Every so often I find myself contemplating whether or not this blogging thing is for me. This past week has been one of those weeks; I had to take some time to regroup. My latest post got some attention and, for the most part, it was all really positive. However this was the first time that I also received some really negative feedback. I’m a fairly sensitive person and while I knew that it was bound to happen eventually, I still found myself reeling from the few personal attacks on my character. So instead of concentrating on all of the messages from people who found my post so relatable, I instead found myself focusing on the few who really hated what I had to say. I started to question, once again, why it is I’m sharing my life in such a public manner. And I determined that one of the biggest reasons is this: to reclaim my anonymity.
I’m sure that seems quite backwards. Sharing my life and point-of-view so openly seems like a sure-fire way to remain the opposite of anonymous. But hear me out for a second. One of my goals in all of this is to normalize my wheelchair way of life. And my hope in sharing my thoughts and stories with strangers is that there will be more empathy and understanding when faced with a wheelchair user in their everyday life. In turn, this allows me to feel less noticeable and more like I can, once again, blend in amongst the crowd.
Don’t get me wrong; I understand that I will still be seen. But there is a difference between being seen and being scrutinized. There is a difference between the everyday niceties of the human race and persistent unneeded help based on predetermined ideas. If reading my blog helps people better understand life-in-a-wheelchair then maybe, just maybe, there will be less to scrutinize because it will simply be understood. And the point I was trying to make in my last post was that there is a general misunderstanding about the abilities of some people in wheelchairs and there is learning to do surrounding how the interactions with them can go. For me, kindness is the way to approach any situation. If there is a true belief that someone is struggling, then offer your assistance. The problem really arises when the answer is not respected and persistence ensues (it happens often). But a lot can be said for a kind smile or nod of acknowledgement to show that “hey, I’m a nice person and if you need something I’m here”. And it goes both ways. I stand by my post as I was making a point. I want to clarify though that I would never be rude/unkind/ungrateful to anyone who was showing me kindness. I was simply explaining what goes on in my mind and my desire for people to see what I’m truly capable of instead of seeing what I’m not (or presumably not).
Some people will say that I just need to get past my chair. I am here to tell you that I am past it. I have accepted this wheelchair as a part of my life. What I want is for society to get past it. Accept the chair as nothing more than my mobility device and know that the more accessibility we advocate for, the more independence people with disabilities can achieve. In putting my life into this blog, I feel like I’m doing a small part to bring that awareness to the general public and I believe in that cause. In saying that, it means I’m going to have to develop a little bit of a thicker skin when people don’t necessarily see it my way. I suppose I cannot please everyone because, if I could, I wouldn’t be saying much of anything at all.
So yes, I am reclaiming my anonymity by being obvious. It seems contradictory but I honestly believe that by sharing this life of mine in a wheelchair that I am teaching and normalizing. That is my quest and my goal. I’m hopeful people will see where my ambition lies and that my intentions are good. I’m just a girl in a chair trying to spread some awareness.