Confession: I’m one of those weird people that loves office supplies.
Don’t ask me why, but I get a crazy amount of joy from looking at all of the notebooks or post-it notes in stores. With some women its shoes, other women its toilet paper (yea, you know who I’m talking about), but I’m pretty content just browsing through the countless colorful options that encompass contemporary office supplies. Of course, I’m such a frugal thing that I’d much rather just look than buy, but that’s beside the point…
You know, I think I’ve always had a particular fondness for office supplies. I was even one of those strange kids that looked forward to school supplies shopping. Sure, maybe that was partly because I loved learning, but I’m thinking it had a lot to do with that prospect of having a crisp stack of college-ruled notebooks and a perfectly assembled army of unbroken crayons.
When you get all these awesome new school supplies, you have to write your name on every single thing to protect your precious stockpile of “learning materials.” I know I looked forward to staking my claim on those new items every year, and yes, I realize that’s probably strange.
However one year, Mom upped the ante. You see, we got a label maker. You know what I’m talking about, right? One of those things super organized people use so when you look at their closet, the shelves clearly state what should be sitting on them and where? Just a side note, that is not what our closet look like…Of course, because it was brand new, all three of us girls had to use it for all of our school supplies. Yea, we labeled everything with our names, in fact we even went as far as giving labels to every single one of our crayons/colored pencils. Now that’s dedication. But where in the world am I going with this….
They seem innocent enough right? You label a box of baking soda or some other dried good when you open it to make sure it doesn’t go bad. You label your pictures with the individuals in them or when they were taken so you don’t forget. You label today as a “good day” because you got a raise at work or you label today as a “bad day” because you got a flat tire on your way to work. I mean, we label things without even thinking about them all the time.
But what about when we do stop to think about them.
What about those labels that are automatically assigned to something from a 2-second glance.
What about those labels that seem to have so much more “weight” to them.
What about the labels that seem to cover up Every. Other. Label.
You know, “disabled” is one of those labels.
I know that realization of this new label that was automatically being assigned to me was something I struggled with early after my injury, and to be honest, there are moments I still struggle with it. Often times, a quick look my way is all it takes for someone to decide all that I am and all I will ever be. Disabled.
That label carries so many assumptions with it and in my mind, so many very wrong assumptions. I mean, I think I make it pretty clear all I’m capable of and how fiercely independent I am, but those traits certainly don’t come with the “disabled label.” I guess it makes you wonder about all the other labels we give to people and how accurate they are. Labels like autistic, unemployed, homeless. It’s certainly something to think about…
You know, I’ll always keep talking to people, working to educate others about all the misconceptions and assumptions attached with the “disabled label.” Yet, I know it’s not realistic to think that every person I encounter will listen or even want to learn. I know it’s not realistic to think I can educate every person in the United States or even the state of Wisconsin. That kinda leaves you in a unique position, knowing the things that certain others may always assume because of a particular label inherently assigned to you.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” but I feel as though the same can or should be said for labels. I will always carry the “disabled label” but now to me, it’s a label I can be proud of and plan to show others why. The things I’ve done as a disabled woman are things I never would have been able to accomplish prior. I’m proud to say that I can travel and I do travel (way more than I did when I was walking). I’m proud to say I can fix a flat tire and have my own set of wrenches that I’ll freak out if anyone touches without my permission. I’m proud to say I’m consistently running a 5:45 minute mile in my racing chair (when it’s on the roller) and sustaining that pace for longer distances.
I’m proud of where I’ve been and where I am.
I’m proud of what I’ve learned and what I’ve done.
I’m proud to be disabled.
Be proud of your labels.