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.

12 comments:

  1. Awww crap, K. It is so freaking unfair that dealing with the normal ignorance you had to fight the drunken college experience. It is so unfair and unkind, especially the staff that see you all the time and should KNOW

    I wish you could wear a t-shirt on that day that says, you have to be drunk to understand how hard it is to walk as great as I do every day.

    It's unfair and just so frustrating. But BONUS the people who matter, your friends GO IT. For this one moment they understood why you avoid certain experiences. They got it and the next time you say you are not going somewhere they might make the better choice.

    Because of you!

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    1. Aww, thank you Kerri! Your words of encouragement made me feel so much better about this whole thing!

      The dining hall staff were different than the usual people, so I guess that's why they didn't know, otherwise I don't think it would have been an issue! And I love the T-shirt idea, hahaha!

      And YES, I love that my friends understood!! Many of them didn't go to the festival either, for different reasons, but they really are awesome. (:

      Thank you so much for your kind words, as always!!

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  2. Oh, gosh. I am so, so sorry that happened to you. I have CP, and luckily, I've only been asked if I was drunk twice, and those were from people who were helpfully concerned on Saturday nights, so at least that made sense. I still didn't like being judged because of something I couldn't control, though.

    Anyway, your experience was inexcusable, although maybe it's at least a little consolation to know that you're not the only one out there dealing with this. Stay strong, and sending happy thoughts your way!

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    1. Thank you, Natalie!! I'm sorry to hear that you've had a (kind of) similar experience, but it is comforting to know that I'm not the only one! It's funny that you say you've only been asked if you were drunk twice, because prior to a few weeks ago, it hadn't happened to me much either! Maybe it was just a fluke!

      xoxo

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  3. Oh, my friend, I'm sorry. For what it's worth, there are people out there who see success when they see you. I know I would! You are amazing, and your grace comes from the way you love others and give them hope. You don't need heels for that. Hugs to you!

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    1. Aww, thank you Claire!! Sending huge hugs back! I really appreciate all of your support, more than words could possibly convey! xoxo

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  4. That truly does suck. I wish they could all know the success you are, and the wonderful person behind those 'drunken' footsteps you might never have taken if not for your incredible strength of character.

    I will share the HECK out of this, so that as many people as possible get to come here and know the sobering truth.

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    1. Lizzi!! Thank you, friend! I wish there were more people like you in the world, and I really appreciate you taking the time to share my post. xoxoxo

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  5. This one hurts me personally (and for you of course!) to read because I know it's what Nolan is going to have to contend with. Sometimes I think there will be more discrimination against him because it's not as "obvious" as it will be with Asher in a chair. This must be so hard, but just remember - MOST of the time people are starting at you because you're awesome. :) Those that are looking at you for other reasons are the ones missing out!

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  6. That totally sucks, K. Big. People are so rude. And so DUMB. I'm really sorry you have to deal with this and I adore Kerri's idea of getting a tshirt! (also that poster sucks too - high heels are icky for the most part)
    On a happier note, I'm so so glad that you have awesome friends who get it, and support you, and understand. xoxo

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  7. I've read of this happening to other people with CP, too :( Even little children. It's not fair.

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