I love to tell people that I horseback ride and then watch their facial expressions.
Most people don’t believe me, so that’s why I love watching their facial expressions.
When they ask how or why, I explain that it actually makes tons of sense for disabled kids to ride. It opens so many doors for us.
We can go faster than we’ve ever been able to go on our own two feet, our confidence shoots through the roof because riding often becomes something we can totally do on our own and we finally get an outlet to be athletic.
Once they understand where I'm coming from, they almost always follow up with something like this: “Isn’t it scary? What if you fall off?”
I’m not going to say that there’s never been a time where I was a little terrified. But I do say that when one of those rare times happens and you are heading towards the ground, a lot of times, it’s happening so fast that you don’t actually realize you’re falling. Most times you don’t have time to be scared.
Most people just see the size of horses and falling is their immediate thought. Which I somewhat understand. But what you don’t always automatically see is the incredible bond these guys are able to create with their favorite humans.
Even though I’ve been riding since I was five, I don’t think I even completely understood the incredible nature of it until I turned 14 and met my guy.
And when you meet your perfect teammate, trust me. Falling is the last thing on your mind.
Horseback riding is something I am so passionate about and I don’t think enough people understand the power of it, especially for kids like me. So, I wanted to get on here and share Concho’s and my story – in hopes that it can help people see past just the sheer size of horses and see that there’s so much more to them.
When you give a kid who’s struggling reins, their whole world can change in the best way possible.
This is my dude, Concho.
When I was fourteen, my parents surprised me with the biggest and best birthday present I’ve ever gotten.
Even though I had only met Concho once before that night, I was completely over the moon. I just remember not being able to stop smiling and saying like five million times: “What? What do you mean he’s mine? He’s mine??”
Growing up, I always used my walker around horses just so I had better balance. I have never encountered a horse that was afraid of my walker, but some just didn’t know what to do with it. That presented challenges when leading them with a lead rope and sometimes it just didn’t work.
So, when I got Concho, I remember that being one of my first thoughts: am I going to be able to lead my own horse on the ground?
I clipped a rope on him for the first time, fully expecting it to be a disaster. I expected him to either not move, go too fast and far ahead of me or just get really confused by my set of wheels.
But none of that happened.
As I started to walk forward, he came in perfectly by my walker’s side. He walked my exact pace, kept his head down at my level and wasn’t even phased by the bright green walker around me.
That was the first indicator for me that God had totally and perfectly put us in each other’s paths.
In an instant, Concho’s world became mine and mine became his. He instantly understood me and it seemed like he immediately decided he was going to take care of me.
I soon learned that in a lot of situations, I didn’t need a lead rope. If I was walking in front or beside him, my best bud would just follow.
I remember days in high school when I was too tired to ride so I would go with him in the arena and just hang out with him. A day I’ll never forget is one of those days. Once we were in the arena, I decided to ditch my walker and just walk around.
From my first step, he was literally right behind me.
At one point, the uneven dirt tripped me up and I ended up on my butt. Sitting there laughing at myself, I looked up to see him above me looking down. I smiled, but then watch him disappear.
“Hey! Where are you going?”
Still sitting, I swung around to face the other way to see where he was going.
What I saw next is an image that is still burned into my brain.
I saw Concho, staring right back at me, standing right next to my walker. As if to say: “What the heck were you thinking? You need this.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes and started to laugh. He didn’t move, staring me down. I pulled up on the fence and got back to my wheels and my dude.
I listened to him and we finished out laps in my walker.
So, I started to think that he understood way more about me than he got credit for. But after another summer afternoon, I was completely convinced that this horse loved and understood me.
It convinced me that what the two of us have isn’t normal, but in the best way.
It was mid-afternoon at the barn and I was riding in the arena. Nobody else was around, because we had just finished an afternoon with a ton of kids and there was lots of clean up.
I don’t know what spooked him, but something did. I wasn’t expecting it at all, so when he jumped, I ate it.
I landed on my side and expected him to run off. But when I rolled to my back, I looked up and saw him above me. Breathing heavy, trying to regain himself.
I sat up and called for help because I didn’t know how I was going to get up. But the wind was knocked out of me from the fall, so I don’t think I yelled loud enough for anyone back in the barn to actually hear me.
Realizing that, I sighed. I was sore and had nothing to pull up on to stand – we fell in the middle of the arena and I didn’t want to crawl to the fence. It felt like it was a mile away. I wiped a combo of tears and dirt off of me and looked at Conch who, to my surprise, still hadn’t moved.
I remember telling him: “Bud, we’ve got to figure this one out.”
I pushed myself to stand on my knees and thought I could maybe somehow pull up on Concho. It’s almost like he read my mind, I swear. I remember kneeling in front of him and he lowered his head. I knee walked to the side of him and grabbed onto the girth. I then gently looped my other hand through the side of his bridle. I brought my right leg up and prepared to push up.
But all the sudden, pushing up became easier than it ever had been. I soon was on my feet and was really confused. I then realized that my fingers will still looped in his bridle.
Concho had pulled his head up to help lift me up to my feet.
I couldn’t believe it. Truly. First off, I had never had a horse not run off when I hit the ground and I know I had never had a horse help me up before.
I stood there, hugged his head and started crying. Because in that moment, I realized with him as my sidekick, I was in for the greatest adventure. No matter what, he has my back and he understands me in crazy ways.
When everyone at the barn soon came down to check on us and realized I wasn’t on his back, there was a little panic and confusion as to how I had gotten up to my feet.
I told them what happened and expected them to not believe me.
But they believed me and weren’t the least bit surprised.
Everyone knew already that Concho and I were literally the perfect pair.
This is my dude, Concho.
He’s my right-hand man, my #1 teammate, the biggest blessing in my life.
To anyone who knows someone or is themselves disabled and looking for an escape from their limitations: I encourage you to look into horseback.
It has brought me the greatest freedoms. And because of it, I have an 800 pound best friend.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Acceptance is probably the hardest part of this whole journey for me.
8 weeks post-op and my mind is still reeling about everything. I really haven’t told a lot of people just how hard it has been for me to accept the realities of Cerebral Palsy.
I remember being a kid and in my mind, I never thought CP was a permanent thing. I was probably the happiest kid ever running around in my little metal walker.
But I know now that a very small fraction of that happiness came from the fact that I innocently and truly thought that I wouldn’t be like this forever.
When did it hit me that this is how I will be for my entire life?
If I’m completely honest, I probably didn’t start accepting it until high school.
Because as a kid, I always thought I’d be “normal” by then. I’d go to high school, walk unassisted, play soccer and do all the normal high school things.
The first day of 9th grade is forever etched into my brain because that is the first day it started to set in.
First period, I got up to get paper. And like I always did, I just held onto the desks for support. Looking ahead of me and not down, I totally didn’t see someone’s backpack to my right.
And just like that, I tripped and face planted. On the first day of high school. In my very first class.
I had fallen plenty of times in class before at The Christ School – the small private school I grew up in where nobody ever thought twice about my walker – but this fall in high school was different.
Because for the very first time in my life, instead of my close TCS friends rushing to my side and helping me up, the class erupted in laughs. And at that moment, I think it hit me.
This is my life. I’m stuck like this. And people aren’t always going to be cool about it.
I tried to push it off and still let the little kid Jordan believe that things would change.
But when I was sitting out my fourth homecoming in a row, I was silently struggling with and realizing my situation. Every year around Homecoming, I’d tell people at school that I’d be out of town and then beg my parents to drive to Gainesville to go to the Gator game instead. I told my parents it was just because I thought all that Homecoming stuff was stupid.
Really, yes, I did think the hype of school dances was a little much. But the other part of me wished more than anything that I could have the typical high school experience. But I lacked the close group of friends to go with, and my crutches and I thought we’d save a lot of trouble by hiding from every high school dance.
I was lucky enough that there was a Gator game almost every Homecoming weekend. I played it off cool like I couldn’t care less that I was hopping in my parents’ car for another Homecoming and heading to Gainesville.
Which in a way, was true. If you know me, you know I (obviously) love the Gators and Gainesville and I loved those trips with my parents. But I know now that part of me felt really left out those four years. I just ignored that feeling.
So slowly, I came to terms with it in high school and I started to think I was going to finally be fine with CP forever.
But then college happened. I struggled again with the way people stared, I was frustrated with how much I have to plan ahead to find the most accessible routes on campus and again, found myself wishing with everything I had, that little kid Jordan was right. That CP wasn't a permanent thing.
I again did my best to ignore everything I felt. But like always, that didn’t work for long.
Surgery number 10 happened, and I moved into the hospital for a month. Let me tell you, living in a hospital really puts things into perspective.
I would sit in that hospital and feel insanely blessed because of the resources God has put in my life and thankful for how I am able to truly have the best life possible with CP.
But then the negative side of my brain would fire up and I again wrestled with acceptance.
That side of my brain was what made me break down crying in the hospital cafeteria.
I finally told my mom how much I struggled in high school (even though I think she already knew because she can basically read my mind.) And I told her that some days, I truly hate my legs. I told her how I get super anxious in most social situations because I pretty much always feel like the odd one out. I told her how I struggle with feeling like a burden to people, even though in the back of my mind, I know that I’m not.
She cried with me. And then told me two things:
That she’d do anything to take this away from me. But I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
I’ve heard that a million times before, and it’s sometimes hard to believe.
How can I be “wonderfully made” when my bones are so flawed, I know that I’m going to be in pain the rest of my life and my biggest dream, to run, will never come true?
That verse has been rolling around in my head this whole recovery process.
Because I think after I sat in that hospital cafeteria and shamelessly sobbed, I was finally able to start to process how difficult but beautiful the journey the Lord has put me on actually is.
Yes, it sucks that I won’t ever be able to run and play sports. But I have learned to truly enjoy times on the sidelines and I’ve mastered the art of being moral support.
Yes, it’s hard riding my scoot around UF and feeling the stares. It’s not fun stepping into social situations even with people I consider friends, and instantly becoming quiet because I feel weird being a kid on crutches. But I’m learning to embrace it and realize that I probably notice my disability more than most people do. To most people I encounter, it’s no big deal. I just have to teach myself that.
Yes, it’s scary thinking about the future. Knowing that life with CP isn’t easy.
But Tebow said it best: “I don't know what my future holds, but I do know who holds my future.”
Learning to take extreme comfort in the fact that Jesus holds my future.
And learning to work hard against CP, throwing my absolute all into this recovery to become my best physically.
From now on, I will be Sore from kicking CP’s butt and not Sorry about what it puts me through.
Because everyone’s path, including mine, is fearfully and wonderfully made.
That picture is the perfect example of why me and my best friend/cousin Mary, will always be kids at heart. Why does that fit into this blog post? You’ll see.
If there’s one thing this summer has taught me, it’s that “adullting” is kinda hard. And confusing.
If you asked me a few months ago what I wanted to do with my life, I’d tell you with no hesitation, that I was going to be a sport journalist.
Ask me today, and you’ll get an unsure smile and maybe a shrug.
As I write for websites and put more “official” articles out there, I realized that the fast-paced nature of journalism drives me crazy.
In today’s world, it seems to be quantity over quality for a lot of media outlets. And that’s where I get stuck.
Here’s my deal: I want to tell stories.
Yes, you tell stories in journalism. But I want to tell good, inspiring, well-thought out stories. Not to say you can’t tell those types of stories in journalism, but when you work in the journalism world, your deadline looks more like “get x number of stories in by the end of the week.” Not, “get that one killer story in. You know, that one that’s going to inspire people - the one that really means something.”
My thing is, I love to write. But lately, I haven’t loved everything I’m writing. Because my world has been controlled by quick deadlines.
My thing is, I’d rather spend a month crafting that one great story. Not spend a month getting as many stories out as I can.
Because I’ve realized this about myself, I am exploring changing my major. Don’t get me wrong, I still fully plan on staying in sports media for some, if not all of my career. I’m just trying to find that track that’s going to get me closer to telling stories like my favorite show, E:60 does.
I promise you the people at E:60 spend a long time crafting each one of those stories. And that’s what I want to do. I want to spend as much time as needed to create a fantastic, inspiring story. I know that a world without deadlines probably isn’t realistic. My point is, journalism deadlines are just really fast.
I’m on the search for a major track that focuses more on quality over quantity of stories and not just the fastest deadlines.
Right now, it seems like I’ll be jumping over to a pretty open telecommunications track and focusing on telling stories in more ways than just writing.
Ultimately, I can see myself doing a lot of things but they all come back to telling stories. I can see myself with a crew like E:60 telling the best stories in sports or producing (maybe even directing) TV shows and movies or doing PR for a sports team or even a hospital.
Or if I could somehow make it work, I could totally see myself just traveling and blogging the stories I find and love for a living.
While I try to figure out my major and school, I figured one thing I can do is really pour into this blog.
Because it’s my own platform and it can be whatever the heck I want it to be.
I’m working on revamping it. You might already notice some changes.
One thing that I think will stay the same is the name. I decided to keep the name even though I’m no longer in the hospital.
To me, the name still makes sense because 3West is where this all started. It’s the ultimate origin of my blog. Plus, Nemours is a huge reason why am where I am. I owe so much to 3West.
No matter where I take this blog, it will always come back to 3West.
I’m excited to expand this and tell you some really cool stories.
Conclusion: Part of me will always be a kid. Hence why I’m hanging out of a bright blue Jeep, driving down the beach.
Adulting is hard. And confusing. But I’m determined to never stop feeding the kid in me and to make Adulting meaningful but super fun.
Time to have fun with it and bring you some super awesome stories.
Welcome to the new From 3West.