Viewpoint: Self-definition needed


    By Brittany Karford

    Newsroom by day, sports-camp counselor by night. Sociology and communications major. Work at The Daily Universe. Love playing soccer and going to the mountains. Member of the BYU 121st Ward. In the beginning stages of a relationship. Drive a truck. Far-fetched aspiration to some day work for National Geographic.

    If asked to write my personal bio, that?s probably what it would have sounded like one week ago.

    Then I met Daniel Leslie.

    I visited with Daniel on June 19, ? exactly a year after he became paralyzed from the neck down.

    He has lost control of his body, but not control of his life, his spirits or his future.

    Daniel?s mother brought up something that awakened me at 3 a.m. A thought about our identity:

    ?An awful lot of people get their identity from things they can do, the action in their lives, the car or motorcycle they drive, the sports they play, their hobbies, their work, their accomplishments. ? if they could do those things no longer, many young people would say their life is over.?

    Imagine erasing all the things and activities making up what we call life. If we stripped ourselves of all the things we ?are? physically, and all the things we have ? who would we be then? Could we still define ourselves, recognize our uniqueness and worth?

    Suddenly my self-definition felt one-dimensional.

    Each aspect of my life, weighted by talent, commitment and the hours it takes up, gives me fulfillment and happiness. But take them away; would I be the same?

    At a time in our lives when we are going to school, learning and changing so fast, becoming adults, I wonder if we are building internal qualities and developing character that can stand alone.

    We may not experience what Daniel has, but can we gain the same strength and sense of self?

    His example reminds me that we are just spirits inside temporal bodies. Our spirit defines who we are.

    We are divine in spirit, children of our Heavenly Father.

    When I evaluate all the things I live for, I must learn to re-evaluate who I am at the core. Am I acquiring the traits and knowledge that I will take with me?

    Daniel?s mother continued, ?Take it all away, and could you still say, ?I still exist in here, I can think and I am alive.?

    Snowboarder, wake-border and skateboarder ? often caught doing so across campus. Dated three girls on one street ? but not simultaneously. Served a mission in Russia.

    Those are all things Daniel did.

    Returning to BYU this semester. Accounting major. Loves the outdoors. Looking forward to hiking the ?Y.?

    That?s what Dan is doing these days.

    He remains active, despite any limits on his previous lifestyle. More than what he does now ? more than what he has overcome ? it is what he knows. He is spiritually sound. He knows who he is.

    He is living.

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