She wakes, moans and rolls out of bed. She saunters to the bathroom turns on the shower and proceeds with her day. She applies make-up, brushes her teeth and drives herself to school. Then I wake and my day looks nothing like that typical teen. I'm the girl in a wheelchair, fearing leaving home, because for all my life, this house and town are the only things I knew.
I know everyone has this fear, but it is different for me: as I said, all I know is here, home. My family, my friends, my past are all here, and I don't know if I'm ready to leave them yet. But I know my future is waiting for me in college, and I need to let go and move on, to become all that I can be. If I want to change the world, I need to change first. If I want to bring smiles to teenage girls' faces, I need to better my writing skill, and college is the place to go for that.
I am severely physically handicapped. Been like this since birth. I have never independently cared for myself. My only freedoms are in my head. I dream like no other person, write fiction everyday to explore worlds I may never participate in. I read everything, all the time. Fiction, non-fiction, just to lose myself in a world that I only know as an observer. In my writings, I can be anything and go anywhere.
However, being an observer I learn so much, gain so much information for my novels. I understand human behavior. I witness slight non-verbal interactions between people that tell a story beyond words. I listen to tones of voices, down turned eyes, and body language. Conversations happen around me all day, people sometimes don't even notice me listening. I wish I could lean into the conversation and explain the nuances of their behavior. But I can't. Instead, I continue to listen intently, cataloguing each interaction as an example of human behavior. But, I'm sure, as I age, this catalogue will become more mature, now it is filled with teen angst, broken hearts, and school girl crushes. As I see new things, my characters will grow along with me.
My world seems dull to some people. To them, my existence is a wheelchair, a computer and books. It is so much more than that. I crave knowledge, use education to reduce barriers around me. I remember my parents fighting for me to be educated along side non-disabled students. I've never been in a special education class. The thought has always been absurd to me that people automatically judge my physical appearance as my mental capacity. That short-sided thought process has lead to people underestimating me throughout my life.
That's another reason I need to continue my education: if I don't, I'll be proving the nay sayers right, that I couldn't do it. But I will, I'll prove them wrong. I might not look like the 'nomral' college kids, but I'm smart and I'm me, I won't fail, I will win.
I've learned that from the best, my parents are my heroes, along with the rest of the gang. They never expressed once that I could not reach every goal I set. However, as a gift, they are also realists. They allowed me to dream big, but always tempered my grand plans with advice of enjoying the little successes in life. It's not as much about the result as the effort. These simple lessons are what have allowed me to excel academically despite my limitations. I can take each class, assignment, and lesson as a challenge to be conquered, should I fail, I have the support to try again. As I said, they are my heroes, always have been and always will be.
Patience is also a gift of my disability. When you spend your life waiting on others to care for you, your needs have less urgency. This patience allows me to spend hours on tasks and assignments that others may complete in minutes. I take nothing about my life for granted. Each challenge met is an example that I am a whole person regardless of my disability. No matter what they say, I am raising above my limits and I will be more than the girl in the wheelchair.
Aside from my family, technology has been the greatest gift I know. I have connected in a world that knows no physical limitations. The internet, social media, and software expands my horizons and equalizes my interactions with others. I share my writings, thoughts, and dreams with anonymous people who can weigh my submissions on their own merit. These organic rare connections do not occur when a person meets me and judges my accomplishments in light of my physical deficits. My computer is my key to the world.
So, yes, I might be not that typical teen I see in my dreams, but I'm Madison, the silent observer, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Someday, I've reached all of my goals, and the fear will be a distant memory.
Madison P. Field