In my previous article titled What is ‘good enough’? Is there even such a thing??, I said I hate the word ‘disability’. In fact, I hate anything along those lines that define someone’s inability to do something – e.g. disabled, retard, handicap, etc. Those words just give an impression of what a person cannot do, instead of highlighting what he/she CAN do.
William J. Brennan, Jr. once said, “Society’s accumulated myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairment.” I find this so very true. We see the media and society at large portraying a particular image and categorizing it as ‘normal’. So then what are people like us? Abnormal?
Growing up with a form of what today’s society would call a ‘disability’, it was a constant battle for me to understand and accept my differences. It was also a great struggle to find a sense of belonging. Oftentimes, I questioned my self worth and my very existence in this world. Each stare, each comment, each praise, was (and still is) a constant reminder that I am different. As much as I do see where some of them are coming from in terms of praises (and seeing me as an inspiration), making those kinds of remarks is just a reminder to us differently-abled beings that we are not the ‘typical’ human being out there. That we are not ‘normal’. But what is normal anyway??
I’ve heard countless numbers of remarks from others saying ‘Nadeera, you’re special. Nadeera, you’re amazing. Nadeera, you’re inspiring.’ Don’t get me wrong! I am truly touched that I am able to inspire others and yes, I do want to keep doing so. However, only being viewed in this image can get extremely lonely. It leaves us differently-abled beings in a another world. A world different from the regular world you and I both see out there. It leaves us in a dark and secluded place, many a times leaving us stranded and helpless. Sometimes, all we truly desire is for others to view us in the same light as they would any one else.
There was this once, I was having a conversation with someone very dear to me, and this person (person A) had actually made a suggestion saying ‘Why don’t you marry Nadeera?’. This other person (person B) then answered ‘But I need money to marry her and to take care of her. I don’t have that much money right now’. As much as it is not very surprising coming from the society I was raised in, I was still utterly dumbfounded upon hearing this. ‘You need money? That’s the best excuse you can come up with? Wow! Like.. Hellooo, I need money too. And I will EARN it. I have a Psychology degree and I plan to earn a living on my own – WITHOUT your help, Thank You!’ I mean, I get where this person is coming from but I am also left wondering, is that all people see me as? Am I an object for sale? Am I a nice big bungalow house that you own and need to ‘take good care of’ for the rest of your life once you marry me? To this person, and all those who think in a similar manner, we are not MATERIAL OBJECTS for you to define us as such. We are human beings with souls just like yourselves. We have A LOT to offer just like you or everyone else in this world. Not to forget, we have feelings and wants and desires just like you as well. I for instance, am 25 now, at an age where I want to start dating and get to know as many people as possible, in hopes of finding someone I can spend the rest of my life with and hopefully even start a family with someday. And I’m sure many many differently-abled people like me, will be having similar hopes and dreams as well. So, to all those out there, if you see someone different, instead of looking at their limitations, focus on what they have to offer. Look deep within, look at their souls and not just their body. And if you find something interesting and special, feel free to ask them out. Don’t worry! We won’t bite 😋
You see, in the Bahá’í Writings it says, “Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch…” That is how equal we all are. There is no difference between us if you are able to look beyond what you see solely with your naked eyes. Yes, some of us may have some limitations, but God also gave us bounteous gifts and blessings that we are ordained to make use of before leaving this earth. Therefore, just as how Kate Bonstein puts it, “Let’s stop “tolerating” or “accepting” difference, as if we’re so much better for not being different in the first place. Instead, let’s celebrate difference, because in this world it takes a lot of guts to be different.” 😊