Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cerebral Palsy and me

"It's been holding you back for so long. Let it help you once by landing you a job"- said my mom after I told her that I'm trying to talk to some non profits and entities that deal with disability causes. An ideal fit for me would be a place where I can use not only my law licences, but my lifetime experience in a wheelchair. I want to help people and I want to be useful. But I have never blamed my life for not being able to walk. You can say, you can't really miss something you have never truly experienced, but that would have been too simplistic. I live in a world where people jump, run and dance.  Walk up the stairs and jaywalk in the middle of the street. It's not that I don't see that and it's not that I don't feel left behind when my friends get to do all the things I was never able to. You feel different just being around it sometimes and it's when you see yourself reflected in others eyes when it finally hits you. But I have never wondered who would I be if I wasn't born with Cerebral Palsy. Possibly, an entirely different person, because so many things that happen to us shape who we are and we can't just pick and choose the things that we like. I guess, I'd be a Virgo not a Cancer as I was expected to arrive in the Fall and not in the middle of Summer. My mom tends to think that I owe my drive and intelligence to my disability. Because I couldn't walk, I stayed at home and read a lot. Reading and writing were my main  hobbies when I was little and I attempted to write a sequel to every book I got my hands on.  She also points out that a lot of kids from my neighborhood would get in all kinds of trouble. Some ended up hurt or in prison. Staying put kept me away from bad company.

Having Cerebral Palsy gave me an unusual childhood. I got to travel abroad to Budapest when my classmates went to school every day. Because of that I've learned Hungarian. and developed an ear for languages As a result I picked up English pretty easily from watching Sky One-the British TV channel on cable every day. No question, I would not be speaking it as fluently today. Just compare it to my failed attempts to study German the traditional way, at school for seven years. I'm in America today, because I speak English well enough to be an attorney. My disability affected everyone in our  household to the extent that it'd be really hard to predict who and where it would be if I was born healthy. My mom quit her job and stayed at home, which meant she not only took care of me but watched my brother as well as he was going through his teen years. Her influence pushed us both to get good grades and then go to college. To pay for the years in the Peto institute my parents had to look for extra money. My father and later my mother ended up leaving for months at the time to find jobs in the mythical West.  The additional income allowed us to get things no one in our neighborhood had seen before in the mid/ late 1980's- like a VCR or a stereo system with a CD player. Most importantly,my parents got my brother an Atari, that sparked his passion for computers that later became his career. Something we would never be able to afford otherwise.  My mom seems to think that there's a reason for why I  am the way I am. As much as I'd like to believe I'm not sure if it's a grand design or a comedy of errors. Some twisted paths lead me here. Yet,it'd be silly of me not to notice that my premature arrival shaped the fates of not only me but parents and my brother. In her 40's my mom reentered the work force with our help- at 14 I was teaching her how to use a computer- and may I add with great success. Would it be possible if she had never left? We were all in this together. And I have never wished for a different life. I'm not even sure if I would like the other version of myself. Some of the things I enjoy about myself the most, how sensitive I am, how social, my humor, were all shaped by a chain of events that brought me to Gainesville. Some people with CP find strength in faith or a sense of mission.  I want to help people, but I don't feel I'm a martyr. I just like who I am.

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