“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Growing up, I spent all my time in books. I admired the trailblazer that Lucy was exploring Narnia alone. My dream was to become as brave, strong and independent.

These ideals were challenged when I was diagnosed with a severe spinal disorder at age fourteen. Soon I was prescribed a full body brace for 23 hours a day. During my first week of treatment, I could not even get out of bed without my parents’ help. At school, my friends tied my shoelaces and carried my backpack. Unable to control the worsening deformity of my spine, I lived in constant fear of surgery.  

The two years I was physically constrained in my brace liberated me in many ways. I could not hide my condition from friends. I had to explain it and ask for help. What surprised me was how deeply these conversations connected me with others. My friends accepted my imperfection and helped me cope with it. One of them wrote about me in an essay on role models. I still keep the note my seatmate passed me in class to thank me for showing her that "there are more important things in life than boys." Through these connections I discovered what it truly means to be brave, strong and independent.

The day I got my brace off was the happiest day of my life. My most valued keepsake today, my brace sits on my shelf at home, next to my books. It reminds me to accept my imperfections and share my story to build trusting relationships.

— Irem Metin