Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Keep Moving Forward

Ever since I can remember—after the traumatic brain injury I suffered in March 2008, after the month-long coma I was left in, after I snapped out of the vegetative state my body had shifted into—my mind has always been in ‘GO!’ mode. I was 18 years old, a senior in high school, my whole life still in front of me.

“Keep moving forward!” was a headline on the whiteboard in front of my hospital bed. It was all I looked at. Following those words like a marching order, I did all I could to get my then paralyzed right leg and non-responsive right arm moving again. I didn’t have time to dwell on the awful things that had happened. All I cared about was reaching my next goal, overcoming the many challenges laid in front of me.

Let’s go!

I wanted to feel strong enough to stand up from a wheelchair with my friends for photos at my Senior Prom, three months after my injury—so I worked for it. I found that the more enthusiastic and friendly I was in therapy, the more concentrated care I was given. Adapting quickly, I was as energetic and determined as any patient my therapists will ever see. I got extra attention and it helped me progress. I may have looked weak and frail, but I made it to Senior Prom to stand with my friends like I had envisioned.

Success: let’s keep moving forward.

Next, I wanted to surprise my small town by walking across the stage at my high school graduation two weeks later. Man, I worked so hard in therapy every day, into the evenings with my Mom and Dad’s help in my hospital room. I built a brand for myself. My therapists brought their best to every session because I would always be ready too. I needed them to match my energy. We worked as one. All my mindset was geared on the vision I had, getting out of my wheelchair and marching proudly to grab my diploma. In reality, the “proud march” I had envisioned was a weak, slow, limp with me leaning on my 4-prong cane and my father holding my frail body up. But, hey, I grabbed that diploma as the crowd cheered on, whooping and hollering even louder than I had seen in my head.

Success: let’s keep moving forward.

When all my friends went off to college, I stayed home to keep improving. Never missing an opportunity to dream big, to aspire, I set my next lofty goal. I wanted to make it to college the next fall, without needing to use a cane or a wheelchair to survive. With the image of the beautiful University of Miami always in my mind, I spent my days alternating between both physical therapy and cognitive therapy. It took over an hour to drive each way to therapy, but my Mom and Dad were committed to helping me. They understood that my dreams were really big!

We all felt it and followed the marching orders: let’s keep moving forward.

The brain injury had impacted my ability to remember things, to critically think, to learn—I had to gain all this back before I could go to college on the big academic scholarship I had been offered the year before. Cognitive rehabilitation, private tutors, community college courses all went into getting me up to speed. I did my best, followed my vision, worked hard, and made it happen. I enrolled and moved from my safe place in New Jersey to the University of Miami in the Fall of 2009, feeling excited and confident as ever.

Success: let’s keep moving forward.

I struggled so much through my four years at college, but I had a dream to succeed. I had to keep going. Along with adapting to my new brain in order to learn, I developed a vital gift for engaging with my classmates and people all over the city. By me being friendly, outgoing, and easy to approach, people took well to me and were happy to help me to achieve. With everyone’s support, I was able to juggle school, therapy, and a booming Miami social life through all the way to graduating with a strong degree in finance. My confidence grew.

Success: let’s keep moving forward.

As all young professionals aspire for success as they begin their first jobs, I too had big dreams of riding my finance degree up the ranks into a lucrative career. It didn’t take me long, however, to realize that working in an office behind a computer crunching numbers all day wasn’t going to get me to my dream. My brain was different now. I wasn’t happy with utter consistency anymore; I could no longer see the future. I had to adapt my plans to see the future again.

I had to move forward.

Choosing to capitalize on my ever-improving people skills, I set out to achieve my master’s degree in hotel management. My new goal was to serve in a management capacity with hotels around the world. The fast-paced, international environment of hospitality would suit my re-developed brain far better than office work ever could. Two years (and continued effort!!!) later, I graduated and accepted a job offer for a management training program with a top international hotel chain in Bangkok, Thailand. My confidence grew.

Success: let’s keep moving forward.

I’ve spent the last four years of my life predominantly in Bangkok, working in different hospitality functions, traveling often, living happily and free! While life remains a challenge—always throwing new obstacles to overcome—my long-term goals and dreams remain the same. Continue to improve myself both physically and mentally. Continue to be happy, confident, and to put myself in the best positions for success. Continue to live life to the fullest after being so close to losing life years before.

Today, I’m proud to see the brand I continue building for myself now serving too as motivation for others.

I still don’t have time to dwell in the past nor do I have a bigger care than to reach my lofty goals.

I’m still moving forward. 

I can’t wait to see what comes next!

If you enjoyed this story – Read “Wise words of a life coach – here”

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Christopher Dittrich
Christopher Dittrich
Follow my path as we keep moving forward!IG: @CD_worldwideA hospitality consultant, inspirational speaker, and coach doing his best to continue recovering from a traumatic brain injury suffered while he was a senior in high school back in 2008. Chris has lived with the mindset of “Keep Moving Forward” since the time he can recall waking up from the coma he was left in after his accident. He is most fulfilled meeting new people and sharing with them his tremendous passion for life that continues to grow since his injury.

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