This is a series I always hoped would catch on. Because hey, I can write about stuff that helps me live my life, but that’s only one experience. I would love to see a community full of people writing resource posts for other folks who are living our different sorts of lives. I know we all negotiate shortcuts in the process of getting through our days. I know we all have well-trusted tips and tricks for dealing with society’s demands of us — fair or not. And I think we can all share them — writing about our own experience, and letting it apply where it might, and not where it doesn’t — and not creating expectations of individuals to respond to individually-shared recommendations, with all the problems that can cause.
Anyway, there is a great range of experience within the world of disability, much more than is let on by mainstream narratives, and another reason I appreciate the chance for us to talk about it is that it exposes the nondisabled world to all the things that go into living with a disability, the way that disability can make life very different, and appreciating that in a more-than-superficial way. While knowledge of certain experiences doesn’t eradicate prejudice against them, ignorance certainly makes it more likely, and is one of the easier issues to address — we talk about our experience (among ourselves and for all listeners); they catch parts of it and get curious and start listening.
No one is required to educate those who hold privilege over them, but most of us do practice the art of education every single day, as our lives play out in front of those around us. We are used to explaining things. It is tiring, and it is wrong when people demand or expect it of us. But when we give it freely — that can do a whole world of good. What makes it bad is not the act of an unprivileged person explaining pieces of their life to a privileged person — what makes it bad is the privileged party’s expectation that we will explain. That is what sours the entire experience.
But sharing what helps us with our lives — hopefully helping other people in similar positions who might be able to use the knowledge we gain from our day-to-day struggles — there is room for great good in that.
There is no shame in doing things differently. There is no shame in taking a different route to reach the same end point. There is no shame in reaching a different end point, even! If it works for you, if it makes your life easier, that is what matters. Not your conformity to expected methods of doing things, but the fact that it accomplishes your starting goal or gets you closer to accomplishing it.
And, hey, part of disability is to learn to compromise, and change goals altogether. To realize that all the milestones you are “supposed” to reach aren’t necessary to a successful, enjoyable life. You don’t have to have a career, or even a job; you don’t have to complete or even begin higher education; you don’t have to find a heteronormative partner, get married and have kids. You don’t have to fulfill all the responsibilities heaped on you by a society built around the particular qualities of nondisabled people. You don’t have to shower every day. You don’t have to appear “normal.” You don’t have to have a huge local social circle. What you have to do is whatever makes the struggles of your life easier on you. That is all.
There is no shame in that. There is no moral value attached to a method of doing something. It’s a method, that’s all. Just a method. One method. Not the only option.
In that spirit, I’m going to try to pick this series back up, and I’m hoping that maybe other folks will pick it up too. Because I really do believe it has great potential for the disabled community. We already come together and share resources; maybe we can do that while communicating our fundamental humanity to the outside world as well. And they need to listen.
They’ve gotta learn at some point – they never know when we’re going to spring a pop quiz!
So please, listen and read, and write or speak your own experience. Let me know if this is something you’d like to do, and if you end up writing anything! I don’t want this to be my series. I want it to be everyone’s.
Here’s what I’ve written on so far:
Readers — what can you add to that?
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