I’ve always had a hard time relating to people, especially people my own age. Most of the time growing up, I was much more content to hang out with the adults than the kids at a party. Being around my friends who knew me and understood me was one thing but it was always hard for me to relate to anyone outside of that or to figure out how to make new friends. I’ve always kind of felt like there’s this invisible wall between me and other people but especially people around my own age. It’s a wall I’ve most certainly built myself but because I felt like people could never understand what it’s like to be someone with MD or might judge or make fun of me for it (which did happen from time-to-time), I just learned to create a distance between myself and them. I drew a picture once of a stick figure of myself (about the extent to which my drawing abilities can go) standing on the outside of the earth, staring at it. It sounds sad but I think it sums up how I’ve felt growing up with a disability pretty perfectly.
I was never one of the popular kids in school but as I get older, I often wonder how much of that was because of them or because I just didn’t believe in myself and didn’t believe they would ever accept or like me. I find myself in a lot of the same situations even in my 30s. I see the group of super good looking 20 or 30 somethings that were probably the popular kids in school or are going out all the time and have no problem finding relationships etc. and I still feel that wall very profoundly. Now, of course, sometimes said people aren’t people I have much in common with or would want to be friends with anyway. Case in point: the group of spring breakers in Mexico this past week who were calling each other offensive terms and bragging about how drunk they were/had been. That’s great for them but that’s not generally where my priorities fall. I also think there’s a part of me that sits on the sidelines and complains about those type of people because deep down, I think they would never accept me anyway. That’s the teenage Jackie talking. The adult Jackie can usually self-correct and remind myself that I wouldn’t want to be friends with such people anyway. But sometimes, because a lot of young people are into doing physical things like hiking, biking, running, travelling to places I probably couldn’t and things like that, I feel that separates us too. I can’t share in the same common interests a lot of people in their 20s and 30s often have, especially out here where we have an ideal climate for all of that.
It’s taken a lot of work over the years to try and break down that wall to give people that deserve it a chance though. I’ve seen what wonderful results it can have when I just open up to people and give them a chance instead of trying to protect myself by writing everyone off before I give them a chance to write me off.
I think I’ll always feel that wall a little bit for the rest of my life because the reality is, I am different. I do have a special set of struggles that able-bodied even other disabled people sometimes can’t relate to. That doesn’t mean no one else on the planet doesn’t have their own set of unique circumstances of course. I know I’m not alone on that but it’s super rare to come into contact with anyone who understands the exact stuff I go through on a day to day basis. I’m constantly going to have to be defending myself and explaining myself and my disability. I’m always going to have to be fighting disability ignorance as unfair and unnecessary as I think that is. It’s going to tire me out to fight the fight sometimes. I know in my heart we’re all human. We all have struggles and I’m just like everyone else in that way. But I’m not sure I’ll ever really feel just like everyone else and I’m not sure if I should (or if I even want to).