This is the essay I submitted to the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome for their 2012 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it! And here is my profile on the NJCTS website.
It was one of the happiest and proudest moments of my life when EMI Publishing informed me that, based on listening to my recording, the surviving members of the band Nirvana and Kurt Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, had approved my commercial use of their song “You Know You’re Right.”
In fact, I was the only American and only the third person to be granted this license. I had been told, “Don’t get your hopes up because Courtney will probably say, ‘No.’ ” For me, it meant that my years of dedicated effort to become a musician and vocalist were recognized at the highest level of the profession and that I would be able to perform a song by Kurt Cobain on my first record album.
Ironically, I owe this and many other successes in my life to Tourette Syndrome because having this condition fueled a burning desire in me to communicate my feelings in words and music so that people would appreciate me for my thoughts and feelings rather than focus on my tics.
Having Tourette led me to embrace people who are different, judge people and select friends based on their character, and develop the self-discipline and patience necessary to master guitar playing, songwriting and many challenging subjects in school.
I was first diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at age 7 and endured teasing and rejection in middle school. Some students who I thought were my friends turned their backs on me, publicly mocking me and telling me not to stand near them. Determined to find real friends, I reached out to other students who were also ridiculed for their disabilities. We formed close bonds that have lasted to this day. Since then, I have always enjoyed befriending a diversity of amiable people.
I was elected president of my high school musician’s club by a group of mostly Asian students who liked how I collaborated with the members to coordinate events that balanced Eastern and Western music traditions.
I am very grateful to Dr. James Leckman of Yale University, who taught me cutting-edge technique for controlling vocal and motor tics. By creating an inconspicuous tic, such as quietly rubbing my thumb and forefinger together, I can replace and eventually extinguish more visible tics that attract attention. It took more than a year, but after mastering this method, I was able to perform better in school and be confident in social situations.
I learned from having Tourette that investing a lot of time and being willing to struggle is often what is required to reach a goal, whether it is controlling neurological impulses, playing a complex musical piece, writing a 20-page paper worthy of an “A” or scoring 100 points on a calculus or chemistry exam.
Having achieved these kinds of outcomes for years now, I am glad to commit long hours of intensive effort to my academic and professional goals because I know this how I will succeed in the end.