No, you didn’t read that incorrectly.
Anaya Ellick, a seven-year-old from Virginia, won the special needs category in the National Handwriting Contest. Using just her arms, Anaya beat 50 competitors with an impressive composition for the win. According to BBC News, her “writing sample was comparable to someone who had hands.” In fact, her elementary school principal reports that Anaya has the best handwriting in her whole class.
In the online universe, we often come across remarkable individuals, but Anaya’s achievement is mind-blowing. What care, what patience must have gone into mastering a steady grip of the pen in order to get to the competition in the first place.
This seemingly impossible feat (by a child, at that!), prompts us to wonder: what is our excuse? Here are other inspirational examples of people who succeeded against all odds.
When Boone refused to join them, a group of gang members burned down his family home, rendering his whole family homeless. Spending his nights outside on the street and his days in school, Boone turned to Cleveland’s Minds Matter, organization for high-achieving, low-income students who hope to attend college.
With a strong commitment to school, Boone spent most of his time studying to maintain a 4.0 GPA. Boone credits his family, his mentors at Minds Matter and his faith in God for his success. Upon graduating from high school, Boone received a full Gates Millennium Scholarship to Harvard, where he is presently studying computer science.
While you may or may not know her name right off the bat, Stockett is the award-winning author of The Help, a book that was turned into a movie starring Oprah Winfrey in 2011. Over several years, Stockett submitted work to a multitude of publication companies, running into feedback like, “There is no market for this kind of tiring writing,” according to Writer’s Digest.
Stockett’s story of success involved no fewer than 60 rejection letters before her book was accepted for publication. Now a best-selling author, Stockett’s tale is a perfect motivator for any writer or artist who has been beaten down by discouraging feedback.
Hamilton, a professional surfer, lost her arm to a shark attack when she was just 13 years old. While this tragedy seemed certain to end her rising career, Bethany jumped back into surfing just one month after her incident. Now enjoying a successful career as a professional surfer and motivational speaker, Bethany has written a New York Times best-selling autobiography, Soul Surfer, and has been the subject of movies and documentaries.
The most fascinating aspect of these examples is that some were mere children when they persevered beyond what most adults could handle. David Boone didn’t even let homelessness come between him and his studies; Bethany Hamilton didn’t let a limb loss preclude her from excelling in an extreme sport. Since happiness and satisfaction are relative terms, we have to assume that the difference between these people swimming and sinking was their mindset.
What happens to us when we grow up? How many of us follow the voice in our gut? How many of us have stifled this voice to the point where we can’t even hear it anymore? Not that all of us need to revert back to childhood dreams of being a doctor or a scientist, but we do need to remember how we wished to be happy.
When we are young, most of us think this happiness will arrive alongside success and riches. However, as many of us grow into adults, we certainly don’t identify with being happy in our lives. Though hard to swallow, the reality is that happiness and satisfaction are less a state of being that we come across through achievement and more a choice of how to feel no matter what life throws our way.
At some point, most of us have been astounded by someone who is, say, terminally ill, yet laughing, smiling, and enjoying life. When we make peace with our situation and our circumstances, living in the present comes easily.
It could be worth it to look to children for the answer; many of them seem to have already figured this out. At the very least, it would be worth examining our hopes from time to time.
We need to ask ourselves: what is between us and where we want to be? If there isn’t anything, and we are, in fact, where we want to be, we must begin to recognize this as happiness. If we haven’t achieved all our goals, it’s time to tackle those obstacles.
If Anaya Ellick, a girl with no hands, can win a handwriting contest, what’s your excuse?
—Brett Murphy Hunt