Sunday, August 5, 2012

My Book of Milestones

As I look back on these past three years, the moments seem so unreal.  I can't believe three years have gone by already since the accident that left me paralyzed from the waist down.  I remember the months in the hospital, lying in bed and thinking that my life was over...that things would never be the same again.  I was fixated on all the physical pain and misery from that terrible moment as well as the long list of my inabilities and difficulties that lie ahead.  I was torn between quitting and moving on.  It was a big decision to make, but I chose the latter: I moved on...and it did get better. 

As I reflect upon my experience in D.C. this summer alone, I can recall many moments of learning and growth that have come as a result of the accident--wonderful experiences I never foresaw while in the hospital like this internship in D.C.  Pushing through tough storms physically and emotionally, answering a million questions in my mind and heart, discovering new relationships, managing my internship, and exploring the city have each taught me something new and exciting about myself.

For one, I have proven to myself and others that despite my tendency to get lost easily and fear of getting stuck in a stinky metro elevator,  I can be independent in a wheelchair.  Back in Utah, I had the support of my husband, family, friends, and school--my safety net that protected and made accommodations for me.  I have lived and traveled abroad in the past, but have never had to do it on my own in a wheelchair, so I felt hesitant to live on my own in a relatively big city, afraid of big falls causing breaks in my body without help, afraid that I would get too sick without anyone helping me, and even getting around and doing my own grocery shopping by myself without a car.  As I became more familiar with the streets, the metro, the people, the culture...
I found that it could be done, one step at a time.

Sometimes, things do get rough though because my independence around the district depends on universal design--reliant on civil engineering for businesses, metro stations, cement sidewalks, etc. The fact that I live in an ablelist society becomes more apparent whenever I have to navigate around ridiculously designed metro stations with elevators in inaccessible places (L'Enfant Plaza) or worst--broken ones, but I managed as best I could with that challenge.
Now, if I can do that, I can do even harder things.

Molly, Carlina and Me in front of the Capitol.

As I reach another milestone in my journey, I would like to thank AAPD for the opportunity of a wonderful summer of continual learning.  All that I've learned this summer could not have been possible without their assistance and encouragement.  I now feel more confident in my abilities to navigate this world and am ready to enter the workforce as a productive citizen.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with such kind bosses at Disability Rights International, who really cared about my well-being and growth.  They really are some of the greatest voices of the disability rights movement today.  I am also thankful for the chance to live with and learn from my roommates, Allie and Bonnie--the voices of future disability rights leaders.  I'm thankful for the friends I've acquired this summer as well as my long-time confidants, Carlina and Jeff, and the many ways that they have enriched my summer, including exploring the city and long dinner conversations.  And my sweet husband and family for supporting me from afar.  This has truly been a summer worth noting in my book of milestones--time well spent.  Keep your head up and things will get better.

Jeff, Carlina, Molly, and Me

1 comment:

  1. i'm so proud of you and all of the "milestones" that you pushed past!