Friday, December 4, 2015

I Need You to Fight for This

In my town, there were three elementary schools, and children were divided amongst them depending upon the area of town they were from, no exceptions....but only one of the three schools was accessible, and it was not the school closest to my house.

"Your daughter is an exception," the people in my town told my parents. "She can attend the accessible school so that she won't have to deal with the stairs."

"No, thank you," my parents said.

The world will not adapt to you, my mom used to remind me. You must adapt to the world.

You will have to deal with a world that wasn't built for you for the rest of your life, so you might as well start now.

Stairs were hard for me. At four years old, the staircase to my bedroom seemed like a mountain. My wobbly legs made it difficult for me to use stairs like a "normal" person, so I dropped to my hands and knees and crawled up. To get down, I sat on the edge of the staircase and used my arms to scoot my bottom down one step at a time.

One morning, my dad declared that I was no longer allowed to go up and down stairs using this method, the only method I knew. His intentions were good, no doubt—he was probably trying to prepare me for the challenge that I would have to navigate at school. But for whatever reason, he wasn't there when I actually had to make it down the steps...and this was a problem. I sat at the top of the staircase in my pink flowered pajamas, and my brother stood next to me, clutching his blanket. I turned to him, perplexed. "How am I s'posed to get down?"

With his thumb in his mouth, he stared down the mountain of steps, considering my situation.

After a moment, his face brightened. He ran down the hallway and returned with a laundry basket.

"Get inside," he said, positioning the basket at the landing of the steps.

I climbed in, my knobby knees pressed up against my chest.
He then proceeded to push the basket down the stairs.
Adults might have thought he was reckless. 

I thought he was brilliant.
Today, as a college student, I manage steps without a laundry basket—although I still maintain that my brother's adaptation was a brilliant one, albeit maybe a tiny bit reckless—but staircases still represent somewhat of a challenge.

And that's why my heart dropped when I learned that my college's graduation ceremony is going to involve stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. Cement stairs.

I met with the disability coordinator about this a couple of weeks ago and she said that maybe I should sit it out – not the actual "receiving a diploma" part, but she said that maybe it would be best if I didn't walk with my class during the ceremony. 

I told her that I wanted to think it over, and I have plans to meet with the event coordinator in the near future to go over details...because ohmygoodness it is complicated. I don't know how I'm going to do it, how I'm going to manage this whole ceremony, because honestly? Right now, it sounds like a nightmare.

I mentioned the situation to my mom, lightly, and she dropped what she was doing and turned to look at me.

"That's not fair," she said. "You've worked just as hard for this as your classmates have—harder, even. I need you to fight for this. I need you to fight because you earned the right to walk with your class on your graduation day."

Thinking back to my mom's words – The world will not adapt to you; you must adapt to the world –somehow, sitting out doesn't feel like adapting at all.

The way the event is laid out right now, I just don't think I'd be physically capable of joining my classmates. But after all they have done for me, I think my parents deserve to see me walk with my class. I deserve to walk with my class.

I'm not sure what to do. I'm not sure how to fight for this (ANY ADVICE?!). But I'm going to try.