Life Lessons: Exceeding Expectations and Lessening Limitations

My role model for life was a badass, and he taught me the virtues of hard work and loving family. Many approaches I use for navigating life are to his credit. My hero was my grandfather, my hero is Poppie.

He was the quintessential example of industrious hard work. Poppie was a Navy Seabee during World War II in the Pacific Rim. When he enlisted in the Navy, he had his Aunt lie and tell the recruiter that he was 2 years older — he was only 16. His job as a Seabee involved going into hostile territory to build landing strips and bases for troops as the Navy progressed along the Pacific.

After the war, he took correspondence courses to become a more qualified engineer. Eventually, he was renowned for his ability to build manufacturing plants across the globe.

A civic-minded, artistic, family man

Poppie’s abilities were not limited to occupational skills, he also had a knack for creating beautiful wood bowls on a lathe he built from scratch. He was a renaissance man who went on to win awards from multiple civic groups and from the governor for his volunteer work in the community.

In addition to his remarkable military and civilian career, his most important work was being a supportive husband, father, and grandfather.

Working harder and smarter

Poppie was my hero. He was larger than life and a walking-talking example of hard work in action. Into his mid-70s, he was able to navigate to the top of a knotted rope with only his upper body 20 feet in the air. He was a primary reason I have chosen to pursue weight training.

His influence shaped my life in more ways than anyone knows. Poppie would tell me that he was never the best looking, best educated, or best dressed; but nobody would work harder or work smarter than he would. I have tried to adopt that strategy in my life.

My "hypocretin switch"

Unfortunately, I am not always able to work harder than others. My excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy provide a "governor switch" on my work ethic. Naps and brain fog can curtail the best-laid plans of mice and men.

When Poppie encountered a governor switch in life, he took the equipment apart and bypassed the switch. Try as I might, I cannot disassemble this machine and bypass my “hypocretin switch.”

My kids are my greatest contribution

There have been no shortcuts in life with narcolepsy, but prioritizing my goals has helped me redefine what success looks like. Identifying what is most important in life has allowed me to have a different perspective.

I realized that Poppie’s greatest contributions in life were as a husband to his beloved wife and a father to their 4 remarkable children. That moment of realization gave me a renewed purpose in life — my greatest contribution to this world are my 3 kids.

Progress, not perfection

Providing for and loving my kids are my primary goals. Other children may have newer clothes, bigger houses, and fancier technology, but no other children will be more loved. I will never “keep up with the Joneses,” but I can pass along my pieces of Poppie to the world. Providing consistency can be a challenge, but life is about progress, not perfection. Loving my children is a goal that I can work to achieve every day.

I have been blessed to live in a supportive family, but it is not fair for me to expect them to know exactly what it is like living with narcolepsy. Surrounding myself with other people with narcolepsy and supportive friends has provided me with the environment I need to exceed. I will have moments when I fail, but my family of choice reminds me that I am not a failure.

Learning and sharing with others

Like-minded individuals are essential to my success living with narcolepsy. Placing myself in an environment encased in excellence has helped lessen the limitations of narcolepsy. These friends have taught me some of my limitations are illusions.

They have also shared with me tools and skills to lessen the impact and identify some of my real limitations. Finding purpose by sharing support provides me with great fulfillment. Volunteering my knowledge, skills, and experiences has given me that purpose.

Yes, we can exceed expectations

I only have an inclination of what other individuals’ lives with narcolepsy are like. There are shared experiences, shared symptoms, and shared life events, but so much is unique to the individual. Exceeding expectations and lessening limitations are approaches that I believe can be adapted for most.

Narcolepsy has taken from me but that does not mean that I do not have a lot to give. It took me a while to come to the realization I am not Poppie. Just because I cannot be him, doesn’t mean that I cannot be great. My contributions to the world will be different but they will exceed expectations. The World’s Strongest Person having narcolepsy with cataplexy has approved this message.

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