So instead of writing this from my clubhouse as I normally tend to do, this post comes from the passenger seat of the van. Mom and I went road trippin’ to Minnesota this week (which was pretty awesome to say the least) and now we’re making the 4.5-hour drive back. Mom sure is a pretty comical creature to road trip with, we keep having to pass all the big semi’s so they don’t “block our view” when we come across the sheep farm with all the little lambs because then Mom (as she said) “would be one cranky lady.” I’d just like to point out its her who’s all obsessed and not me…for once…but I’m not complaining:D
So the road trip…
I did my undergrad degree in three years which means that a lot of my friends who are actually normal (well, besides being friends with me) are graduating from college this year. That being said, I took to the open roads to celebrate with/congratulate them and visit campus and see some of my awesome professors again. I forgot how gorgeous of a college I went to (and also how hilly of a campus I studied on) but mostly how gorgeous. I mean seriously, look at it.
Being back was really special, but at moments a little hard. I mean, that place is littered with memories of what was and what was going to be in the life I was living. I was rolling through the vet school seeing vet students rush by in scrubs or leaving classrooms which caused a few, sad, that-was supposed-to-be-me feelings. But what really surprised me was how fast those feelings left. I couldn’t be happier pursuing medical school and I guess those moments just go to show how true that is.
I guess I realized some other things being back too. Now how should I approach this…
When I speak to groups my favorite part of my speeches is the questions at the end, especially when it comes to kids. You just never know what to expect, and often times the kids will ask something that I’ve never even thought about before. A few times I’ve been asked about perceptions and how people and my friends specifically treat me since being injured. Is it different?
I’ve learned the answer to this question has as many parts as bones in my spinal column. I mean, there are people in my life now that I used to refer to as friends, but now even the word acquaintance seems like too strong of a term. They see my wheelchair and forget that I’m sitting in it. They look at me (ish) and don’t know what to talk about, as if all that I ever was got knocked right out of me. Maybe it’s fear, maybe they’re just uncomfortable, maybe they forgot I’m still me. Whatever it is, it’s really awkward and it makes me wonder why people seem to put so much “mental weight” on a physical thing like the ability to walk.
But then there are my actual friends. The people who drive to campus just to say hi (even when I don’t expect them to), the people who make it so clear they wish they could come visit and are upset when they can’t, the people I loved going out to supper with, laughing and joking like we always did and always will. Those are actual friends, actual friends I’m so blessed to have.
How sad is it that it takes something as drastic as a dead tree and paralysis to figure out who those people are.
Those actual friends know I’m in a wheelchair, but don’t treat it like the elephant in the room. They know that it’s just a part of who I am now, but it isn’t all that I am. It’s those people that I love to tell the kids about when I say my relationships have changed, but many for the better. I’m closer to many of those individuals than I ever thought possible.
I guess it makes you realize even more just how much you can’t control. I can control those awkward interactions with old acquaintances about as well as I can control the weather. I can try to educate people about how people with disabilities are just that, people, but that doesn’t always mean everyone listens and learns.
Perceptions are just perceptions. But real friends are something to be cherished.