Fear Or Freedom? Para-athlete: Jeremy McGhee is an article by Meghan Noel, Jeremy McGhee's neighbor and a free-spirit mermaid. The article talks about Jeremy's determination about life, passion and love. Jeremy also talks about surfers vs ocean, " Get to know her, her as in the ocean. Spend time with her."
How Uncomfortable are You Willing to Get?
Choose Fear or Freedom with Jeremy Mcghee
When I asked para-athlete and adventure seeker, Jeremy P. McGhee, what he finds strength in, emotionally and physically, he answered me with the question, “How uncomfortable are you willing to get?”
At 25 years old, Jeremy was on his motorcycle running errands in his neighborhood. He was two blocks away from home when a car made a left turn in front of him, a turn that would change his life forever. To this day, he has flashbacks to the moment when all he could see was the car’s side mirror in his face. He has vivid memories of laying on the asphalt, which felt so warm and inviting. Having been a lifeguard at the time, instinct kicked in and Jeremy began to assess his injuries. He knew his back was probably broken when he could not remove himself from the pavement, and knew he was bleeding out as his face and hands quickly began to go cold. Luckily for Jeremy, a team of paramedics was having lunch across the street. They rushed to Jeremy’s rescue and within 20 minutes he was in surgery to save his life. Jeremy sustained broken ribs, a broken pelvis, punctured lungs and a broken back, but the most life-threatening injury was that he was bleeding out from a tear to his perineum or, as Jeremy likes to call it, his choad.
During his time in the hospital Jeremy would ride waves of emotion, many times held under in the darkness. With each wave that he rode it as if the storm began to calm and he started to settle into his new reality. It was during this time that Jeremy decided to take what he called a, “Practical approach at life and continue to choose living, because the alternative sucks!” He paddled out into the unknown ready to be barreled or pounded by the new swell that had just rolled in: his new life’s journey as a paraplegic.
It is in seeking the answer to, “How uncomfortable are you willing to get?” that natural born athlete, Jeremy was inspired to ski at Breckenridge, Colorado, within days of leaving his six-week stay in the hospital.
Meghan: When did you know your injury was not going to stop you?
Jeremy: One of the first things I did after leaving the hospital was buy a set of hand controls for my truck, off of some guy on the street, then I drove to Colorado.
Jeremy’s original intention for driving to Colorado was to visit his sister, but before he knew it, the trip turned into a few days of sit-ski lessons and him off shredding the pow! He was back behind the wheel and driving his own life like he had always done since he was a young boy. All of the adventures Jeremy has embarked upon were due to his own drive and self motivation. Growing up, Jeremy’s parents didn’t expose him to an active lifestyle. They were more of the TV watching kind of people while Jeremy was the kind of guy you would someday see on TV.
Meghan: You appear to have a lot of passions. What is your one true passion?
Jeremy: Loving Freedom.
Freedom is Jeremy’s 13 year old Labrador Retriever, service dog and best friend. Besides Freedom, Jeremy’s greatest and truest passion is “The ocean. It’s home, a place where I feel like my self. I’m healed when I am in the water.” The ocean, where he still surfs, paddles, swims and snorkels, is a place where his wheelchair doesn’t exist. When Jeremy is in the water, being paraplegic seems far from reality. When he is with her, the ocean, he is free of everything except doing and feeling what he loves.
At 10 years old Jeremy traded his skateboard at a garage sale for his very first surfboard. It was a G&S (Gordon and Smith) that he and his little brother would share. In his florescent pink board shorts with a cast on his broken arm he paddled out for his very first time. Or should I say, swam out…
Meghan: What do you remember about that day you first surfed?
Jeremy: A lifeguard came out and said to me, “Don’t be a barney.” He was referring to the fact that I was swimming, not paddling my surfboard out. I didn’t know any better. My mom, she was there on the shore. Her being there was really special to me. She didn’t come to many of my activities or sporting events. I caught my first wave that day, I still remember the push I felt when I stood up. By the time I finally got out of the water I was frozen.
As Jeremy grew up he continued to surf and be involved in other sports and activities such as football and triathlons.
Meghan: How did you get into triathlons?
Jeremy: At the time I got involved in triathlons I was a lifeguard. Most days I rode my bike or ran to work so I thought why not, it just seemed to make sense. Run, bike, swim, they are all things triathletes do and I was doing them almost every day.
After Jeremy’s motorcycle accident he continued to surf. Since then he has naturally taken to paddleboarding, and mountain biking, which was something else just to push the edge. He told me that the biggest difference in continuing his active life since his accident is the specially designed gear he now uses. “There is also a lot more prep time and effort that goes into staying active. But it all makes me that much more thankful,” he says.
Meghan: How has the injury made you stronger emotionally and physically?
Jeremy: When you have been through that kind of pain it puts things into perspective.
Jeremy uses what I like to call the Hurdle Theory. When he faces a hurdle he knows he can make it over because of the past obstacles he has faced, each challenge seeming less intimidating than the previous.
Meghan: If you could turn back time, would you choose to live with our without your injury?
Jeremy: With my injury. My brother is clean and sober because I am in a chair.
When Jeremy’s younger brother was in high school he was involved in a car accident. Just 15 years old and in a coma for 2 months, he suffered a brain injury that would affect him for the rest of his life. Battling his new way of life, Jeremy’s brother became a crystal meth addict. For seven years he lived a destructive, out-of-control, drug-addicted life, which only made a turn for the better when Jeremy was knocking on death’s door. Jeremy’s survival and new way of life helped his little brother to find the inner strength to turn his own life around, and for that Jeremy would not change a thing. Now clean and sober, Jeremy’s brother is one of his biggest motivations and inspirations.
Meghan: Do you have a mantra?
Jeremy: Light does not exist without darkness and darkness does not exist without light.
Jeremy believes that our darkness, which many of us hide from, is actually something we should face. Facing this darkness is the beginning of our transcendence. “When I face darkness, I talk to it. I ask it, why are you here? I delve into my sadness,” Jeremy told me. He believes we need to face our darkest hours to overcome them, to grow from them, and to make us stronger humans.
Meghan: What is your greatest fear?
Jeremy: Being paralyzed.
Being paralyzed is Jeremy’s greatest fear, yet just a few days ago he was racing his mountain bike in Mammoth. The week following his race in Mammoth, Jeremy was scheduled to have surgery to remove bone spurs in his neck that were compressing his spinal cord. When Jeremy asked his surgeon if it was still okay to race, he was told, “Just don’t crash.” He raced anyway, knowing that one single crash could have left him completely paralyzed. When I asked Jeremy what his favorite quote is, he replied with one from Picasso, “Only put off for tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” Jeremy isn’t willing to die with things left undone.
Jeremy: I definitely visualize and manifest my future and what it is I want to create for my self. Motivational speaker on tour is where I see myself professionally. Personally, I will be married to a hottie who loves the ocean and brings me sandwiches.
Besides the obvious accomplishment of climbing and skiing down Bloody, Jeremy also shared one of his most personal accomplishments. He is proud of reaching a point where he can communicate his patterns upfront in romantic relationships and to be comfortable with his own sexual energy without acting on it. Jeremy has learned a lot during his journey. Freedom, who got him out of bed on the days he just didn’t want to, taught Jeremy to be gentle as Freedom is not the young pup he used to be. It is slowly becoming Jeremy’s job to nurture and care for his best friend who has been in his life since April 2003, one and a half years after his wreck. As someone who had always been very independent and self-sufficient, Jeremy had to learn to humble himself and allow his friends and family to give to him. This represented the biggest change in his relationships with those who surrounded him for the first 25 years of his life.
As Jeremy’s neighbor here in magical Cardiff, CA., I am grateful to call him my friend. Jeremy makes me feel alive when I am around him. His sheer presence in my life was nothing short of a blessing, one that I will be forever thankful for. Now one last question I asked Jeremy for all you fellow surfers, ocean lovers and athletes….
Meghan: Can you give advice to those who may fear the ocean and/or judgment from others?
Jeremy: Get to know her, her as in the ocean. Spend time with her. As far as being worried about judgment from others, fuck them. You give validity to others’ judgment by acknowledging it, so don’t. Then ask yourself, how uncomfortable are you willing to get?
To learn more about Jeremy, or to purchase a copy of his film Drop In: Bloody Couloir, which is sure to leave you laughing and crying, please visit dropinproject.com or jeremymcghee.com. While there you can also find links to his Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, which will be sure to bring you inspiration.
When it comes to adventure there is no shortage in Jeremy’s life. On June 2nd, 2012 he climbed and then sit-skied down Bloody Couloir. Documented in his film, Drop In: Bloody Couloir, Bloody is described as one of the steepest, most ominous backcountry lines in North America. Sales of the DVD’s will help fund Jeremy’s future projects. Until recently, he was working on another film project titled Channel of Bones, which was following him in his training to paddle across the most dangerous channel of water in the world and compete in the Molokai 2 Oahu, Paddleboard World Championships. This project has been put on hold due to an infection in his ankle that required surgery and forced him to stay out of the water. So for now he finds himself working with Iron Cross, a local father-son surf shop here in Cardiff, CA., to develop his new and improved adaptive surfboard. Then, of course, he also has to work on fixing and doing some upgrades to his mountain bike which he busted on his recent trip to Mammoth because he rides so darn hard!
Meghan Foley is a new Surf Mei Mei addition from the sunny San Diego, California. She is a beautiful surfer/skateboarder/Life adventurer who became Jeremy good friend after becoming neighbors by their home break, Pipe, Cardiff-By-The-Sea, California.
Who is Meghan Foley? When I think of myself its easy to say I am a 29 year old salon owner, entrepreneur, and free spirited adventure seeker but I prefer to answer that question with a much deeper response. I am an active dreamer, an adventurous soul, a spirit on an amazing journey who has been blessed to live this wild human experience. Where is your favorite surf spot? Right across the street from my house at Pipes! But pretty sure I may have left my heart back in Malibu when I got to surf there for the first time the other week. Malibu…. WOW, if you were not a surfers dream with your perfectly peeling, head high, 100 plus yard waves then I don’t know what was. Im still dreaming about you. Your dream surfing spot? Bali, I would love to go to Bali! I think it would be so much more then an amazing surf spot too. Hopefully I will be making a trip to Bali a reality sooner then later. I am looking forward to amazing waves but also the beauty and culture I have heard so much about. Motto in life? One of my favorite Buddha quotes gets the answer for this question, ” All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” That quote is a big factor in how I live my life and I truly believe in it. It keeps my head in the right place and my energy positive.
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