Okay, y’all… I just finished writing the very first paper of my BSW, and it’s really got me thinking a lot. To put it briefly, the paper was about how I feel my identity has been shaped and influenced by being a member of a specific community of my choosing.
I (unsurprisingly) chose the (dis)Abled community.
When I read the assignment description – in fact, even when I first started writing the paper – I thought it was going to be a walk in the park for me. I thought it was going to be easy, because I know just how profoundly (dis)Ability – and, more specifically, the (dis)Abled community has influenced my life and identity.
It’s made me who I am.
But as I started writing, I found myself struggling – not with the paper itself, necessarily, but with the way it was making me feel.
Now, that may seem strange given that I talk about my experiences as a (dis)Abled woman online and in real life on a regular basis, but here’s the thing: In order for me to critically reflect on how this community has shaped who I am, it means looking back on who I was before I became a member of this community. Before I became (dis)Abled.
I’ll be honest, y’all… that’s just not something I think about a lot these days, y’know? Frankly, I thought I was past the point where looking back would be an issue for me, so I wasn’t expecting that to be as hard as it was, and I most certainly wasn’t expecting it to hurt.
But it did, because no matter how much time goes by, and no matter how much I’ve embraced who I am (and I have!), sometimes it’s just hard to look back and remember what life was life before my body started to (literally) fall apart. It’s hard to think about how different things would be if I hadn’t had to give up soccer, if I could carry my own groceries, if I could walk without splints and a cane.
It’s just hard, and I hate that it is, because I’m proud of who I am, y’know? My experience with (dis)Ability, and the (dis)Abled community as a whole, has made me a better person. I know that sounds cheesy and stereotypical, but honestly, it’s true. I’m more compassionate, more empathetic, less self-centred… I’m more knowledgeable about social justice and intersectionality, and I’m more invested in advocacy and the wellbeing of others (and myself, too). There are so many things – wonderful things – that have come from my being (dis)Abled, and never in a million years would I change it. I would not ever erase my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, or any of the other things that have come with it, as hard as that may be for some folks to believe.
But I would be a liar if I said there weren’t moments when I wish for legs that could stand on their own. For hands that could write, and hold, and lift. Moments that I long for a soccer field, or a track, or a gym floor. Moments that I wish I could go out with my classmates and not have to worry about… well, everything.
There are moments that it hurts to be this version of myself, and I’m not sure if those moments will ever stop, which scares me.
In the end, though, what my paper taught me is this: For now, this is me, and that’s okay.
– Stephanie, ECC