Everyone has a defining moment in their lives that shapes their entire future.
For me, that moment came when I was about 6 years old. I was still able to walk but couldn’t run, jump, or do many of the things that many of my peers were able to do with ease. I was still living in Sydney and was in the middle of Year One (First Grade) when my class got a new Gym teacher. I wasn’t sure if she knew I had some physical challenges but I did my best to keep up with my classmates. That is, until she asked us to run.
I didn’t want to walk up to the teacher to tell her I couldn’t run so I ended up giving it a try. After struggling a bit, a miracle happened: I started running. The feeling of the wind rushing past me and seeing myself passing my classmates while they were running was euphoric: for that brief period, I felt invincible. I didn’t want to stop and was sad when I had to. I attempted to run again for weeks after that but to no success. It would be the only time in my life I would ever run and experience that feeling of pure invincibility.
I didn’t get a taste of going fast again until I was 14, when I got my first power wheelchair. My gym teacher at the time decided to nurture my skills driving my power chair. In my adapted PE class, he made a racetrack around the gym to hone my skills and I quickly mastered the course. Eventually I treated my whole school as a personal race track: I was driving my power chair at full throttle down the hallways and cornering it around turns to the point of almost skidding. As exciting as driving my power chair was, the novelty waned even as I eventually learned to properly drift my power chair.
I tried to explain that feeling I had during that singular moment when I ran to my friends, but no one seemed to understand. The only people I knew who could recognize what I was describing were people who were into cars. I have been a car fanatic since I was very little, thanks to the influence of an older brother and family friends shared that hobby. I did have some friends in high school who liked cars but none of them really expressed the joy of going fast the way I did. It wasn’t until college that I made some friends who could truly understand how I felt about driving.t also happened to be around the time I got my first car.
The moment I started driving a car, just like when I started driving a power chair, I felt like I was running again. It was even better than the feeling that I got driving the power chair as I could go even faster. It was different since inside a car and it mostly hid my power chair from anybody outside my car. When I locked my chair into my car, I felt like the car became an extension of my own body. To the outside world, I wasn’t someone who was in a power chair; I was just another driver. Oftentimes, I would get into a zone where I would stop talking and clear my mind of any distractions. My sole focus was on driving.
With a bunch of friends who had a similar passion for cars and driving, it was only a matter of time before I started modifying with my car to enhance its capabilities. I majored in Mechanical Engineering for the sole reason to learn how cars work and how to make mine perform to my liking. If I could make my car more suited to my driving, I could keep that sensation of invincibility going.
It is something that I keep doing to this day. I still chase after that feeling I had during that single moment when I ran on the playground. I hope to encourage others like myself to do the same