Growing up, I wanted to be somebody. I wanted to be the person to run into a burning building, find people in danger, throw them over my shoulder, and take them out to safety. I wanted to be the person to climb 100+ feet in the air, pull someone out of a window, and carry them safely to the ground. I wanted to be the person to save the little old lady’s cat stuck in a tree. I wanted to be… a fireman.
Those dreams ended when I was diagnosed with a genetic disorder, a disorder that affects the collagen in my body, the glue that holds my joints together, and the glue that keeps my arteries and internal organs intact, a disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
On the day that I was diagnosed, just after returning from serving a full-time mission – at the age of 21, the geneticist pulled out a textbook and flipped the pages, comparing the images to me. Stretchy skin, bruising and scars all over my body, hyper-mobile joints, and old-looking hands. After about 15 minutes of looking at the book and comparing the images to me, he diagnosed me with Ehlers -Danlos Syndrome. He asked what my life plans were, my career plans, and plans for a family. I told him of my plans to get married, have kids, and follow my childhood dream of becoming a firefighter.
In that moment, things changed. As soon as I told him of my career plans, he told me that it would be in my best interest to pursue a different career path. Firefighters need to be in excellent physical condition at all times, and with an increased chance of arterial rupture, scar tissue on my lungs, and joint problems, I wouldn’t be able to do the things they do without potentially serious, life threatening consequences.
This is obviously a personal story, but I decided to share my story with the hope that it will maybe help someone face their challenges in life. We all face challenges in life, and it’s up to us to decide what we are going to do with those challenges that make us who we are.
Make the choice to be happy, regardless of your situation. Regardless of the challenges you face in life. Some days are going to be harder than others. We’re going to experience sadness, and pain. That’s part of life. If we didn’t have the sadness and the pain, we wouldn’t fully be able to appreciate the happiness. It’s ok to be sad sometimes – for a short time, but then do the very best you can to try and be happy. Only you can make yourself happy, not anyone, or anything else.
I know our Father in Heaven gives us trials for our benefit. Trials help us learn, they help us grow. They shape us into who we need to become, who He wants us to become.
I’m at a point in my life now, that I look at my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome as more of a blessing than a burden, it has helped strengthen my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it has helped me draw closer to the Savior. It helps me stop and think when faced with a decision, is this really important? Will this really matter? It serves as a reminder for me to try my best to focus on the important things in life – the gospel of Jesus Christ, my family, and serving others. I’m far from perfect, but I’m trying. Life is a gift. Every breath we take is a gift from our Heavenly Father.
My dream was to become a firefighter, but sometimes, in life, it becomes necessary to re-route our dreams. And that’s ok! It doesn’t mean we can’t be happy. Our Father in Heaven is mindful of us. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He has a plan for all of us.
When I was first born, the doctor’s didn’t give my parents much hope that I would even survive. If I did survive, I was going to be paralyzed on my left side, blind, deaf, and have learning difficulties, and I’m none of those things. I have so much to be thankful for!
Growing up, being a firefighter was a dream of mine, but since I can’t be a firefighter, I needed re-route my dreams. Being a husband to a wonderful wife, and a father to 2 incredible little boys is my dream, having the opportunity to wake up every morning and try my best to be a better person than I was the day before is my dream.
If you’re struggling to find happiness, think about what you could be doing to make yourself happy. Try and focus on the blessings you do have, instead of your burdens. Better yet, turn your perceived burdens into blessings! You have the power to do that! Make the choice today to see life positively. Make the choice today to be happy. Regardless of your situation. Regardless of the challenges you face.
You woke up this morning, you have another chance to be better than you were yesterday. Life is short. Do your best to put a smile on your face and Be happy. Don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way, not even you.
About the Author: Austin Andersen is a husband and a dad. His favorite thing to do is spend time outdoors in the sunshine with his family – in the mountains, on the beach, gardening, or just playing in the backyard with his wife and kids. He’s not too picky as long as it’s warm and the sun is shining. Austin has a bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Wellness from Brigham Young University. He’s been blessed so much throughout his life and wants to give back.
His passion is to help others strengthen their testimonies of the Restored gospel of Jesus Christ and help others build happiness into their lives through his writing. He writes books on both church-related topics as well as general self help topics.
If you’re interested in learning more about Austin or his books, you can visit: