Are the best things in life worth waiting for? If we wait for the right moment, will everything fall into place? Should we seize the opportunities we are given?
Some might say it’s redundant to wait for an opportunity when we can create it ourselves. If we’re willing to take risks, we might give other people a reason to believe in something. The same thing could happen if we’re willing to be vulnerable. The rewards that come from that alone, however, can make us richer than any millionaire.
My cerebral palsy makes me vulnerable by default. There’s no denying that, nor is there a clever way of getting around it. It’s a cold, hard fact of my existence – one that has never been easy to confront. However, I try to remember that having a disability is often a double-edged sword. It may tear me apart some days, but it ultimately makes me stronger because the struggle will always be there. I work on overcoming it every day.
I look at certain things – like my phone or my wheelchair – to remind myself that every day doesn’t have to be a struggle. I have technology to thank for that. Every device I use has a specific role in my life, and I’ve learned each of their tricks to near perfection. That’s not to say the very things I rely on are never the root of a bad day, though. They indeed are. It’s yet another reminder of why I can’t refuse help – whether it’s offered to me or not.
As I would find out, however, the way in which certain devices are used can also serve as a measure of respect. My need for technology has followed me wherever I go. It’s very apparent in almost everything I do. Being introduced to technology in the manner I was – and at the pace in which I was thrown into that world – taught me many valuable lessons about humility and being humble in the most personally difficult times.
They weren’t lessons I necessarily wanted to learn at an early age. They were more bullet points on the long list of things I had to learn to accept – and having a motorized wheelchair helped with that process. In truth, I wanted to be hanging out with friends or doing anything other than learning to use technology. But I understood the bells and whistles that accompanied me weren’t for show. I wanted other people to see as well.
I’d been using a motorized chair for many years by the time I got to junior high school. I also had a specially-programmed laptop computer, which I found much easier to use than the communication board I had used. I never did acquire the speed that comes with being a proficient typist, but I have accuracy and efficiency. That was all I needed.
Everyone in school slowly noticed how carefully and meticulously I typed: with my right hand, delicately pressing one key at a time with my index finger. It’s the same way I still type to this day. When I’d look up from my computer screen, eyebrows would raise and a few doubts might have even been erased.
My classmates and teachers also started watching how easily I could parallel park my chair right next to my assigned seat in class. They started complimenting me on my driving skills and even knew when I was coming down the hallways, by listening for the echoing click of my motor. As time went on, I could feel a shift in the way I was treated. There was also a change in the way I was being perceived.
All of this felt strange at first, but I welcomed it. I began to feel like maybe – just maybe – my cerebral palsy wasn’t the center of attention anymore. I thought, ‘Maybe people are finally seeing what I’ve been trying to show them for all these years!’
The little things I was doing weren’t things I particularly wanted to highlight about myself. Nor were these things I thought anyone would pick up on. They were a part of my everyday life but people began to pay attention to how and why I did what I did. Little did I know, however, a kind of quiet respect would carry over into other aspects of my life.
Sometimes people don’t see what you see. They may need a little more help, or they might even need you to guide the way. Will you be up for that challenge?
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