To be in her presence has forever changed my life. I hope you are inspired to learn more about her story.
Thank you Amy Purdy for sharing your story, strength and vulnerability with the world. You are truly making a difference, challenging us all to live beyond our limits.