I know I haven’t written anything in a while. These days I wake up early, go to the hospital, come back exhausted late in the afternoon and then rest and eat at my apartment or out with friends. I have barely enough time and mental energy to study. Starting next week, I will be on call for three nights each week.
A friend of mine recently asked to interview me for an assignment. She asked me many questions and we ended up having a good discussion on many topics related to my disability and life in general. Her questions eventually led to a discussion on how people view disabilities and on relationships.
I have skipped around this topic on my blog a few times but I have not addressed it explicitly. This is usually a discussion I have with my friends. So let me say things plainly and straightforward now.
Soon after my accident, some things happened and I was hit with a hard reality that I already knew but weighed heavily on me nonetheless: people would never look at me the same ever again. My life was forever changed. Everything I used to know and everything I used to be was gone. I know I have said those things a few times on here, but I don’t think people truly understand what I mean.
My friend who was interviewing me said she was going to ask some personal questions and asked me how I envisioned my future. She asked if I still planned on getting married and having kids. “Of course,” I replied. I told her how my situation now doesn't change my ability to find someone like I once thought it would. As an immigrant who naturally seems to cast his net for other first- and second-generation immigrants, the problem does not lie in me “clicking” and “connecting” with a girl; it lies in the approval of their parents.
You see, according to many immigrant parents, no matter what the country of origin, and even to some close-minded young folks here, having a handicap does not mean that everything is normal except for the one handicap. For them, it means that the person himself/herself is handicapped. The person is disabled. There is nothing he/she can do. There is no way that he/she can take care of themselves. Back in the motherland, a person with a disability did not do anything. The person is a burden upon society and a burden upon their family. That is why people like me are looked down upon by these people.
My friend who was interviewing me told me how frustrated she was by this view that people have. It’s not my fault that I have to use a wheelchair now. I didn't ask for this. I didn't do anything to deserve this. If someone’s son or daughter had a tragic accident and was in the same situation, how would they feel and how would they want their son or daughter to be treated? If your husband or wife was in an accident and acquired a disability, either physical or mental, would you leave them?
I am a big proponent of breaking any and all stereotypes.
As I stated in this previous post, that is one of the reasons why I work so hard. That is one of the reasons why I have lived alone since just one short year after my accident. That is one of the reasons why I continue to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor. As I said in this post, keep playing. I know I am different, but not in the way most people think I am.
I want to change people’s perceptions. I want to show the more close-minded people that they should not judge people simply by their looks.
Unfortunately, changing people’s perceptions may just be the first, simple step. Immigrant friends and their parents also care too much about what other people think. Gossip is the most favorite pastime among almost all of our cultures. What will these people tell their friends or their family members, especially those still in the motherland, if they or their child is attracted to someone with a disability? The egotistical concern for the approval of others is prevalent and at times sickening. We are all at fault at times, but we must learn to keep this in check when it comes at the expense of being intolerant or caring for one’s own self-perception instead of others.
A new friend recently said to me how surprised he was when he found out a few weeks ago that I have not been in a wheelchair my whole life. He had to ask a few other friends to get my full story. He then proceeded to view my Facebook pictures and go through my Facebook timeline to see my past. Yes, I told him, I spent twenty-two full years of my life able-bodied like almost everyone else. “From what I got from Facebook stalking your past, it seems like you have taken things very well. The energy and outlook on life you had before is still there. That’s awesome,” he said.
The smile I wear every day is the result of previous pain and experiences I would never wish upon anyone. They have resulted in my contentment and love for everyone and everything. I wish to break stereotypes that people hold and spread tolerance and acceptance.