We all come to a crossroad at some point. We’re caught between drifting away from who we are and being pulled back in. When we weigh the pros and cons, choosing both may be good for us.
I came to my crossroad when I was ten or eleven years old. Writing was the essential piece of my life that had been missing for what seemed like forever. It allowed me to express in ways my disability didn’t. Writing made me happy, but I still had so much to prove.
I had to show the world I wasn’t my disabled label. Moving forward with life required it. The trick was finding an effective way to put myself out there. I had a strong feeling writing was eventually going to do that. However, I hated the fact I had to prove myself just because people looked at me a certain way.
I didn’t have a clue where to begin to polish the words I wrote. Nor did I know any writers at the time. All I had was a burning desire to be understood—and a dream to one day become the writer I always told my parents I wanted to be. There were days when I wanted to crawl into a corner and wait to deal with all of this until I was ready. I knew the need to prove myself was never going away. Part of me thought life would get a little easier after I did.
A tiny voice in my head tried to convince me that every person I’d ever cross paths with wouldn’t see my wheelchair before they saw me. It wasn’t long before I realized how naive I was to think this, even as nice and calming as it may have been. People were still questioning my abilities into my early teen years. I still did my best to use their doubts as motivation. I heard them begin to whisper, or talk under their breath because they thought I wasn’t listening. Even more degrading, people got in my face and started talking loudly—like I couldn’t hear or didn’t understand what they were saying.
That made me go out of my way to show everyone the pictures I drew, the mess I’d made while playing with silly putty or whatever creation I could put my stamp on. I showed them off because they were mine, and I wanted others to see that my abilities outshined my disability.
Sometimes, I would get a faint smile of approval from strangers before they walked away. There wasn’t much beyond that. I started to wonder why I was expected to give so much of myself when some people didn’t even notice.
So, I did what any kid would do. I turned to my mom and asked her, “Why do I always have to prove myself?”
She looked at me with quiet confidence and said, “You’re going to have to prove yourself for the rest of your life, Erin. This is the way it has to be.”
That was the end of the conversation. My mom’s voice was soft but stern at that moment. I never asked the question again, because I didn’t need to. I knew this was the beginning of the rest of my days—as a human being, writer and everything else I hoped to be. This conversation wasn’t the only one I’d have about my disability. It was, however, the first one that stuck with me.
As an adult, I realize I don’t have everything figured out. Nor have I felt everything there is to feel. As more emotions slowly become tangled with my circumstances, there will be more conversations. More emotions to wrestle with. I might be able to keep them at bay for a while, but they’ll always be there just below the surface.
I know I will always have something to prove. And, there will always be someone who will see my shadow first.
Photo Credit: Pixabay