Backs of people I always see
At my best speed
Rushing at the edge of pain
Nothing but my toe to trip on
A second in the air
Falling on ground
Gravel to break the fall
Not the softest pillow
The backs turn
Then I know
The soft looks
Yet another reminder
I was different
And it was not a good thing at the time.
When I was in elementary school, I learned that people felt sorry for me. I always knew I was different: that I wasn’t as strong as other kids, that falling everyday was a way of life, and everything was slow for me. Oh, people were sorry for me so that’s why they were nice to me. I realize now that this a very misguided thought process, but then I learned what happens when people’s opinions start to matter.
Sorry had slipped into my everyday conversations before I knew it. You see cerebral palsy and all that came with it was normal for me. I didn’t think anything of it. I had to have help. I didn’t realize how this affected other people: my friends, my family, or strangers. Sorry I can’t go faster. Sorry you have to help me so much. Sorry sorry, and sorry again. This train of thought started two major themes in my life. One, help was a sign of weakness. I was going to try to be normal and go the hard way. This was a complete failure because I needed the help anyway. It’s really exhausting to not ask for help. Two, I was terrified of the word “Pity”. I mean what if everyone didn’t actually like me, but pitied me enough to be nice? I have such hate for the word pity. What’s funny is that I still apologize for things I don’t have to even now. Old habits die-hard. This set of realizations and themes didn’t help me at all. I was and still am a socially awkward person around my peers for more reasons than one. I mean, I spent a year of recess alone in the classroom; being entertained by the teachers because no one wanted to play with me. True story.
I quickly learned that nice didn’t always mean they cared. There were lines between the lines. I learned the difference between fake and real people, I learned that teachers didn’t always know what to do with my needs and sometimes didn’t care. I was a burden. I was seen as fragile. Some of the kids made it clear that I wasn’t wanted. Granted, my social skills weren’t up to speed. I still struggle at times even today. I am the first to admit words escape my mouth before thought even makes an appearance. Anxiety still follows me to this day when it comes to friends. I have made friends and lost them. I am not the easiest friend to have. I learn everyday in the art of relationships. The past makes me wince with the thought of “How could they stand me?” Grateful cannot encompass what I feel for those who have stood by my side during my growing pains.
There is a difference between people who feel like they have to be nice to you and a person who really cares who you are. Being a disabled person, I have gained a fairly good eye for that. In this society, a person is judged by their ability to get things done. I’ve noticed that when I first meet people, they often underestimate my ability to accomplish tasks. People don’t expect me to be able to do as much as I can. This used to really bother me because they would be happy with what ever I did. To be ranked and judged based on my physical appearance alone, I really hated the fact.
Sometimes a person’s tone of voice changed when it came to me or others like me. The tone would get higher as if I was a child. I don’t think it’s on purpose or if people even know they do it. Call me sensitive but it really makes all the difference.
I tell you all this because I have spent all my life being too concerned with what people think of me. Whether they pity me or not. What this pity means for me. What kind of person it makes me that I am to always be pitied by strangers for something I can’t control. Would it really kill me to ask for help? (If you read my previous article, asking for help was a key point.) I’ve let other’s expectations become my limits in the past. No one can tell you what you can achieve. Don’t let them.
Today, I still struggle with those thoughts if I’m being honest, but I realize that it is a lot of my perspective. This is a main point I want to share with you today. Don’t let other people define you. Instead of lamenting how people underestimate me, I like to see how much I can surprise people. The less they think I can do, the more I can surprise them. Now I realize there is more than pity out there like empathy or compassion or the less desirables. Pity still plays a part in my life. I still catch the lingering look. See the sometimes-irritated look at my speed from strangers. I still apologize far too much for things I don’t have to. But you know what I try not to acknowledge it in my life because I don’t need it. I have found the art of being content with what my life is. Don’t be confused, I’m still human, I still have bad days of wishing I could be faster or be able to catch a ball easily. Pity is the person. It’s not always bad but not always good. It’s not everyone
I am aware that not all will agree with me but I would love to talk to you about it. You can find the contact info on the “Writers” page.
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