And Add a Sprinkle of Glitter…

Baggage… We all carry it. What’s in your baggage? Daddy issues, tragedy, grief, bitterness, shame, hatred? Maybe your baggage is full of rainbows, unicorns, butterflies, and glitter? Like most people, you probably have a combination of all of the above.

It is interesting because baggage is usually referred to in a negative context. If a divorced woman enters into a relationship with 5 kids and her ex cheated on her, people might say “she has a lot of baggage… you sure you want to be with her.” Frankly, this is a ridiculous statement. Yeah, this woman is carrying some stuff with her but we are all lugging shit around! Baggage can contain anything ranging from wreckage to joyful wonder.

Lately, I have been reflecting a lot on my own baggage. I just finished graduate school and haven’t started my job yet. I’ve got some time on my hands. Anyways, I realized something about myself that frankly shocked me. A lot of the shit that I have in my baggage is leading me to see myself as a victim. Ugh! Even writing that sentence disgusts me. You see, I’d like to see myself as a confident, thriving, and powerful woman. Instead, I have let past resentments, losses, pains, discriminations, etc. shape me into someone I’d rather not recognize.

I am incredibly grateful for my life. I am actually pretty happy and resilient most of the time. But when I really start to rummage around within myself, I find a lot of dust, grime, and cobwebs surrounding some stuff that I should have let go of years ago. In some ways, that stuff has driven me to succeed. It has driven me to prove people wrong. My baggage has shaped me. Who am I without it? In other ways, my baggage is weighing me down and holding me back. My arms are starting to shake under the pressure and the rest of me is starting to sweat. Maybe it is time to put it down, open it up, and reassess what belongs and add a sprinkle of glitter.

It must be impossible to rid yourself of baggage entirely. If we did, we’d be empty husks connecting with nothing and no one. But I’m learning that we can unpack and reorganize our baggage. It takes courage and hard work but it can be done. Today, I have decided that I am a victim no more. I am going to take hold of what control I do have and leave the rest to fate or the universe or God or whatever or whoever is grater than me. So here’s to unpacking, decluttering, reorganizing, reassessing, minimizing, and repacking baggage. Cheers!

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And Just When I Thought You Considered Me A Human…

Crack my head open

On your kitchen floor

To prove to you that I have brains

– Alkaline Trio

When you are disabled, much of your life is spent proving your humanity to others. Too often, disabled people are objects; objects of your pity, objects of your existential strife, objects that someone needs to care for, objects of your inspiration, I could go on. Objects are acted on and not interacted with. And when we get too comfortable with our illusion of humanity, someone will always be there to shatter it. Someone, so graciously, reminded me of my objectified existence today. They really deserve a medal for preventing this disabled chick from using her own brain.

The thing is, she meant well. Most people do. Long story short, plans were unnecessarily changed in order to accommodate my disability. No one asked me. They gave me a vague reason for the change. I was living in ignorant bliss until today. Then someone opened their big mouth and said “well, we changed the plan for you, because you know, your disability.” When I explained that the change was unnecessary, she replied “I guess we should have asked.” Nailed it! You definitely should have asked! You see, we could chalk this up to a learning experience and call it a day. That’s a part of what I will do. The other part is that I will do my best to explain to you, dear reader, why this is fucked up. I want you to be better than that.

These people forgot that I am a human! I am not a delicate flower. I will not whither if you offend me. I will not be crushed by your carelessness. And you are not an almighty force that makes or breaks me. We are 2 fellow humans so let’s treat one another as such.

Fear also factors into this. They were afraid of offending me. Maybe they were afraid of needing to help me. Maybe they were afraid of the discomfort of watching me do something in my own way. Who knows! The point is, YOU ARE BRAVER THAN THAT!

Through my time working in community mental health, I have learned a few things.

1. We are all just a few intensely shitty experiences away from the things we fear the most… Maybe that is living on the streets, or becoming terminally ill, dyeing, becoming disabled, etc.

2. People experience intense discomfort when faced with this concept.

I get it! It makes me pretty uncomfortable too. So what do we do? Truthfully, I do not know. But one thing we can do is BE BRAVE and remember one another’s humanity.

To illustrate my complicity, here is a story. I was on the bus the other day when a young guy in a wheel chair gets on. He started talking about how he was pretty newly disabled from a traumatic event. When he was sharing his story, I felt really emotional. I was faced with those really common/pesky existential concerns. I felt really bad for the dude. But I think what I did wrong here is that I made his stuff about me. I was not brave. I made him an object.I think it would be pretty accurate to assume that he has no interest in my pity. He is probably interested in being treated like a resilient human who went through some rough shit. He probably has lots of opinions, and favorite movies/bands/books, and hobbies. He is more than that disability. He is complex. We are all complex.

TLDR: Objectification is easy and weak. Be brave and recognize humans for humans.

To all the Kind Strangers

Sometimes, I think that having a disability makes me privy to the true essence of human character. I know what you are thinking… And no… My disability does not give me super powers. Although, how sweet would that be! My blindness does not allow me to hear your every thought or enter your soul with a touch of a hand. Unfortunate… I know! However, my disability does give a front row seat to interesting situations with even more interesting people. Maybe I get to see true character because I get to witness people’s reactions when they are faced with someone “other,” or something out of the ordinary. Most people do not have time or courtesy to put on a mask when they do not know what’s coming. Sometimes, these day to day interactions toss a grenade on my faith in humanity. Conversely, they also act as a source of nourishment to that previously destroyed faith.

Because I want this post to be a positive one, I am going to focus on those times where my faith in humanity has been restored. The first time this dynamic was articulated in my thoughts was 2 summers ago. You ready for this mind-blowing story that will restore your faith in humankind? The story that will make your heart sing notes of inspiration?

One hot, summer day in June, 2 blind 20 somethings were headed to a country concert. It was the blind woman’s birthday and the blind man has a man crush on Luke Bryan, so they were ready to party it up. After ubering to the venue, they realize that they do not quite know where to go. It is a pretty big venue. You know, the kind of venue that Luke Bryan plays at. So they just pick a direction and start walking. Suddenly, the blind woman realizes she led the blind man to the very front of the line. Some kind strangers in line tell them that the back of the line is that way. Thanks guys! So they turn around and start walking the 15 minutes to the back of the line when all of a sudden, some super nice individuals enter into the story. This couple, by the names George and Nicole, said just get in line with us. So we did. As we waited and sweated for what seemed like hours to get into the venue, we chatted with George and Nicole. This awesomely accommodating and blind friendly couple then offered to help us find our seats. Not only that, but then offered to meet up with us after the concert to help us navigate the mess that is leaving a Luke Bryan concert.

You know why this was awesome? It was awesome because they did not make us feel like burdens. They did not patronize us or act like they were moving mountains. They were genuine and ridiculously helpful. They made our night that much easier. One “sweetie” or “wow, you are so inspirational for coming to a concert” and this blind woman would have been finding her own damn seat. So when faced with a disabled person, ask yourself, what would George and Nicole do?

In all seriousness, George and Nicole were not the only people that made our night easier. The employees that showed us where the beer line was were pretty great too. Also, this random lady came up to me during the break and asked me if I wanted to go to the bathroom with her… This seems strange but was honestly a God send. Turns out, this lady was deaf and was like, I know what it’s like to have a disability and just thought I’d offer to help. So thanks random lady! I’d like to think I too would have the courage to uninvitedly ask if someone wanted to go to the bathroom with me but I am not so sure.

To be clear, these are not rare experiences isolated to Luke Bryan concerts. I was at a Brad Paisley concert a couple weeks ago and was waiting in line to go to the bathroom. These 2 girls introduced themselves to me and asked if I wanted them to show me where an empty stall was. This other random girl wordlessly grabbed my hand and led me to the paper towels. That was a little awkward but super nice nonetheless. Moral of the story… People at country concerts are nice! Although true… not quite what I am trying to say here… I meet nice people all the time. Like the manager at the restaurant who jumped my partner and I on the dining room wait list so that my seeing eye dog did not have to sit at the bar. Or the nice girl in my class that always offers to get me a plate of food when someone brings food for everyone. Or the random uber driver who low key walked me to the place I had an interview so I did not waste time getting lost in a giant building.

I think I say all of these things to say this. As a person who is blind, I am often put into situations where assistance from kind strangers is welcomed and super appreciated. So to all you kind strangers out there… Thanks for helping a blind girl out and restoring her faith in humanity.