Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Justin's red sneakers match the Y20 theme

Justin’s red sneakers match the Y20 theme

In my most recent post about gratitude, I briefly mentioned Justin Skeesuck and his presentation at the AIGA San Diego Y20 Design Conference. You need to read about this amazing man—and his amazing friend and family—especially if you are a creative person.
 
The AIGA San Diego Y20 Design Conference, or as we fondly call it The Y, is a 2-day conference for everyone in the creative industry: graphic designers, typographers, illustrators, installation artists, digital media folks, architects, etc. We focus on the WHY we design or create, inspiring others, sharing our passion and developing a tight-knit community of amazing people—not just in San Diego but all around the world!
 
This year’s conference stood out from the last 6 ones I attended — maybe it’s because of where I was at in my life at that time, or maybe it was the quality and kind of speakers we had—all the above, I think. The first day felt more personal and the second day was more professionally inspirational. Justin spoke on the first day in the morning after a hilarious, creative duo from Mexico: Jorge Gutierrez and his wife, Sandra Equihua. I was only able to scribble down a few notes while Justin spoke, but the feeling he left us all with was emotional and inspiring.
 
Justin is known as The Disabled Traveler who inspires and instructs People with Disabilities on how to successfully navigate and overcome the many challenges they face in their lives, and when traveling. If you didn’t know who Justin was {like me}, you would wonder why he was speaking at a conference with a room full of graphic designers and other creatives.
 
Well, Justin was once a graphic designer himself here in San Diego, and is well-loved by many locals. Now, he’s also a motivational speaker, trainer and accessibility consultant. When he was 16, a car accident triggered a dormant autoimmune/neuromuscular disease in his body that eventually took the use of his arms, hands and legs from him.
 
Being a creative person, your hands are your tools, it’s your lifeblood. I cannot imagine losing the use of my hands and not be able to be creative. What else would I do? I was born creative out of my mother’s womb. Even though Justin was always a positive, happy and driven person, he had to fight hard from going into the deep, dark hole of self-pity, fear, depression and despair as his condition worsened to the point of being 100% dependent on others to feed him, shower him, dress him and more.
 
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
 
Justin eventually came to realize that life was too short, and decided that he didn’t want to go to the deep dark hole. He has a family he loves, and wanted to experience life outside his wheelchair. He said that you can either go that dark place–stay there and dwell in negativity—or figure out how to make your situation work, using creativity in a different way, wherever, however you can. Turn it around. We {me included} tend to focus on our limitations instead of the possibilities. What if we opened ourselves up to explore those possibilities? Instead of living out of fear and anxiety, why not live out of curiosity?
 
Then…what Justin spoke about to us next was mind-blowing. Along with his lifelong friend Patrick, they trekked the Camino del Santiago trail of 500 miles across Northern Spain, with Patrick pushing Justin in his wheelchair. What?! Now that is living without limitations! The trek was filled with a host of challenges, but also amazing miracles, and new friendships developed from people around the world who were also walking the trail. Justin was the first man in a wheelchair to accomplish this incredible journey. You need to see the video and hear the whole story {HERE}.
 
Basically, it’s all about adapting… leading life with love… and even opening yourself up to let others help you because that’s what most people want to do. When you deny the opportunity for others to help you, you deny their joy in life—they want you to succeed. We all carry burdens, for others, for ourselves, even for the world sometimes… it can get heavy and weigh you down. But when you release the burden you are carrying, it opens up the flood gates to receive. To receive what is divinely yours.
 
In Justin’s words, a life is not defined by its limitations, but rather by what is accomplished in spite of those limitations….what you do in life, the life you are given.
 
 

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