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

Perfection kills. My preoccupation with perfection led my body to shut down because I stopped eating. At 10, I was fighting to live and undo damage caused by my quest for perfection.

Through this fight back to health, I met an aspiring doctor that changed my life. What I remember most about her were the red Puma shoes she wore every day. She would come by my room when everyone else was gone and ask me about my future. She gave me hope that I had a future as long as I treated my health like the precious gift it was. So, I started to.

I valued my health, and the rest of my life fell in line. So, I made a promise to myself that I would be the same beacon of hope to anyone I met, that my Puma-wearing resident was to me. She taught me that one person can make a difference.

I plan to shine as brightly as I can, by inspiring others to shine their brightest, improve situations that need to be fixed, be there for people, and choose to be happy— imperfections and all!

— Ashley McCray Ford