Monday, May 19, 2014

NO, I'M NOT DRUNK. (Stop asking!)

The first time it happened, I laughed all the way to class.
I had just passed a stranger when she looked over her shoulder, and, being totally serious, she asked if I had been drinking.
I stared blankly at her, too surprised to speak.

First of all, who are you? And who gets drunk at 8:30 a.m. on a Monday morning? I kept walking.

For the sake of humanity, I'm certainly glad that she wasn't drunk, because I can't even begin to imagine what she's like with even fewer inhibitions.

When I got to class, I set my bag down next to one of my friends and recounted what had just happened.

"WHAT IS WRONG WITH HUMANITY?" she asked, and we laughed. Because it is funny.

Except when it isn't. Except when it hurts.

A few days after that happened, my college had its annual spring festival. I spent most of the day indoors because I had a huge test to study for, and loud music + crowds + alcohol isn't exactly my thing. Part of that is due to my cerebral palsy. Crowds make me nervous because even a small shove can send me to my knees, and as far as alcohol goes...well, I'll just quote my dad on this one: "Imagine what you'd be like if you were drunk." (Thanks, Dad.) I guess he sort of does have a point; I have enough problems staying upright when I'm sober that the thought of being intoxicated doesn't exactly appeal to me.

Anyway, I knew that the spring festival wasn't my thing because of the music and drunken crowds, but I couldn't shake the feeling that there was some other reason why I was dreading it so much.

As soon as I stepped outside to walk to dinner, I remembered.

The spring festival is like judgment day on steroids.

By the looks I got, you'd have thought I committed a crime. Nobody explicitly asked if I was drunk this time, but they didn't need to. The question was all over their faces. I saw it in the eyes of one of the dining hall staff members when she shook her head in dismay and refused to look at me. I saw it in the expressions of other students, who stared at my legs and immediately jumped to conclusions.

And my friends saw it too. One of them turned to me and whispered, "Now I see why you don't come to the festival."

I don't mean to complain but sometimes it's just hard. Sometimes it hurts to be pegged as irresponsible for something that isn't my fault. And to top it it all off, as I was walking back to my dorm (and trying to ignore the dirty looks as I crossed the street), I came across a poster that said:

"If you want to be successful, first you have to walk gracefully in heels!" 

I know it was meant to be lighthearted but I just couldn't deal with this day anymore. I don't need a pair of six-inch heels to feel fulfilled. I am going to be a walking contradiction to that poster, a walking contradiction to a world full of people who place so much emphasis on walking in a straight line and being graceful that they fail to live their own lives with grace and understanding.

Those drunken steps you see? Those are steps that my doctors warned my parents I might never take. I caught your eye as you watched my knees knock together; I heard your unspoken questions, saw the judgment in your expression. But before you judge, take a moment to walk in my shoes. I wish you could see the six-year-old me as I practiced walking up and down stairs with my wobbly legs, my knuckles white from gripping the railing. I wish you could see the eight-year-old me as I watched my reflection in a store window, painfully aware of my differences. I wish you could see the fourteen-year-old me as I sat in the doctors' office listening to my surgeon tell me that I would never walk independently again. 

I wish you could look at the shaky steps I take today and see what I see: success.