I'll be honest, I've spent a lot of time wondering what if. What if my mom had been driving just a little bit faster that day, or a little bit slower? What if I hadn't been so persistent in arguing with my mom and just sat in the back seat like she'd said at first? What if I hadn't had to run back into the house to get my jacket, so we could have left sooner? What if we hadn't been in a car accident? Most importantly, what if I hadn't been paralyzed?
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I would have been really cool when I went back to school. For some reason, everyone thinks it's cool if you survive a car wreck. Maybe that scar on my arm from the glass breaking would have made me look tough. I had already been pretty popular before; I wasn't one of the hot guys, but I was smart and funny and everyone liked me. Surviving the wreck would have just made me look badass.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I would have been on the baseball team. At eight years old I had already been really good, a bit of a little league prodigy. My older brother always told me I was the best pitcher in all of Ohio. I would have been great at it; I could pitch any sort of fastball or curveball you wanted, and I was a really fast runner. I could have been a jock, really athletic and confident and cool. I loved playing baseball more than just about anything.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I could have had a nice pick of girlfriends. Sure, I wasn't a stud like Noah Puckerman, but I was nicer and funnier. People always had a good time when they were hanging out with me. My parents had raised me up like a gentleman unlike most of the guys in Lima, and I know the girls would have appreciated that. I might even have gone out with Quinn Fabray; we had been friends before the accident, and she had given me my first kiss in the first grade.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I could have gone to school dances. I could have gone to homecoming dances, and the winter ball, and the prom. I could have asked a girl to go with me, and get all dressed up in a stuffy tux, and have to pose while my parents and hers took a dozen too many pictures of us. I could have swept her out on the dance floor and shown off what a good dancer I was. I could have known what it felt like to stand close to a girl while we swiveled slowly on the spot, her head on my shoulder and my arm around her waist.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I would have known how good it felt to have sex. I would have known what all those sensations really feel like. I would have known what it felt like to have her legs tangled around mine, and to find that perfect release together. I could have been brave and confident in sharing an intimate moment with the woman I loved.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I could have knelt down when I proposed. I could have done everything right, suave and charming like Frank Sinatra. I would have been able to look up into her eyes from behind the ring, and taken her hand and slipped the ring onto her finger. Then I would have been able to stand up in front of her and kiss her and hug her so enthusiastically that I lifted her from the ground.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I would have been able to stand up in church when I said my vows. I could have met her eyes through her veil. I could have held her hand as we walked down the aisle together, and I could have swept her of her feet as I carried her across the threshold.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I could have run after my kids when they were running rampant through the house. I could have played football with my little boys in the yard, and I could have picked my daughter up and waltzed around the living room with her while she was dressed up like a princess.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I wouldn't have missed out on so many things, so many of those important milestones in my life.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I would have missed out on a thousand other things.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I never would have learned what real friends are. I wouldn't have discovered that your real friends are with you, whether you're popular or not. I wouldn't have found out that a real friend is someone who sticks with you in the hard times instead of flaking out to avoid all the drama and difficulties. I wouldn't have learned that a true friend is by your side whether you're standing or sitting.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I never would have taken my love of music seriously. I never would have started playing guitar, and I never would have started singing outside of the shower. I never would have considered being a musician. I never would have joined the jazz band, and I never would have joined Glee and been part of a team that placed at Nationals.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I would never have known what it felt like to be truly cared about. I never would have known what it felt like to have someone who looked at you as more than arm candy, as more than a status symbol. I wouldn't have known the beautiful feeling you get when someone looks at you and sees what you are instead of what you're sitting in. I never would have met the girl who saw the real me from the very start, who respected me because of my disability instead of pitied me. I wouldn't have ever considered dating the goth with the highlighted hair and the (fake) stutter, and I would never have fallen in love with Tina Cohen-Chang.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I wouldn't have had the amazing time I did at the prom. I wouldn't have learned that being unconventional makes for better memories than just attending things because they are status quo. I wouldn't have been voted best prom pictures in the yearbook for the image of Tina, finally showing the rest of the world how beautiful I'd always known she was, sitting comfortably in my lap as we shared a smile. I never would have found out that the right girl can find it just as romantic to sit on your lap while you spin your wheelchair in slow circles as it would be to actually slow dance together. I never would have found out that who you go with is more important than how great you look or how many times you dance.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I never would have known how the power of mind over matter affects your sex life. I wouldn't have known that you don't need to be able to use your legs to share a passionate connection with someone. I never would have known that real sex, good sex, is less about the physical and more about that spiritual intimacy you share when you're with someone you really love. I never would have known that feeling a closeness in hearts and souls is more satisfying than any physical stimulus could be.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I wouldn't have known that all the theatrics in the world can't add up to the perfection of making a proposal genuine. I never would have known how much your lover appreciates honesty over showiness. I never would have known how asking one simple question can turn an ordinary night of watching cheesy horror films on the couch into the most wonderful of your life.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I wouldn't have felt so confident at the altar as I waited for her to come down the aisle. I couldn't have been so sure of her love that I held absolutely no nerves over our future together. I wouldn't have been grateful to be sitting down when she approached me on her father's arm, to the point where if I could have felt my knees they'd have been shaking. I never would have had that embarrassing moment of getting her dress caught in my wheel as she rode down the aisle in my lap, which turned out to be one of our favorite memories.
If I hadn't been paralyzed, I wouldn't have been able to cherish the miracle of being able to have children as much as I do. I never would have been able teach my children to follow their interests, no matter what others thought of them. I never would have been able to enjoy the times when my baby girl fell asleep curled up on my lap as I rocked in my wheelchair. I never would have been so proud when my younger son told me he wanted to be a musician, just like daddy. I never would have been so touched when my oldest boy's teacher sent home a paper he'd written about how his dad was his hero for being able to overcome his disability. I never would have been so honored to be an inspiration to my family.
Yeah, there were a lot of wonderful things that I missed out on because of being paralyzed. There are still those days where things get difficult and I begin to wonder what if. But as I look back on it now, there isn't a single thing, a single discovery, or a single memory that I would trade.