By Emma Sundeen
Some people look at the glass being half full or half empty. Andy Elcik instead says, “my glass is always overflowing.”
This past summer I was given the opportunity to meet Elick, an extraordinary person and New England resident. His inspirational tale of optimism, overcoming adversity and a handy toolbox that houses what is needed to continue moving forward brings a new perspective on life.
At age 31, Elcik dove into the shallow end of a swimming pool and was paralyzed, becoming a quadriplegic. Prior to the accident Elcik was a risk taker: he participated in extreme skiing, vertical climbing and motorcycle racing; but after the accident he was presented a new challenge, relearning everything he had once known how to do.
When asked how he stayed so positive he replied, “I wouldn’t know how to do it any other way.”
Elcik says that he was determined to make the best out of the situation. He said that he learned this from his dad, who taught him to be confident and reflect on life by re-evaluating every situation to improve yourself – that’s just one of his many tools. Elick says that inside his toolbox he keeps all of his “tools” or life lessons that have helped him to continue on through every situation. Elick says that the first real tool he received was a compass, which would always point him true north and never let him down.
Decades after the accident, Elick began to develop more medical issues and was forced to move into a nursing home. He was now living in a place with people much older than himself – some who had been alive for over a century.
Determined to make the best out of this situation as he had done with so many others, Elick made himself available to talk. He welcomed everyone, whether they were in need of help or simply wanted a friend to chat with; he wanted everyone to know that he would fully accept them for who they were. Elick allowed the older people to tell him stories of their intriguing lives and he gave advice to the young nurses who needed someone to talk to.
Last summer, Elick was a guest speaker for a traveling tour dubbed “Life after Adulthood” (find the link to both parts on our website).
In his speech, Elick starts off by saying, “Today I am celebrating the 42nd anniversary of my 19th birthday,” and goes on to explain that he is young at heart which may be why people are so drawn to him. When Elick was a freshman in college he traveled to Europe, where he had his picture taken on his 19th birthday.
As he took the picture from the photographer, he thought about all that had happened on his trip and the feeling that he had at that moment – the feeling of pure happiness and confidence.
Years after his accident, Elick continues to bring optimism to those around him.
“There is no such thing as problems, there are only opportunities, no matter what you’re faced with don’t look at it as a set back, but look at it as a growth experience. No chapter in my life has closed without an equally good one opening,” Elick says.