Does anyone ever feel left behind? Do you ever feel like your disability interrupted your life? Sometimes it is hard not to feel that way. Although my disability has taken me on a completely different journey in life, I have often felt left behind and left out. When I was injured at age 17, I graduated high school on time with my class, but didn’t rush off to college. The year after high school I went to the Shriner’s Hospital in Philadelphia, PA and participated in a research program. It was like I went off to college, except I went to a hospital for 6 months. The rest of my friends went off to college, but instead at the hospital I was surrounded by patients, doctors, therapists and nurses.
I did attend college the next year at the University of New Hampshire and met some really great people. This was the first time I had to try to make new friends as a person with a disability. I got to know some nice girls in my dorm, but I found myself going home a lot because I was still trying to figure out how to fit in. In winter, college was a challenge, and the snow kept me from attending classes on the campus. It was hard, so my sophomore year I did a one year exchange program with Florida State University. Instead of going abroad, I got to go to Florida State in Tallahassee, and only had to pay for room and board. I came back to New Hampshire and dropped out of college because I still couldn’t deal with the snow. I ended up moving to Miami and transferred to Florida International University. The warm weather and accessibility of Florida was good for me. I never thought that weather would play a factor into deciding where I lived. So, a couple of years living in nice weather was great, but I missed my family. I have often thought about moving back to New Hampshire to be with my friends and family, but one thing led to another and I moved to Seattle in the year 2000.
I met a really nice guy and that is what brought me to Seattle. Once I moved here I started a new life, got a job, new friends and a new relationship. When I decided to move to Seattle, it was mostly because of the relationship I was in, but I also loved Seattle because it reminded me of New England. I joke that instead of dealing with the snow, I just traded it in for rain. Some of these major life decisions I have made, have been partially due to the fact that I have a disability, but other things that have influenced my choices too. I wonder if I would have ever left New Hampshire if I didn’t have my disability. Many of the people I grew up with still live around the New England area.
So many people I went to high school with never really saw how my life has turned out. After I had my accident I didn’t get a chance to see a lot of people because I only went to school a couple of hours a day in my senior year. In fact, I think a lot of people from high school still have the image of me right after I got out of the hospital and that is not how I wanted people to remember me. I looked terrible after my accident, not only was I in a wheelchair, but I had lost a lot of my hair because of an allergic reaction to medication. When I went to my 10 year class reunion a few years ago, it was the first time many people saw me, and I looked a lot like the person they knew before I was in a wheelchair, and it was great! Through Facebook I have reconnected with many people that I went to high school with, but I still feel left behind. Although, it has been a great way to reconnect with everyone it is hard. When I look at the photos of their lives, I see what I don’t have. If I didn’t have a disability- would I have been in those photos with them?
I will be honest; I still have those moments when I wonder how my life would have been different if my accident never happened. Would I be married with kids and living near my family? These are questions that will never be answered and I don’t want to dwell on them either. Each day I am just glad to just be here because July 18, 1993 could have been a day that ended up much worse. Instead, my disability has given me a gift in so many ways. I can’t explain it all, but at 32 years old, despite having a disability, I can’t help wonder will I still have what they have?
~Feeling left behind, but that’s just fine~