Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a pilot.
Growing up just 20 minutes away from Frankfurt Airport I would spend hours watching the aircraft doing their holding patterns over our backyard. When I was seven years old a friend of mine showed me a video he took of the Blue Angels. I remember thinking – these guys are crazy! People can do that? Lufthansa ain’t gonna cut it.
I was so convinced that this is exactly what I wanted to do later. There was always some kind of engine noise coming from the speakers and for my birthday and Christmas I wanted books about different types of planes and I also always wished for the chance to see the Blues live.
Now, I’m German, in order to fly anything in any branch of the US Military, you have to have American citizenship. My dad was stationed in Wiesbaden with the Army, but he and my mom divorced when I was just 5. After looking into the foreign national student program at Navy Academy , lots of phone calls, E-Mails, walking in circles, being turned away, but never giving up on my dream, I made it. My father agreed to sign the citizenship papers for me and I finally held the key to my future in my hands: the acceptance letter to the Academy!
This was it, my best shot at actually getting to fly the aircraft I dreamed about since I was in elementary school! I knew my mom and stepdad weren’t as happy with my choice in life as I was, so when I broke the life changing news to them, I didn’t expect them to have a change of heart and suddenly fully support me in my journey.
What I didn’t expect is end up in a 17 hour emergency surgery. I will spare you all from the gory details, but it was later confirmed by Law Enforcement, as well as the doctors that I was most likely kicked out of a car going 60-80 mph. That I can even sit here today, six years later and type this, is nothing short of a miracle.
During this however, I damaged my right optic nerve. All of a sudden half of my world was blurry, clouded, and just patches of color. Flying anything, especially jets, was out of question. I relearned how to sit up straight, learned how to stand and walk again. I learned how to speak, and how to feed myself again without slapping myself with the spoon every single time I tried to grab it.
After those news I fell into a very deep hole. Those next two years were the darkest of my life. Slowly relearning how to live a normal life again – if that was even possible.
Today, six years later I can say I made it. I have accepted who the new me is, I have come to terms I probably won’t fly anything in my life. Being legally blind in one way, a damaged balance system and a whole bunch of metal in my spine aren’t exactly the best starting conditions. I have learned more about myself than I ever thought I would and this whole experience opened my eyes to a whole new world.
I learned that it doesn’t matter how fast your progress is. Or how many mistakes you make along the way. The only thing you have to keep doing is taking another step. And another one. As long as you keep taking steps, no matter how small they might be, as long as you keep moving forward, you’re doing a fantastic job.
There is nobody holding you back but you yourself. You have no limits. Limits are for the unwilling. I was told I might never walk again, certainly not without assistance. This year in January I ran my first 5k again. I haven’t sat in a wheelchair in forever, and my crutches are collecting dust in the basement.
We are all a whole bunch of epic miracles and a lot more resilient than we might think we are. All we have to do is to keep walking and strive to be a better person tomorrow than we were today. To not be where you want to be should be all the motivation you need.
Without setbacks there cannot be progress.
Without mistakes there cannot be success.
Without self-doubt there cannot be confidence.
Without fear there cannot be courage.
Without suck there cannot be growth.
You got this. You’re epic.