It’s official. I can cross something else off my bucket list. It’s not a big thing, but then again…it IS a big thing.
The now completed item: I have lived in my own apartment (not a sublet), on my lonesome (it’s just me and my butler Leonard — the roomba), for longer than a week without something traumatic and life altering (like a spinal cord injury) happening.
Yes, I know, that even being an item on the list probably says something about the quality and adventurousness (which is actually a word, I checked…) of said bucket list. Oh well, I’m not ashamed.
Sure I’ve been “independent” for quite some time since my injury, but after returning home from my inpatient rehab hospital stay in 2013, it didn’t make much sense logically to move out of the family home once and then shortly have to move again when I was accepted and ready to start medical school. PLUS, it gave me more time that I could spend making memories with (read: bothering) Mom, Dad, and the siblings.
It’s been exciting being “off on my own,” finally doing what I have worked so hard to even be able to think about doing. I think I’ve mostly adjusted to my current state of affairs. I’m not shocked when I open my eyes in the morning and no longer have to remind myself where in the world I am. Yea, it probably took me longer to get to that point than it should have…
You know, when you start something new, there are always so many little things to learn. So many little things one has to work through and figure out and integrate into your “normal.” And well in my world, there happen to be a couple extra things to work through relative to the average person.
Sure, many of those things you can plan for. I rented an apartment where I can actually fit in the bathroom. I have a set of spare tires, extra bearings, and a whole menagerie of random “Oh crap! The ___ broke on my wheelchair and I have to fix it ASAP!” tools. However there are also those things you didn’t realize you should have planned for but simply need to experience before deciding how you’re going to handle an event like that in the future.
Now I’m no stranger to winters, I mean I’ve lived in the Midwest for my entire existence and am intimately familiar with the joys of snow, ice, and cold. I’ve driven in it, pushed in it — I get how it changes my every day routine. In Wisconsin.
So Chicago had a remarkably mild winter this year. No snow in January. No snow in February. Naturally, I move down here and we get snow (sorry Chicagoans). First day of snow — no big deal. It was a bit more than a dusting, but with some extra planned time and mostly waterproof gloves, I made it to school and into lab no worse for the wear. Sure, I had rosy cheeks and a little extra warmth from the added exertion of managing slippery curb cut outs and plowing through some snow, but I made it. Checkmark. Good work Sam.
Second day of snow — it had snowed a bit more. Maybe more than just “a bit.” It had kind of snowed on and off throughout the night. I should probably clarify, while I can and do drive, I don’t currently have a car in Chicago. Parking is embarrassingly expensive (as in arm + leg + first born for a secure-ish place downtown expensive) and most places I need to go are super close anyway. With that in mind, I roll or take public transport anywhere I need to go. I had watched the news for road conditions and weather reports that morning, saw some less than “free of snow” views of Michigan Ave (a street I would eventually need to cross), but the snow had stopped hours ago.
I went downstairs and looked out the front windows of my apartment and saw clean sidewalks. I glanced a bit farther down the street and saw a bundled up gentleman busy blowing away the accumulated snow.
“Okay.” I think to myself. “I could call a cab. I’m pretty close, so it would maybe cost me $15 bucks max. I have plenty of time to wait for them to come and then ride to school.” I take another long look left and right out the window. “OR…I could just push. I made it yesterday no problem. The extra exercise is good for a person. If it’s deep, I can just muscle my way through it. I think there’s been enough time for sidewalks and main roads to get mostly cleaned up. I’m a strong and independent woman. It’s just snow. I can do this.” Conversation with myself completed, I began my trek into the flurries.
I make it off my apartment’s block where the snow is all cleared away and head across the street. Did a bit of maneuvering around some left behind snowplow piles on the road, but again, I made it to the next block. There I ran into an individual from the apartment with his Bernese Mountain Dog puppy who was having the time of her life jumping through the snow. See Sam? The roads have been fine for the 2 blocks that you’ve pushed and if you called a cab you would never have gotten to see and say hi to little Ms. Wrigley. (If you’re on Instagram, she has her own adorable account (wrigley_theberner) thats worth following, so click on the blue link above and check her cuteness out!). I mean really, look at that face!
Needless to say, after moving onward from petting Wrigley, it was basically downhill from there. Sadly, I’m not referring to the elevation. Lessons about later season snow in Chicago during a year when there really hasn’t been snow – things aren’t cleaned up quickly. Lessons about pushing through city snow in a wheelchair – you can’t just muscle your way through once it gets past a certain depth. Wheels that aren’t gripping anything solid will continue to not grip anything solid – until you find something solid. You will make it across one snow covered block just to come upon another similarly snow covered block and you’ll want to throw your hands in the air, rethink all of your life decisions, and mentally berate the ability of people around you who can so easily step through and over any snow pile without a second thought that creates what feels like an impenetrable barrier for you. Rapid exhale.
I’m pretty sure it was during one of my many contemplations of the unfairness of my situation (that looking back I realize I brought on myself…) that a young 20-something year old dude came up behind me with concerned eyes but smiling face and asked, “Woah, can I help you?! Can I give you a push or something?!”
Now if you know me personally, you know that I am the last person to accept a push. My family doesn’t push me, my friends don’t push me, and there aint no way a random stranger is gonna push me.
Unless there’s a bunch of snow on the ground and I have become remarkably aware of the fact I will not be getting to the lab today unless I call a cab or say yes. So I said yes.
Long story short, I made it to school. I had a great conversation with the wonderful individual who was remarkably willing to help out a frustrated wheeler. I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am for his existence and how many “Thank you God” prayers I’ve said regarding his appearance and “I’ll help you” offer at just the right time.
You really can only plan for so much. There are so many variables in a single experience that trying to predict each and every one of them is pretty futile. Sure, not knowing and having to “think on the fly” can be a bit stressful, but so can worrying about things that are far outside of your control.
I’m so glad I made it into the lab that day and I’m also so glad that it’s now officially spring.
Not every situation we face in life is perfect or even ideal.
Some situations are stressful, frustrating, and maybe a bit degrading.
But even THOSE situations can remind you just how wonderful people can be.
How helpful, how kind, and how compassionate.
Those situations can also teach you to just call a cab 😀