How Cerebral Palsy Helped Shape My Work Ethic

This is a guest post by Zachary Fenell

Hello there faithful “Through My Eyes, My Life with Cerebral Palsy” readers! My name is Zachary Fenell and over the next few months I will be providing occasional guest posts here, sharing my experiences with a mild case of cerebral palsy.

Today I wish to share a story from when I was 16. One Thursday after school I went to a children’s rehab center where a physical therapist casted my right ankle. The cast, set to stay on for a week or two, served as a treatment to help relieve my ankle’s tightness.
At the time I worked as a cashier for a local (Ohio) grocery store, remaining on my feet throughout my shift. Scheduled to work the day after getting casted I showed up like normal. I will not forget my one manager’s reaction when she saw the cast. “Oh my Zach! Are you okay? Are you sure you can work?”
Her response surprised me as much as my cast surprised her. I never contemplated taking time off and trust me, I could’ve used some. In addition to taking a full academic course load, including an AP (advanced placement) class and no study halls, I worked four to five days a week. “Oh yeah, I’m fine. The cast is just to stretch out my ankle. I can work” I explained. Work I did too, maintaining my ordinary busy schedule the entire time I wore the cast.
Reflecting back I realize someone with a lesser work ethic would’ve likely used the cast to get out of work. Not me though, the thought didn’t even occur to me. I credit my cerebral palsy for my strong work ethic. You see, I underwent weekly physical therapy sessions starting at a very young age, either three or four. Thanks to my PT I grew up always working towards one goal or another. I didn’t get time off. That was life that was, and still is, cerebral palsy.
If you have cerebral palsy, I’d love to hear what you think. Does your CP influence your work ethic? I’ll be reading the comments below to find out! If you enjoy what you read, you may consider checking out my teenage memoir Off Balanced (available on the Kindle and Nook). Off Balanced explores how CP affected me socially as an adolescent.

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5 Responses to How Cerebral Palsy Helped Shape My Work Ethic

  1. Kate says:

    Interesting insight Zach. I also went to several hours of physio as a kid and have had a pretty good work ethic when it came to physical goals like fitness. Where I really saw it though was at school. I have always felt the need to push myself as hard as I could to prove to teachers and profs that I am as good or better than the other students, because they would frequently come up to me and, seeing my walker or wheelchair, ask me questions such as, “Are you sure you’ll be able to handle this class?” At first I was insulted by it, but then I decided that I wanted to show them that I could not only handle the work but be the best student. This took literally hours of studying every day, but it was worth it and I came to love school so much that I got an MA

    • I have CP and have never been able to meet the physical demands of a full-time job, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a work ethic.
      I did very well in school – I was even the editor of my Junior College’s newspaper. This was way before laptops and telecommuting so I had assistants that took notes for me and I took all my tests orally. I have several degrees but because I can neither write legibly, type quickly, nor drive I focused my “ethic” on the things I could do. It’s about taking as much responsibility and control of your own life as you can. Now that I’m just over 50 I move even slower but I have accomplished, and continue to accomplish, so much! Thank you for your post, we are far from helpless! ;-)

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