Dear Friends & Family, Supporters and fellow Hydro Warriors,
Growing up, I was raised by two loving, supportive, and incredibly resilient human beings, who taught me from a young age that success in life is not defined by what happens to you, but how you choose to respond to what happens. My parents gave me the skills I needed to fight my own battles, stand up for myself, and never give up. They are living proof that God gives you only what you can handle, and that love always wins. For this, I am eternally grateful.
In the past 8 months, several life-altering changes have tested my resolve, crushed my heart, and forced me to take a good hard look at who I am. Nearly every aspect of my personal life has shifted, and a new chapter has begun. Each difficult experience or loss ripped a layer off the surface of my personality, exposing strengths and gifts, struggles and weaknesses. Wall after wall that I had built to guard my heart have tumbled down, leaving nothing but my true self, exposed to the world, but protected by the grace of God. And through all of this pain and vulnerability, I have found the most incredible peace. Staying present and in control my thinking, I am healing, and finding that I am never alone. Nothing about this process has been easy, but I am committed to accepting this as an opportunity to grow as a person.
I first read this poem by Rudyard Kipling in English literature class in high school, but I had forgotten about it until a close friend sent it to me recently. It truly defines the relentless pursuit of life and love. As I read it for the first time in years, tears were streaming down my face. It was one of many moments in the past several months, where I felt a very real and tangible challenge to find the bravery to continue, reminding me and reaffirming the notion that love always wins.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
Moving forward, I am recommitting myself to the goals that I initially had for this website - to support the hydrocephalus community by providing details of my journey, as well as my real life experiences. I remain dedicated to this advocacy work, because I believe that God gave me a strong voice and the ability to connect with people as a purpose for my pain. My name has changed to Amy Thomas, and the name of this website has changed to www.stayinthearena.com - paying homage to the Theodore Roosevelt “Man in the Arena” speech that I often reference in my blogging.
Thank you to each and every one of you who have supported me, inspired me, and keep me pushing forward in growth. Thank you for understanding and respecting my need to spend the past several months outside of the spotlight, fighting these battles quietly. I’ve been intensely focused on my physical, emotional, and mental health, and I am doing well. Life is amazing - so painful and beautiful all at the same time. In the end, we get to choose how we respond to the challenge - and love is well worth the battle. Never ever give up the relentless pursuit of everything that’s important.
Stay in the arena. It’s where the magic happens.
My name is Amy but friends and family call me Am. I am a lover of dogs, good whiskey, and strength training. I'm a brain surgery survivor (x21), a fiddle player, a construction designer, and a boxing enthusiast. I have six real siblings, and five fake brothers. I love deeply, and consider my close friends to be family.