What Once Was

Former. Alumni. Has-been. Prior. Emeritus.

You know, there are a lot of words out there to describe something you “once” did. Words that try to describe the occurrence of a particular moment in your personal history. Maybe it’s a college you attended, a job-title you held, or whatever else makes up the story of “you.”

Naturally, I’m an alumni of Hortonville High School, Class of 2010. Yea, we just had our 5-year class reunion and even saying that makes me feel a little old. I’m an alumni of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities after graduating with my degree in 2013. But now (as of a week ago), I can add another one of those “once” events to my life story–I’m a former Ms. Wheelchair America.

Yep, I have officially handed off what was once “my” title in Des Moines, IA to another very deserving woman as she enters into a year that is bound to be a pretty crazy adventure.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Kumiyama

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Kumiyama

Can you believe that? Its been a year since I was crowned (in my mind, shockingly) Ms. Wheelchair America 2015 and started off my year with a lot of nerves. Well, nerves and self-doubt. I mean seriously, who was I to travel around and advocate for the countless individuals who live in our country with a disability when I had only just recently become so passionate and intimately apart of this community?

Yet, I was off. I blogged on occasion about some of my escapades, especially some of the big ones. Like the time I almost got my Mom arrested in the Rapid City airport in South Dakota after going to Ski for Light. Or the time I raced in my first race post injury in a very wet 25K in Grand Rapids, Michigan after a busy week of events and advocacy at the Tulip Time Festival and a rural school. Then of course the time I returned to a pretty amazing National Wheelchair Sports camp and had way too much fun for my own good.

It was cool just going back and clicking on those “old” links and reliving some of the mini memories of my year, but man, I left a lot out…

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 10.24.41 AMHow much is a lot? Well, here’s a mini picture of all the states I hit up this year on my travels…

I didn’t visit all the states, but it was a lot more than I’ve ever been to before.

12 states
35 cities
9 plane trips  (44, 000miles flown)
Over 4,000 miles driven


Cool right? I like statistics like that so it’s neat to see what the “end result” was of a lot of work planning, coordinating, and organizing each and every one of those adventures.

It really would be practically impossible to relay all the memories, moments, and ridiculous things that happened throughout my year as MWA. It was such a pleasure traveling so many places and I simply loved getting to share some of the things I’ve learned in this crazy journey that is life.  Hopefully I challenged individuals to think a little bit more about their own personal perceptions of individuals who may  be quote “different.”

Through all those events, while I enjoyed each one, those that allowed me to speak to kids hold a special place in my heart. They’re so darn curious and I appreciate their lack of filtering. They say what they think with no qualms about anything which can be oddly refreshing. It can also be slightly terrifying, because you never know what kind of questions are going to be asked..

I spoke at a Sunday School once and had made the comment to the kids that I can still have babies, I would just need a bit more prenatal care. In that same talk, I had also told the kids that I couldn’t feel or move anything below my mid-abdomen. A little girl sitting in the front row on her mother’s lap connected the dots, raised her hands and very concerned-like asks, “Well, if you can’t move or feel anything, how do they get the baby out?”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mother turn beet-red so fast. I thought it was adorable and used it as a great segway to thank God for the talented doctors and surgeons we have 😀

But seriously, little kids are the best. I was out at a school in Minnesota and after explaining my story that I was injured when a dead tree fell on my on a gorgeous day (no wind, no rain), a little boy in the front row simply couldn’t wrap his head around it. So when I opened the floor for questions, his hand shot up in the air, I call on him and he stares at me, dead-pan and asks, “So if it wasn’t raining or windy when the tree fell, was it a beaver?”

Nope, no beaver. But man, that would have made for a pretty great story too…After I was done talking, the kids came up for autographs and that same little boy came up to me and was all concerned that my sash was twisted and you couldn’t read it. So, he reaches out and straightens it, reads it out loud, and then bounces off. It was the best.

IMG_4931It really was such an honor to hold the title and I’m being completely 100% honest when I say I certainly never expected to have this experience in my life. But you know, it’s kind of funny…

In high school, I always thought it would be pretty cool to be a “Ms. something-or-other.” Don’t ask me why, I just liked the thought. Maybe it was because I was pretty nerdy (and still am) and thought it would be sweet to show my peers that nerds can do that kind of stuff too. I also wanted to travel. I mean, who doesn’t want to go around and experience this crazy amazing world that God filled with so many remarkable people and cultures.

I get injured and while you don’t automatically think, “Well, that’s not gonna happen anymore,” that thought is certainly there subconsciously.

But here I am on the other side, chuckling at my own naivety.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit –Psalm 147:5

What a blessing and a gift this year has been. It was certainly bitter sweet passing on my title. I mean, I enjoyed and was able to experience so much in such a short time and at a pretty young age. But at the same time, I’m thrilled to watch what the next title holder does with this platform and am excited for what God has in store for my life.

First things first though, my older sister is getting married on Friday (t-minus 2 days) so I should probably be doing wedding prep stuff right now instead of hiding-out in the gorgeous weather outside writing…Whoops.

Those things you did “once” will always be a part of your life story
Look forward to what’s coming, but don’t forget to remember what was

5 thoughts on “What Once Was

  1. Linda L. says:

    Beautifully written, Sam. As with all my former students, I’m so proud for you. Your accomplishments are many and your life is only beginning. Keep in touch! Linda

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