Generally, I find Oscar acceptance speeches boring. The winner thanks a lot of people (whom we, the viewers, often don’t know or care about), the music cues up, and the actor exits stage left. After reading Matthew McConaughey’s book Greenlights, however, and then watching his acceptance speech for his role in Dallas Buyers Club, my opinion about acceptance speeches changed.
In that brief speech, Mr. McConaughey said he needs three things every day: someone to look up to, others to look forward to and someone to chase. He said he looks up to God and looks forward to his family. When he spoke of his hero, though, he said this was “someone to chase.” But this person is not another celebrity or a well-known sportsperson, his hero is a version of himself — 10 years in the future.
I found that profound.
While he would never become his hero because the hero was always out of reach, the idea gave him something to chase; something to believe in — and he could always strive for that better version of himself. This inspired me to make a future version of myself; the “someone to chase” in my own life.
Ten years ago, I was beginning my life with Parkinson’s disease (PD). I was a mess. In addition to having a tremor in my right hand and an uneven gait, I was a recluse and prone to panic attacks. Convinced that my life was over at 49, I often struggled to make it through the day. It was impossible to think what my life would be like in 10 years.
I would never have believed it, had I heard it then, that I would run three half-marathons in five years. I would never have believed that I would return to my love of drumming and be invited to play in a band in the internationally renowned Beaches International Jazz Festival.
I would not have believed that I would achieve the professional milestone of “Partner,” years after my diagnosis or that I would deal with challenges of cognitive impairment with humility and grace and continue to live my life as best I can.
I would never have believed that I would be inspired to write a book and add “author” to my curriculum vitae.
Yet now, 10 years after my diagnosis, I have achieved all this and more. In many respects, my life today is more meaningful, rewarding and fulfilling than any time before my diagnosis.
We all face different challenges at different times on our respective journeys with Parkinson’s, but I am continuously amazed and inspired by the stories that I have read. Each and every one of us deserves our own Oscar. We may not be actors or actresses, but our stories are real — and each one of us is a hero!