“Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.”
That’s the line that is tattooed onto the inside of Jordan Stroman’s right arm.
“It’s a choice to feel joy,” she said. Every day, the Biblical phrase reminds her that her challenges are only leading to something bigger.
Stroman suffers from neuromuscular myopathy, a genetic disease that causes gradual degeneration of the muscles. Watching her own body grow weaker since age 6, she has had to give up some of her dreams and hobbies: playing soccer as a girl, drawing by hand and making jewelry.
But Stroman’s new mentality no longer allows her disease to barricade her from her dreams.
Last spring, her life was transformed when she and a few friends traveled to San Diego for Storyline, a self-development conference. Despite the feat of flying with a 400-pound wheelchair, Stroman conquered her fear of traveling.
For a week, Stroman and her friends wandered through San Diego, breathing in the unfamiliar, salty ocean air characteristic of California’s beaches. After achieving what seemed to be impossible, Stroman now wants to inspire others to face their own fears. The 23-year-old UCF digital media alumna started Live Alive, a campus organization that aims to help students live their dreams, fight their fears and form deeper connections with others.
“Prior to the trip, I didn’t realize how much fear controlled my life,” Stroman said.
Live Alive members meet weekly to watch TED talks, snack on chips and salsa and have warm discussions about how to make the leap to overcome their fears. Every Tuesday, members stand at the end of the John T. Washington Breezeway, holding tall chalkboards and inviting students to write their dreams on sticky notes and post them on the boards.
Group member Amanda Florez credits Live Alive and Stroman’s leadership to helping her overcome isolation and a fear of expressing herself.
“They’ve helped me grow out of my shell,” Florez said. “She [Stroman] is just such a genuine person. The more I’ve gotten to know her, the more I realize she genuinely loves people.”
Once afraid of others’ perceptions of her, Stroman now finds confidence in accepting her circumstances and hopes to use them to inspire others to flourish.
“Some of the most difficult things in my life have led to some of the most beautiful experiences,” she said.
Starting Live Alive is one of those experiences. But for a long time, Stroman didn’t see a leader in the mirror.
She speaks by whispering words that are hazily magnified through a portable speaker, and said she felt insecure because of it. Running Live Alive has amplified her voice, and has led her to accepting roles she would otherwise shy away from, like talking in front of a crowd and motivating others.
“I feel like I’ve grown so much in the past few months because of this, believing in myself that I’m worthy of being heard and sharing my story,” she said.
Live Alive co-founder and UCF interpersonal communication alum Chris DiDonna said Stroman has a gift for blessing others with her artful words. Stroman also runs the Live Alive website and her own blog, where she talks about living with dignity and intention.
With assurance in her bright, green eyes, Stroman said she feels there is purpose in her difficulties. Seeing California has only left the spirited young grad with a craving to see more of the world, to witness mountains and forests and be immersed in nature.
Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.