When you are a child you are often asked what you want to be when you grow up. You sit in your 4th grade class and in comes a guest speaker. They are introduced to your class as someone who strives to inspire you to begin thinking about these things in life. This usually happens when your school decides to have a “career day” event. Parents volunteer to speak to your class also about what they do for a living as though we are programmed to pick out of the examples we have seen. Choosing what you want to be isn’t something you pick from a hat. You can have an idea of course. Musician. Doctor. Teacher. Athlete, and so on.
The “what” may change as you get older. You develop new interests. New ways of looking at what is valuable in life and what deserves your time. “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” Seems like a loaded question right? That’s because it is. Our “what” may change throughout the years yet there is a more important question that rarely seems to be asked. So there we are in the 4th grade sitting behind the kid the farts in class staring out the window contemplating a different question all together. Not “what” I want to be when I grow up but “who” I want to be. They don’t ask you who. They go straight for the jugular of occupations. But occupations don’t define us. Our character, our drive, our commitment, our passion, our will to survive and keep pushing. These are the things that define us.
For many of us our “what” changes so many times in life. For me I attempted to jump off course a few times, sometimes involuntarily yet my “who” looking back on it all was always the same. I came from a musical and artistic family. My Mother was and still is a professional pianist and composer for ASCAP. My Grampy was a horn and woodwind player in big bands his whole life. My Nina was a print mode. My Great Aunt Rose was a well established artist and painter. My Papa was a guitar player and in a band very similar to The Everly Brothers. My Father played instruments his whole life and was in band with my Mom growing up. The list goes on and on. I did not come from a long line of lawyers that is for sure.
My “what” was always pretty consistent. I wanted to be a singer. I have had this want since I was 4 years old. My desire later developed into singer-songwriter. Then actor. Then Musical Theatre Major. Then Broadway performer. Then Seaworld Trainer (this was around the time I had this crazy obsession with Dolphins). All of these roles were along the same plane yet so different. I think at one point I tried to do something that I felt was “level headed” and signed up at my local community college as a Philosophy major. I bought the books and when it came time to go to my first class I'm pretty sure one of the books slapped me in the face and said “Seriously? What are you doing?! Wake up! This isn’t you”. (I like to think the book came alive like in a cartoon) The book was right. I was trying to go down a road that wasn’t meant for me. I was meant to connect with people. Through stage, screen, my voice. Anyway I could really. I had a message to share. Passion to share. Authenticity to evoke.
If you are reading this then you know what I’m about to tell you is as true as your middle name. Unless you changed it after your parents bestowed an abomination unto you to hide in between your first and last name. Your path or “what” does not necessarily always come true. You are faced with life changing events that make that dream fall further and further away from you. Situations in life cause you to make choices that send you running in the complete opposite direction no matter how hard you dig your heals into the ground. You dig them in harder and harder and turns out you are still further from where you wanted to be and you just burned a hole in your favorite pair of moccasins.
We know this feeling. We have all been there. We’ve been pulled away from our dream “what” and settled for the best of what we could get and made it work. But what if we don’t have to just make it work? What if we can apply what we have and put it to better use? I’m going to tell you right now this is possible. How do we do this? You get as adaptive as a darn chameleon and learn to acclimate fast! You must begin to trick your mind in seeing the good in everything. Perception is key here if you want to succeed at what I'm telling you.
Throughout my career as a singer, actor, performer, then waitress, then a billing manager, then collections specialist and eventually collections manager at a law firm, then an administrative assistant at a mortgage bank all of these “what’s” had a common thread. They connected with people and were either trying to convey a specific message or they had a role of being in charge and commanding.
Nothing you do is for no reason. You may have acquired a skill that you don’t even realize you still use today. Like from when you worked at a hot dog stand on the streets of New York when you were 16. Don’t underestimate your past just because it didn’t bring you the outcome you wanted. Again your “what” changes but your “who” is impermeable. Bringing us back to perception. “If you change your perception, you change your reality”. A phrase I say often to my viewers and readers. Widen your lens to view what you have, not what you have lost.
If you are already having a doubtful mind while reading this I’m going to tell you to quit that nonsense right now. Now I know I have to support my reasoning behind this statement to you. So support it I shall. I’ve had my share of tragedy and pain but what I chose to do with it after has only made my “who” even more apparent. After being physically assaulted in New York City to escaping an abusive marriage by my first husband, I was left as a shell of someone I used to know. I pulled myself through this out of pure survival instinct and a determination to not give up.
Life got better. I strengthened my relationship with God and got back on track, vowing to never settle again or fall short of being anything less of who I was truly capable of being. I was still working as an administrative assistant and contributing to being about 60% of myself but the rest was just another role I was playing. I was still writing music and performing but something was missing. I soon met my now husband and the missing 40% seemed to reveal itself. Three months after our wedding I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and life began drastically changing. My ability in my left leg was decreasing rapidly. I would experience fatigue that would have me falling asleep in my car on my lunch breaks. I could not walk without a cane, and very slowly, I might add. I was burning the candle at both ends and trying to maintain my version of “normal” as best as I could.
Then it hit me. I was already prepared to handle all of this. I was already used to being judged as far as my new disability went. I learned this skill from being told “no” countless times in Broadway auditions. Theatre and Film thickened my skin. I knew that this was God’s way of giving me purpose in my message. To utilize my voice and music to inspire and motivate men and women struggling through chronic illness and disability.
I was prepared and polished as a speaker from memorizing so many scripts in college in New York City. I was poised to give a presentation on how to stay positive through times of hell from taking classical voice lessons since the age of seven. If you’re not poised you don’t perform live. I learned this young. I learned confidence and self worth from being in a physically abusive marriage. I was well versed in commanding a stage or conveying a message thanks to managing a billing department where I had to persuade borrowers to pay their bills on time before it negatively impacted their credit or anything listed as collateral. If you can persuade a stranger over the phone (that hung up on you several times with a few f-bombs thrown in) to make a significant payment on their bill before it goes to collections, this means you have good communication skills. I was armored with skills I had collected for years of “what’s” that were never thought to be applicable to the bigger picture and were now emerging and revealing themselves as my “who”.
You see, this is perception I chose, and, yes, this is a choice you have to make. To see the good in things. To take the pain as education, experience, awareness, and use it for what lies ahead. You may not know exactly what you are being prepared for and that is ok. Learn to trust this process and be open minded about your journey. Your “what” may not end up being what you wanted but the “who” is more valuable. The “who” is your purpose. The “who” is your legacy and your mark on life.
Being diagnosed with a neurological disability at the age of 30 is enough to make anyone climb into a hole, curl up and start burying yourself alive. The initial reaction of shock, fear, grief overwhelms us and we are left frozen. Unsure of where we go next. Just saying “it’s a lot to take in” doesn’t even begin to cover the extense impact this moment has on your life. You are thrown against a wall of reality with emotions that contradict one another almost leaving you in a state of sudden whiplash. So what is your next move? For Brittany Quiroz now known as “A Hot MS” it was a “fight or flight, do or die” moment, as she says in her lyrics via her motivational music. “My diagnosis was a clear indicator of my purpose relieving itself through pain. I knew it was God’s way of showing me what my path was and that I have the chance to impact others.” says A Hot MS. Having grown up as a Singer-Songwriter Quiroz knew that music would always be a part of her life. Writing music alongside her co-writer and mother Kristen Spath for over 15 years, the message she was meant to convey now was more clear than ever. To motivate. To empower. To strengthen. Quiroz now “A Hot MS” has used her diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis to impact the lives of other warriors fighting through chronic illness. She is now sharing her story to widen the lense of perception. “When you change your perception, you change your reality.” says A Hot MS. She strives to encourage her readers and viewers to embrace their disasters just as much as their victories and know it’s ok to be a hot mess or (ms) in this case. A Hot MS is now working as an advocate for disability and multiple sclerosis, working to establish her career as a motivational speaker and using her original music to focus on motivating others to be empowered and positive regardless of their limitations or struggles in life. She has teamed up with organizations like the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, MS Views and News and The Mighty to share her story and advocate change. She is on a mission to widen the lense of perception in the world of invisible illness and hopes that her voice can be a voice for change. “When there’s no pretty way of telling your story, tell the truth.” says A Hot MS. Being transparent with zero filters allows her readers to connect and know they are not alone in this fight while bringing some humor and positivity to the table. Her goal is to bring light into the darkness we face. To allow those struggling to use their pain as fuel to keep going. To encourage warriors A Hot MS is working to release her Non-Profit organization this year that specializes in the customization of mobility aids at no cost to the client. Giving warriors utilizing mobility aids to have the chance to choose how it reflects their personality and heart. After being able to customize her AFO brace due to the effects of drop foot from Multiple Sclerosis she knew this was a gift she needed to share. Her organization is aiming to be launched by the fall of 2020.
To find out more about A Hot MS please visit www.ahotms.com She can also be found on IG and FB @ahotms
Written by Brittany Quiroz Photo Credit @ahotms