“IF YOU COULD tell yourself one thing before your accident, what would it have been?” I was asked this a few weeks ago after giving a speech in Missouri. What would I tell that me? Would I warn myself about what was about to happen? Would I tell myself to stop?
If you had the option to know everything that was going to happen in your life, would you want it?
To know the future would be great, right? You could know if something bad will happen to you or a loved one or if you’ll win the lottery. There’s no telling what you could know—and change. But here’s the kicker: If you were given that map—the map of your future—you have to know you cannot change it. That map shows you your destiny, but it isn’t malleable. It’s written in stone. Now would you want it?
Sometimes I think I would. I would’ve liked a heads-up to my life-changing car accident. I would’ve wanted to know exactly when my world would get turned upside down. Maybe I would’ve lived differently, strived for more, or just slowed down and enjoyed the ride up to that fateful day.
But then I wonder: Would I be the person I am today? I’m the only paralyzed barrel racer in the United States. I am a motivational speaker who travels around the world. I’m the author of my own children’s book. I’m the main character for a movie. I am a sister, friend, daughter, role model, and hero.
I can look back to how I was raised, the childhood I lived, the opportunities I was given, and the obstacles I overcame. The journey I traveled prepared me for what I’d face in the future, after my acci- dent. My background and family played a role in shaping me to face a challenge with a wheelchair. I didn’t need a map; I just needed to live the way I was taught and continue the way I was shown.
My family is extremely competitive, which taught me how to be a winner. Hard work, perseverance, and grit were engrained into me. Each person in my life has helped build me into who you all see. My dad knew how to succeed at the highest level and pushed me to strive for the same. My mom knows how to support, care for, and pick up an athlete after a fall, ensuring that I never quit. My older sister, Ashley, has more dedication than any human I know, teaching me the value of being committed to what you love. My brothers, JC and Taylor, are the strongest leaders I’ve ever seen. JC never looks back and keeps us moving forward, even if it’s a climb. Taylor will shine no matter where you put him; his try reminds me that we decide what comes next. My little sisters have shown so much sacrifice, compassion, and love throughout their lives. Aubrey reminds me how to find light in the darkest of days. And Autumn had to grow up overnight. When she was 9 years old, her older sister could no longer take care of her in the arena, and she had to step up.
This is my team. These people helped me prepare for the chair I sit in. Now, I don’t want to take credit from the friends, supporters, and others who’ve been part of my story. I truly believe every person comes into our lives for a reason. But this is where I began. I think these people were my map, guiding me and allowing me to fulfill my purpose.
What does your map look like? Who helped you become who you are? What experiences built you? I think sometimes we want to know the future so bad, we forget to appreciate how we got here. I don’t think we should look back and dwell on the things we can’t change. I think we should recognize how we grew from them and how far we’ve come. Knowing the future shouldn’t dictate the choices you make or the person you are. You shouldn’t need to know how your future life will look to know who you are today. Just be it now. So what would I have told myself? “Amberley, your life will be hard. It won’t go the way you planned. But you’ll ride. You’ll want to give up. You’ll want to give in. Don’t weaken. Look ahead, and give it your all. You have more power than you know. You’re tougher than you think. You’re strong enough. No matter what life gives you, give more back.”
Always move forward. Appreciate the journey. Create your own future rather than letting the future create you.
Amberley’s family. Back row, left to right: sister Aubrey, mom Tina, dad Cory, sister Ashley, and sister Autumn. Front row, left to right: brother JC, Amberley, and brother Taylor.