Perseverance… steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Success… the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. Purpose…the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

Here is my purpose.

When cancer comes, experts gather and say things like “we’re afraid there’s bad news”, “this is not a death sentence”, “people live long and normal lives”, “we’re doing everything we can, but there’s no exact science to this”. Cancer results when abnormal cells grow and spread very quickly. Sometimes these cells group together, forming tumors and causing damage to the healthy body. This is the best representation of how tourette syndrome, ADHD, depression, and a speech impediment consumed my body and initially controlled my existence.

My name is Isaac Tahj Jackson Dickinson, which I discovered at age 11. This delay in embracing my given name stemmed from being called “retarded” more than “Isaac”– so much so that I believed it. I shaped and formed a mask; the me I wanted others to see. I was admired and liked by all, this illusion which I believed was my “dream life”, was fake. I realized this was all an illusion, too late. Strapped on a sinking ship I never consciously boarded, I had the worst years of my life.

I knew I had a purpose, a gift. I recalled someone telling me “Just like you run to your mother’s room at 10:45 p.m. on Christmas Eve and you beg to open a gift”. She says “no you have to wait until the morning, but I promise if you’ll toss and turn just a little longer, in the morning you will see the best gift you’ve seen in your entire life”. He said “now it’s 10:45 p.m. Christmas Eve, stay strong, endure the pain and open your gift in the morning.”

Robert Tew once said, “ The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow”. Living by this quote, I refused to allow the nightmare take over my life. I spoke before all the students in my grade and discussed my disabilities. Several classmates, struggling with their own “cancer”, still wearing their mask, confided in me. Seeing my peers suffer a similar plight motivated me to rip off my mask. I will not let my past or any affliction define me. I will write my own story. Revealing my face, without a mask, has been liberating. Fully embracing myself has been my way out of the darkness. I discovered that the “science” required to break the shackles is in one’s ability to persevere, despite the odds. Nothing but liberation, the constant pursuit of success and victory, is tolerated. I am, we will, and we shall be free.