Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I can only inspire myself

My parents started a small revolution back home when I was a child. They decided not to put me in a special  school,  an obvious place for disabled children in then communist Poland. They wanted to spare me the experience of an institution where kids with physical and mental conditions alike go together in an environment that felt more like a holding place than a place to study, where instead of being motivated, pupils are patted on the head. My parents wanted me to be the best that I could, to be as functional, the most normal- so, at the cost of straining their backs carrying me up the stairs for years and with a lot of informal agreements with teachers they put me in a regular school. Many of the other children with cerebral palsy in Warsaw soon followed our example. We were breaking ground, there was nobody we could really look up to. We had to rely on our own goals, dreams an ambitions as no people with cerebral palsy, with any physical disability really, were present in the public space anywhere to be seen.  All we saw was the most disability unfriendly reality- with stairs and steps and no lifts everywhere and we kept pushing. It would put my parents mind at ease had they known how I would turn out buck then. If they had a role model, anyone to talk to that done this before. But there wasn't anyone and raising a child with a disability has to be a lonely and scary experience. On  the other hand, I think it helped them push me further not knowing what to expect. When we started the Peto rehabilitation my dad was stricter than the conductors. In his mind I would be walking, no question. My parents always seemed to think that there's no limits to what Conductive Education can do for me, that I'm limitless. Maybe had they known what's reasonable to expect they would have given up along the way like many parents did.

I see a lot of Americans with disabilities, with Cerebral Palsy among others writing books, becoming motivational speakers or give interviews. Not that their stories aren't powerful, but I can't really wrap my mind around this concept of inspiration. There's nothing unusual about me. I think it's a basic human reaction to do the best you can in a less then perfect situation. I didn't choose my disability. But it's natural to fight, to push, to achieve things in spite of it.  I'm first and foremost an attorney. If people want to listen, I will talk, but I will never fully understand what they get from it. Because nobody inspired me. I draw my strength from my own dreams and ambition, from my parents and their work ethic, from my friends. I am my own biggest critic and I push myself hard.

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