Thursday, September 22, 2011

Between help and independence.

When I first landed in Gainesville I was determined to show my parents that I can do everything by myself. I remember how my gloves tore and my hands would bleed because I needed to get up every hill without anybody's help. It felt like my own manifestation of independence, I thought this was the time to live the live I always wanted and not rely on others for help. If I was going to this, if I was going to make it work it had to be my way this time. My mother thought I was stubborn and silly. It wasn't practical to do things like that but I wasn't looking for the easiest route. That was the point. I came from a country that didn't really allow me to do much without help and even at home when was a child my parents would sometimes override my independence by putting my shoes on or  bathing me because it's quicker, because we were in a hurry. Intimacy is a bigger issue when you feel you have so little control over your life, your holding on to whatever shred and aspect you can.

I really felt useless in those moments and having remembered that emotion I vowed to do everything I could by myself. Rolling up to some place and taking a lot of buses just to get somewhere would take a lot longer than having somebody push me or give me a ride but that wasn't the point. A trip to Walmart took hours, but it felt good. I  needed to show that I'm not useless. There's a blurry line between being independent and needing help. People often tell me that they don't know how to approach people in wheelchairs and would it be offensive if they offered help. I used to say it's always OK to ask and it shows consideration. Now I'm not so sure anymore. Because I've been in both situations. People mean well and want to help, but sometimes if somebody approaches me three times to assist me up the hill and I feel so proud of myself for making it I think- do I really look that desperate for help? And there are times when I'm stuck in a ditch or my front wheel falls off the sidewalk and I'm glad somebody cares enough to stop. But then when somebody asked me last week at the student union building if I was lost, I thought to myself that I've known it well for the last seven years.

It used to be a big deal when somebody tried to push my wheelchair, I had to know that person really well to be comfortable with it.  It felt like an invasion of sorts of not only my personal space but my physicality. Now I let my friends do it often and it's fun. I used to love grocery shopping by myself, just making it to Publix felt good. Now I go with friends, it also feels good and it's a whole lot faster. Because for once I don't have to prove anything to anyone. Starting to know your worth, boosting your self esteem, that I thinkk is the biggest gain in living, making it abroad for seven years, rather just finding a nice place to live.

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