Independence

in·de·pend·ence [in-di-pen-duhns]:

freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others

For someone with a physical disability, the word independence can be very interesting. Oftentimes it really is just a word, not something a lot of us can ever dream of or even dream of achieving.

Independence is a word that’s really only been a part of my life for about 4 years or so. I went straight from living at home (and being an only child at that), to college, back home, then moving in with my boyfriend. I was very used to people helping me with things or just having people around in general. I love my parents and I know it couldn’t have been easy raising a disabled child. There’s definitely no manual for it but as a result, I was very overprotected growing up. But I became the most dependent when I was with my ex-boyfriend. I grew to not want to do anything without him, including doing something simple like going to Target or the grocery store. I just became completely reliant on him. So when we broke up, to say I was both dazed and confused (excuse the 80s movie pun) would be an understatement. I really had to learn how to start doing things on my own for the first time. I’m happy to say, I love going to Target by myself now.

In the last couple of years, I’ve really started to think more and more about this idea of independence. I’ve realized that I’ve become pretty stubborn in my not wanting help from other people. There are definitely times when I will happily accept the arm of someone I’m dating or one of my amazing friends to get up a curb but most times, I just want to try do it myself. The same goes for going up stairs, getting in and out of a car or getting off the ground after I’ve fallen. Over the years, I’ve learned to adapt and come up with ways to overcome these types of things. Stairs with no railing at a baseball game? I’ll grab onto the chairs as I go up. A storefront with no handicap ramp for me to walk up? I’ll use my car to help me up the curb. I’m sure I’ve probably come across as cold before because I wouldn’t accept someone’s help but my not wanting to accept help doesn’t come from a place of “leave me alone.” It comes from a place of “I need to do this for myself.”

The reality for me though is that there are things in my life that I’m just never going to be able to do without some form of help and I’ve accepted that. But that makes me even more passionate about trying to do everything else on my own as much as possible. I can’t tell you what a rush I get from just flying somewhere by myself or being able to lift my own suitcase onto the conveyor belt at the security checkpoint. Tonight for example, I went up the stairs at the back of my house (there’s no railing) without having to grab onto my knee or the wall or anything (see I don’t even accept my own help sometimes!) and it gave me just a little extra pep in my step.

I know that I’m never going to be fully independent and I have to be willing to ask and accept help when I need it, but I want to do things like travel to a different country on my own. I feel like these are things I need to do for myself and for my own spiritual and personal growth. When you’re born with a physical obstacle, I think it’s natural to want to try overcome it as much as possible and I think it’s even more important and natural to be able to focus not on what you can’t do, but rather on what you can.

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