Sometimes I find myself walking down the street huffing and puffing from going to fast. I am in no hurry, I have no where to go, but for some reason I am moving with the speed of someone running late to meet the president (Obama). There’s no need for it. I have nowhere in particular to be, but I’m rushing to get there. Why? Because for my entire life, I’ve been playing catch-up towards a goal that no one has ever been able to explain to me clearly: normal.
I feel like I’ve lived my life in reverse. As a kid, I was tasked with making decisions about my body some adults wouldn’t be able to and as an adult, it seems like I am the last person society wants to turn to when it comes to expressing what I need. All the while, Facebook has made me passive voyeur to the lives of my peers as they marry, have children and buy homes. What they don’t tell you about being disabled is that you’re constantly being measured towards a benchmark or what is the “norm” for your age and body. You’re supposed to constantly be working towards that goal. You’re rushing to catch up towards “normal.” Here’s a lifehack though: the only person you should be trying to catch up towards is you.
I want it all. I want the career, the marriage and the family, but like everything else in my life, it likely won’t appear in my life in the same way it does for the people I grew up with, and I need to stop expecting it to. My first kiss was on the short bus. My first car was totaled after being hit by a truck outside my doctor’s office. I was catfished by my disabled crush’s girlfriend on high school. Everything in my life has appeared there with a hint of crip.
In times of stress or uncertainty, this particular form of internalized ableism pops up unwanted like a Trump appointee. Luckily, the process for making those thoughts disappear is strikingly similar: just remind yourself of the truth. Truth is that your life can be difficult without comparing yourself to everyone else. You don’t need to beat yourself up with the lie of “normal.”