How to See Your Life as a Gift
- Jen Bricker
- 2016 14 Sep
So this just happened: I flew into the paralympic world championships in Qatar, suspended from a giant hot- air balloon. Not the kind with the pretty wicker basket underneath, mind you. I was actually attached to the balloon with my fabric. I took one look at the setup and gasped. This is amazing! I’ve never performed on a hot-air balloon before! When the organizers asked me to come to Qatar and outlined their ideas for my performance, I had no clue how magical and epic it would be. The number I was a part of had been choreographed around my entrance—and they’d gone to a whole lot of trouble to blow up a ginormous balloon and have a three-man crew walk out holding it high above them. It was done with utmost precision. So, like anything else that scares me, I knew I had to go for it. In retrospect, it ranks as one of my all-time favorite “pinch me” moments—a perfect combination of cool and crazy, artistry and insanity. I mean, who does this? Me, apparently! The entire time I was floating up there, reveling in the cheers of the crowd below, a single thought kept repeating over and over in my mind: God is so good.
I have no doubt in my mind that I am blessed, though at first glance, maybe you’d think otherwise. It’s kind of hard to miss: I don’t have legs. But for the longest time, it never dawned on me that I was any different from anyone else. If there was something I wanted to do, then I did it. If I wanted to be a champion tumbler or an aerial artist, missing a couple of limbs was not going to hold me back. My approach was simple: no hesitation, no fear, no worrying “what if?” If an obstacle presented itself, I got creative and figured out how to get around it. It’s an attitude that I feel people aren’t taught, which is probably why I get asked for advice all the time. Life is an amazing journey if you’re not afraid to live it.
That said, I have never felt like I have anything to prove. I am who I am, and I own it. People often ask me, “If you could have been born with legs, would you have wanted that?” Not a chance. God gave me this gift for a reason. And yes, I said gift. I don’t see myself as “disabled” or “handicapped” or lacking in any way, shape, or form. I am grateful for my body every day. I wouldn’t have been presented with such special opportunities to affect people in a positive way if I had been born with legs. That’s how God works through me—through my “uniqueness.”
Maybe from the outside looking in, it seems like I was dealt a bad hand. After all, my biological parents abandoned me the day I was born. But the way I see it, that was God protecting me. He had bigger plans. He knew He had to get me to the right place with the right people who could nurture my talents and gifts and teach me to embrace them. He knew what He was doing—He always does!
So yes, I am blessed. And my adopted parents are my heroes because they taught me to see strength and beauty in places where others might not. They told me to keep going whenever a challenge presented itself. There were plenty of those and will continue to be many more. I took a Zumba class the other day and some lady asked me, “How do you do that?” Well, how do I not? How do I not kayak, skydive, roller-skate, play basketball—the list is endless. Ironically, I hate sitting still (and with no legs, it looks like I’m always sitting). I’ve been in constant motion from the moment I started crawling. It didn’t matter that the first doctors my parents took me to told them I’d spend my life being carried around and propped up in a “bucket”. The Brickers didn’t see or want that life for their little girl. They never let anyone or anything hold me back.
Have I had moments where I’ve felt discouraged, insecure, frustrated, crappy? You betcha. It’s called being human. I went through a long period of time as a kid when I had serious body issues. I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. I wanted to be tall and delicate with ballerina arms. Instead, I was short with body-builder biceps. I had to do a lot of soul-searching, and I arrived at the decision that God gave me this body for a reason. Then He gave me these talents and abilities to go with this body so I would catch people’s attention, which is also my chance to educate, inform, and inspire.
Maybe you’ve read about me or even heard me speak. That’s just scratching the surface. I am adventurous, artistic, intense, flawed, passionate, broken, silly, athletic, goofy, flirty, and playful. I am a sister, a daughter, a best friend, an auntie, an aerialist, a lover. I experience feelings of insecurity, doubt, fear, and weakness, and moments of absolute bliss, extreme adventure, intense passion, and heart-racing love. Sometimes I want to explode with joy, excitement, and happiness; other times I feel overwhelmed, underqualified, and lonely. I have never before shared so many aspects of who I am as a person. To be totally honest, I wasn’t ready. I thought that strong people never reveal their weaknesses. But I know now that the opposite is true: it takes a lot of guts to be vulnerable and to put your whole true self out there. I’m not the least bit scared of twirling thirty feet in the air from a piece of fabric, but opening myself up . . . pretty terrifying.
But like every other challenge in my life, I knew I had to do it. I think what finally made it a surmountable task was finding my motivation. I want everyone who reads this book to realize one simple, amazing truth: you are not insignificant. We all have special gifts and talents that make us not only unique but also great. Everyone has the power to change someone’s life. Everyone has a voice and a stage and the ability to impact the world in a positive way. This isn’t just about turning lemons into lemonade or seeing the glass as half full. It’s taking action. It’s pushing yourself to do what you were meant to do (let’s call that purpose)—not necessarily what you are doing right at this moment. It’s seeing beyond what’s in front of you and imagining the endless possibilities.
Everything is possible. That’s my favorite Bible quote from Mark 9:23: “Everything is possible for the person who believes” (GW). See it, believe it, make it happen. Who ever would have thought it was that simple? Yet my life is proof. The funny thing is I’m only twenty-eight, and I’m just get- ting started! I consider this the first leg of my journey (pun intended!). The path is clear—and I can’t wait to see where it takes me. So ask yourself this: Where will your path take you if you decide to push yourself to do what you were meant to do? Where might you find yourself that you never dreamed possible? It doesn’t have to be soaring through the air on a hot-air balloon . . . but then again, why not? Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! Be brave. Dream big. Have faith. And don’t be scared to look down.
Excerpted from Everything is Possible by Jen Bricker. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2016. Used by permission. www.BakerPublishingGroup.com.
Jen Bricker is an aerial artist, acrobat, and motivational speaker. A state champion in power tumbling, he has traveled internationally with Britney Spear’s World Tour and appeared as the headliner at the prestigious Palazzo hotel in Las Vegas, New York’s Lincoln Center, and the Shangri-La Hotel in Dubai. She has been featured on numerous news shows, including HBO’s Real Sports, ABC’s 20/20, and Good Morning America. She is currently living in Los Angeles and has added a successful speaking career to her list of accomplishments, including a feature in TED talks.
Publication date: September 14. 2016
Image courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com