I sat in a Japanese restaurant having a conversation with a friend trying unsuccessfully to use chopsticks. That conversation we were having, was after I took note of some the looks I got from strangers in the city. The conversation we had went something like this:
[Me] “I just, I don’t see it as a problem [me using a wheelchair] and I don’t have time in my life for people who see this as a negative or as a problem”
[Friend] “It’s not a problem at all. I don’t hang out with you just to help you, it is because I want to!”
Conversations like this, are the times when I feel incredibly lucky to have the friends that I do – but these instances show an error in the existent lines of thinking about disability; the idea that people like me are unhappy or cannot be fulfilled because they are broken.
This of course is entirely untrue, however I have experienced it my entire life. I experienced it on this day, when heading down from the car park to go onto Queen Street a woman, gave my friend Jack a super sympathetic look that communicated “oh look how nice you took her out”.
I want to tell you how that look from her made me feel. I laughed to Jack and said something probably vaguely inappropriate about it, it might have appeared like I brushed it off. I didn’t though.
From the people who passed us, to the waitress who served us; all I kept thinking was, ‘are they wondering why he’s out with someone like me? Do they think that I am stupid or unable, weak perhaps’. This was a small thought in the back of my head.
A thought quieted by Jack’s banter, general rad company and quest to make me try and use chopsticks, but it was an existent thought. One that was only knocked away when he simply said that none of this aspect of my life, the wheelchair, was a problem to him.
I shouldn’t have to wait for him to blatantly say that to believe it, I should have already known that.
There is so much emphasis in the disability community and in our society upon fixing what is thought to be broken; whether it be fixing your broken legs or parts of your body, your wrinkled face or frizzy hair. There is so much emphasis on fixing.
There is nowhere near as much emphasis on happiness.
I am entirely contented as I am and yes I could be doing therapy 18 out of 24 hours of the day over my holidays and yes I could be participating in Steptember. However, I do not believe that this one aspect of my life should have control over my other choices. This is the same for you.
Your hair may be frizzy and there may be a miracle cure advertised to you, or your legs might be like mine and you might use a chair, on the flipside you may be entirely “normal” on the outside but feel different on the inside; people might condemn you for that. Or other parts of your body might function differently.
I am telling you that you do not need to be fixed, I am telling you that you as you are is more then good enough.
Finding happiness in spite of your challenges; finding happiness in spite of tragedy or difference takes immense courage and is at times harder to find, but when you do find it, it is true happiness. Unbreakable and immense.
I build my therapy into every day, just like if your hair is frizzy you can condition every day (if you want too) but this aspect of life, my disability will never stop me from eating Japanese food in Auckland city. This aspect of my life, will not stop me from living entirely or colourfully. Don’t allow your challenges to stop you, you are not broken.