Sunday, August 14, 2011

Have a life

My mom always said that having a job, doing something that keeps you passionate and getting up in the morning is a key to a better life and makes the days fly by faster. She enjoys bringing work home, solving problems and learning new things in her field every day. For me, life is about balance. I invest my all in what I do, my projects excite me and I love getting things accomplished. I share my mother's drive and motivation. But I also like having people around, being social, having hobbies - and just discovering who I am as a person. I'm able to do for myself more that I ever did in Poland and it gives me a great feeling. For me, life is not something I want to live through. I need to enjoy it.

I have to say I was pretty successful back home. I graduated from a prestigious university with honors, I was getting established as a chairman of a disability foundation I was running for a few years and I was pretty respected as a media writer for a popular industry website. Something was missing however and I wasn't happy. I didn't go out, I didn't meet people and having to move around town for whatever reason always felt like a big production. Imagine having to book a paratransit ride to go to a movie 1-2 weeks in advance. Imagine growing up not being sure if a theatre, a hotel or a museum is accessible enough for you  to join your class on a trip. As a child you learn to accept your limitations, as there are things you just can't do. When you're older it feels like your disability is taking control of your life and you're submitting to it. I didn't want to spend the rest of my life within four walls, in front of a computer. So I jumped at the opportunity to move to America for a year not really knowing what to expect. That was seven years ago. Was it exactly as I imagined? Probably not, I must've imagined myself returning home transformed like a character out of a Hollywood movie. But in many ways it's so much more than I have hoped for. My mom will never understand my excitement over the phone when I tell her I went grocery shopping by myself at Publix. Or than I can just board the bus whenever I feel like it and just go somewhere and be spontaneous.
I have Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy doesn't have me. I have my friends, my routines, my places. Little things give me joy, like my daily latte at Starbucks. There's so much more I can do for myself that I never knew and I accept the things that I can't. When I moved to America I vowed to be as open and understanding and as excited to meet and accept  people as I can. It was the most inspiring time and I grew more cynical when problems with immigration and the law school first hit. But one thing never changed. I feel loved, wanted, accepted and inspired. When I was changing apartments this week it was my friends that came over to help me move, or rather, "moved" me. And then painted the old place back to its original ugly dark white color. I think that's the way to win with your disability: have a fulfilling life. Be active, have friends who care about you as much as you care about them. Enjoy life. Keep busy. Yes, there are things I cannot do by myself, but would I really want to pack, unpack and paint by myself if I could anyway?

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