“Do you want to know why I bop around the city so much?” I asked him one day.
“I could be wrong, but I feel like there’s this whole thing about how twenty-somethings should be traveling and seeing the world as much as possible, and more so be willing to do that by themselves. For me, I can barely get through an airport without needing some kind of help, and being alone in a foreign country for an extensive amount of time seems scary and dangerous (especially since I have a physical handicap). By adventuring in Chicago, or even other cities around the country, I have that freedom to experience and try new things while still having that sense of safety and comfort of home.”
It started during my junior year of college, where I began to wonder if I was giving as much as I was taking.
After graduation, during a conversation with my primary care doctor, he told me that I needed to be an “example” for other adults with disabilities, and show them that there was more to life than just playing video games and living off supplemental income. It left a bad taste in my mouth, as most primary care doctors do when they act like they know what they’re talking about.
And now as I’m job hunting and simultaneously reevaluating what direction I want to take my life in, that question continues to plague me: Am I doing enough? Am I living up to my potential? Am I fulfilling my purpose/calling?
And while these questions are worth asking, the answer is much more complex than just ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ These questions are a symptom of our busyness-is-a-badge-of-honor culture. As a woman with Cerebral Palsy, it stems from realizing that those with disabilities are either pitied or put on a pedestal, and the latter becomes the subject of inspiration porn/objectification. And that’s what scares me about doing The Big Things, such as writing a book, speaking in public, and/or becoming a full-blown internet celebrity: I’m terrified of losing my humanity, and becoming a stationary fountain of wisdom in the process.
It doesn’t happen to everyone, but most people that I’ve seen slaying and hustling and making shit happen all at once are also suffering on the inside: they’re physically and emotionally exhausted and they have to practically go off the grid in order to recharge. This is what marketing is. This is what making a living is. And if you want to make an impact, this is the kind of sacrifice you have to make.
I call bs. Not because I have all of the answers, but because that type of rhetoric comes from listening to a cacophony of popular opinion as opposed to actively listening to individual experiences and one’s intuition.
And while I’m still learning, this is what I know now:
What you are capable of doing matters. You do not have to defy the odds all the time, or ever if you really don’t want to. You do not have to kick ass for the sake of making anyone feel better about themselves or more comfortable with your situation, especially if they’re able-bodied. Embracing what’s true for you does not equal mediocrity, but maturity.
You are allowed to set boundaries, and you are allowed to have fun. Whether it’s shutting down your phone/computer at a certain time, or saying, “I support you, but I’m not qualified to treat you or heal you,” limits are absolutely necessary. I’m a huge advocate for discussing mental health and a host of other topics, but I also need play time and pleasure. It’s part of why I often send my people memes as much as I send inspirational quotes. It’s part of why I enjoy watching Disney movies and reading People Magazine on a weekly basis. There is a lot more light to life than just listening to podcasts/sermons and reading self-help books. Especially if you experience brain overload or vulnerability hangovers quite easily.
‘Living Your Best Life’ DOES NOT make you better than anyone else. You wanna be the next sexy, glamorous, entrepreneur? Godspeed my friend, and more power to you. But you are not superior to those that choose a trade school over a traditional university, or are doing what they have to do in order to support themselves It’s not always possible or practical for people to pursue something just because they’re passionate about it, and your passion might not be the thing that provides a paycheck. God needs those who are willing to do the every-day as much as He needs those who do the once in a lifetime. Your worth does not depend on how you contribute to the economy, or whether or not you contribute at all. And if you feel the need to preach about doing things, ‘like everyone else’ please check your damn privilege.
Life is filled with a rhythm of rest and movement, and one that many overlook because they’re worried about living up to old, outdated expectations. It’s entirely possible for self-love and self-improvement to coexist, without the supposed need to choose one or the other. And just because you take a particular path for the time being does not mean you can’t ever change direction, change your mind, or just stop and be for a bit. Comparison is not only the joy, but the thief of everything that matters.
I’m all for finding treasures in this world, but I’m also one for exploring my own backyard.
Some call that backyard a jungle, I call it a playground.
Where some see loneliness, I see freedom and opportunity.
Writing. Public Speaking. Advocating. Creating.
Maybe it’s unconventional, but I’m just doing my thing with great love.
Perhaps it’s just a season, or maybe more. I do what I can, and let God take care of the rest.
(photo by Rachel Loewen Photography)