Life is too short to be anything but happy.

If you don’t know me, you don’t know that I love quotes. That I pretty much started every paper I wrote throughout university with a quote. People make fun of me and my quotes, but I truly find inspiration in the people behind them. I’m not one of those people who randomly google search quotes just for the sake of putting them out there. I like to know what’s what and who’s who. Needless to say that on this journey I’m on, I am in constant need of inspiration and motivation – so I turn to people (and quotes.)

Take for example, Nick Vujicic – an amazing individual. He was born with Tetra-amelia syndrome, which in simple terms means he does not have any of the four limbs. He’s given motivational speeches worldwide; discussing hope and life. He has done more in his young life than most do in a lifetime. I love everything he says.

Or Jonny Kennedy. I can barely type his name without getting weepy-eyed. Several years ago I watched a documentary called “The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off” (click to catch it on YouTube) It was one of the single most moving documentaries I have ever seen. His sense of humour in the face of a not-so-bright future has always stuck with me. My favourite part is him talking about the Heinz ketchup bottle – I challenge you to watch this and not be moved.

 I’d be remiss if I left out one of my favourite athletes, Rick Hansen. Almost a year ago I had the honour and privilege of participating in the 25th Anniversary Relay. Even more so, participating with my cousin, Brenda. What a time! Rick embodies what it means to be a productive community member, leader and athlete. He continues to inspire.

Finally, Terry Fox.  He needs no introduction. He ran 3,339 miles in 143 days to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. He was amazing, believed in miracles and continues to inspire hundreds of thousands today. Though he passed away before I was even born, he remains one of my idols. I continue to think of him when I feel sorry for myself. I think of his positive attitude and determination as he looked death in the face and challenged cancer. How can I be worried about the small, insignificant things?

So here’s a challenge: stop taking life for granted. Enjoy every day. Take advantage of good health. If you’re still breathing, life’s pretty darn good.

Below are my favourite quotes of all time. I hope they inspire you like they inspire me.

“If I fail, I try again, and again, and again” – Nick Vujicic

“Nothing lasts forever, so live it up, drink it down, avoid the bullshit, take chances and never regret because at one point it was what you wanted.”

I think I’ll be bored if the angels sit about on clouds plucking their harps all day. I’ll be up there, getting them off their clouds, doing drops of 1,000 feet and then pulling up. I think you need to spice things up a bit. – Jonny Kennedy

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” e.e. cummings

“Laugh your heart out, dance in the rain
Cherish the memories, ignore the pain
Love and learn, forget and forgive
Because remember, you only have one life to live.”

“It always seems impossible until its done.” – Nelson Mandela

“The goal you set must be challenging. At the same time, it should be realistic and attainable, not impossible to reach. It should be challenging enough to make you stretch, but not so far that you break.”-Rick Hansen

“Life isn’t about having, it’s about being. You could surround yourself with all that money can buy, and you’d still be as miserable as a human can be. I know people with perfect bodies who don’t have half the happiness I’ve found. On my journeys I’ve seen more joy in the slums of Mumbai and the orphanages of Africa than in wealthy gated communities and on sprawling estates worth millions. Why is that? You’ll find contentment when your talents and passion are completely engaged, in full force. Recognise instant self-gratification for what it is. Resist the temptation to grab for material objects like the perfect house, the coolest clothes or the hottest car. The if I just had X, I would be happy syndrome is a mass delusion. When you look for happiness in mere objects, they are never enough. Look around. Look within.”  – Nick Vujicic

I know that you can do the impossible.” – Terry Fox

It doesn’t matter if you finish first.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you. Always.” Oprah Winfrey

So, a group I follow on Facebook called “I ❤ to Run” posted this a few days ago. I have to say, I didn’t see the original post on Swim Bike Mom’s Facebook page nor the comments- but y’all know I’ve been in the same boat, so I can guess at the kind of crap that went down. I believe that this is the most inspiring letter I’ve ever read. It’s not only made me totally ashamed to feel insecure about my own body, but has encouraged me to push harder and be proud.

Response from Jackie:

“Thank you Swim Bike Mom for posting this [picture of me.] I am humbled and proud to be an inspiration and actually quite appalled at how some of the posters are treating this. I used to weigh 415 lbs. [and] walking to the mailbox was a struggle. Some people don’t just “let themselves go” …[they] have actual medical issues that prevent normal every day activities. Say what you will but I got off my ass and did it.

And I consistently do it. I do it for me, not you …and I Inspire and amaze myself every day at how far I am able to push my body mentally [and] physically. I feel bad for people who can’t look at any picture of ANY athlete and not be inspired.

Honestly, hearing how this photo has inspired folks, I hope it goes viral! I want everyone to know that it IS ok to be any size and still compete. I am comfortable enough with myself to truly appreciate any praise I get from athletes who [have] finished while I’m still out there encouraging me. Triathlons are truly the only sport I have ever been involved in where people genuinely care about others…I am proud of myself, my unbelievably supportive teammates at the Atlanta Triathlon Club and those online like Swim Bike Mom who takes this for what it is. Inspiration for anyone to get out there and do it. If I can inspire just one person, then I have fulfilled my purpose.

I don’t hear [the] negativity, only the passion I have in my head and heart to achieve anything I set my mind to. I would encourage anyone to watch my progress as I train for the Half Ironman in Augusta on September 30th. Many people half my size wouldn’t even dream of trying to even enter such an event. But IM DOING iT! First, last, dnf, at least I started and will continue to follow my dreams…. FOR ME. I hope that all of us encourage others to be their best and are proud that ANYONE attempts these activities.

If you can’t applaud every athlete, especially those of us who it takes twice as long to finish and twice as much effort to move twice as much weight across the line, then I feel sad for you that you can’t appreciate the beauty in life and everyone’s journey. FYI the day after this race, I swam the Ridges 5k open water swim from GA to NC… so anything is possible if you put your mind to it!!! I wish all of you good luck and hope to hear about all of your successes (and not so successes on your journeys) as well!!!
Love, Jackie”

If you want to check out Swim Bike Mom’s blog for the original story, click here.