Jennifer Gordon

Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, these simple characteristics are shared in the tales of every human life. I am not completely certain where my story begins, for as long as I can remember my body has made unwanted movements and sounds. Just as far back as I remember my movements and sounds, I remember being the girl with the beautiful voice. These two facets of me have often struggled to work together, but when they finally did, I found my life’s meaning and purpose.

The defining moment in my story comes at the tender age of eight. I was the youngest student chosen to perform in my elementary school’s competitive variety show. My mom, eager to be an involved parent, volunteered to wait with the performers backstage. While waiting thirty minutes to take the stage, anxious and excited, my mom counted that I performed what would be later labeled as a “tic” 22 times. When I stepped on the stage, my movements vanished and I gave a rousing performance of “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music.My mom realized then that my “mannerisms” likely fit the diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome, and before I knew it I was formally diagnosed.

With my newly minted diagnosis, the middle of my story began to fill with both triumph and tribulation. On the one hand, I was becoming successful with my musical training. On the other hand, I was subject to bullying from both teachers and students, medication causing weight gain and fatigue, and a body wrought with pain. At a low point in 5th grade, when my teacher pushed me because of movements I could not control, I decided to become an advocate for Tourette awareness.

At age 13, I was chosen to be a Tourette Association of America Youth Ambassador and was formally given the training I needed to advocate for myself as well as others. In this context, I began to be open with all people I met about my disability. I found my voice and spoke up when teachers refused to give me my accommodations, students taunted me, and when people simply didn’t understand what it meant to have Tourette. I gave presentations to children and adults, educating them about the facts of Tourette.

As I grew older, I recognized I could use my musical talent to show others that people with Tourette are successful and can do anything they set out to accomplish. Every time I perform, I break the stereotype of what a person with Tourette looks like. My goal is to pursue my dream of being a professional opera singer, not only for myself but for all who have disabilities. I hope to pave the way for others with differences to accomplish their dreams, just as I work to accomplish mine. The end of my story is not yet written, but I imagine it will be about a girl who overcomes, advocates, and ultimately achieves her dreams.