When I was crossing the street on my way out to grab a bite two nights ago I noticed a larger than life animatronic Santa Claus on the 3rd floor balcony in the building on the other side. It danced and sang Carols very loudly, it turned on and off randomly with nothing in particular triggering its preprogrammed behavior. As I was looking up, the angle, the reflected light and shadow gave it a particularly spooky quality. I quickly determined it's the creepiest thing I've seen in a while. And then I remembered how afraid I was of a stuffed Maya the Bee mascot that was hanging in a window of one of the stores in Warsaw. My mother can tell you the story. I didn't even have to see it. When I knew we were coming close to it I'd get all tense and hysteric. I could not explain what it was about the giant mascot that terrified me. I loved the German novel about her adventures as well as the Japanese nighttime cartoon based on it. And it got me thinking about what Andrew Sutton wrote about his blog in a point about upbringing. How what parents do or not do may have lasting effect. And I think it's a true point. I never gave it much of a thought honestly, until I've forced myself to revisit my childhood to remember as many experiences from the Peto Institute as possible. It became obvious how a lot of what and who I am today is triggered by something that happened to me in the past. It's hard to distance yourself from things still present in your mind. Your fears and joys, triggers and phobias grow along with you, although objectively they might not impress a grown man like me today. I don't have a fear of plush toys or clowns, but I do have a fear of water. I remember fighting for air and going under as my dad tough me to swim. It went beyond exercise, splashing around, practicing balance or therapy. My dad wanted me to swim, like other kids my age. For years after the fact going in a swimming pool for me meant tension that had me frozen with panic. A few years ago while visiting my family in Warsaw, I've considered having a surgery on both of my knees. We went to the same traumatizing hospital that I remembered from when I was six. I thought it would not be a big deal. I'm bigger, stronger, I'm an adult. I can put my past in the past and just let things be. Yet, as I as there, not so much the memories, but the feeling of being powerless, trapped, lost and lonely returned. As I was getting examined I felt six again. That's when I realized that we never become different people over night. Just because I'm grown doesn't mean I'm someone else. That's why upbringing matters. Because it makes who we are. Some things we can change, grow out of or get over, but we are ourselves forever. We spend a lifetime in our bodies and more importantly with our minds. Children don't come with instruction manuals do they? That why I write about my years of rehabilitation so often. My friends don't really understand, but it's not simply something that happened to me at one point and is now over. Once I read that past and future are only illusions. It seems to me that it may be true about human nature. There's only us. And I'm sure every parent makes plenty of missteps. But are they really crucial? Do we scar that easily? I'm sure we all have things our parents have done we blame them for at least to explain our own behavior. But then, if children and the human psyche were indeed as fragile as we think we would have never survived evolution.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Given how often Andrew Sutton has been citing my humble entries you could get an impression that I'm a highly regarded source in the world of Cerebral Palsy, Conductive Education and independent living. I think he is far too kind. I would like nothing more than to share my experiences with anybody that listens, speak at events and talk shows, but trust me. My story impresses very few people and my phone has not been ringing off the hook. It's not that that I think I'm amazing or that I seek fame. I've spent many years getting advanced law degrees so I really don't need to promote myself as a tabloid sensation, but I'm willing to put my time and energy if it helps others and brings attention to the things I care about most: inclusion, opportunities for people with my type of disability and wheelchairs in general, and bringing barriers. I want to talk about hard work, parental dedication and applying yourself. But the problem, I think is bigger than me. I can share the anecdotes from the Peto Institute for many years to come, but it won't change the fact the fact that I think we have failed. We have failed as the Conductive Education community - pupils, conductors, parents, friends and supporters to explain why this is important. Why the media should pay attention. We have failed to show the need in highlighting success Cerebral Palsy stories. What it's like to live with this disability and how very little progress can mean a drastic increase in the quality of life. You may think my story is impressive (I think it's really not, it's simply my story and everyone has one), but the media disagree. In a blatant attempt at self promotion and looking for a way to talk about experiences with CE in a exciting way, I've sent the link to the video with me in it to a number of TV shows, non profits and news outlets. I know both online copies combined have been played a few hundred times. It's like one of the reporters at a local TV stations told me, when she called me a few weeks ago trying to figure out who exactly I am and how I fit in to this thing. It's interesting and it may be inspiring, but it's not happening, it's not developing, it's not news. Andrew in one of his latest pieces talks about the need for joy, optimism and positive routine. I think we still haven't found a way to talk about these things in a way that explains that example, hope and inspiration are crucial to kids and parents a like. We've got to find a way that uses attractive terms fitting today's media model. But if it's not a miracle, if it's not a cure or a drug or a magic spell, if it doesn't happen over night I doubt that we can make anybody understand. This is exactly the problem that I've had dealing with American immigration. Nobody quite understood why my story of life with Cerebral Palsy and years at the Peto Institute matter and can be helpful to new generations of kids And note one thing: I've been fortunate enough to be featured in local press a number of times. Gainesville Sun wrote about me twice, Alligator dedicated its spread to me, InSite picked me as one of Gainesville's most interesting among others. But it's not that mainstream media took an interest in what we do all of a sudden. All these texts were written by students. They started as school assignments and the editors were so impressed with the result thry went to print. Claudia Adrien had to fight for every sentence of her story that her publisher wanted to cut. David Cumming saw me at a bus stop and what started as a photo assignment ended up as a feature in the Alligator. Andres Farfan read about me on Facebook, took some pictures and then decided to submit his work to InSite. All these people because their dedication, passion for their work and time and energy to dig deeper brought my story to the public. Because they cared about doing something they found meaningful. And they wouldn't give up when they were told to drop it. But I have yet to be interviewed by a real, grown up reporter. And I guess they really don't know what to do with me. Even the public station only sent their student reporter to the Academy only after I went there a pleaded with their news assignment director. (The segment openly panned by the CE community never aired). For now, Oprah isn't calling and I have always felt that the very hermetic nature of CE world isn't helping. But again, the same is true with any disability initiative. The media may care about me if I build the nonprofit I've been talking about, but how can I build it without the support of the people that first need to hear about me? Maybe it's time to say it. You may care as do I, but the world probably doesn't. Now what?
Monday, November 26, 2012
One thing I was always aware of was how much my parents had to go through to send me to Hungary. Every day of exercises in the world famous Peto Institute had a price, actual monetary value expressed in dollars. If I remember correctly the meals and overnight stay were charged separately. Foreign currency was illegal to have and my parents had to find off the books jobs to get me there. I was fully aware how much my parents have put into this to make me better, an odd realization to have when you are seven, eight, nine or ten. I don't think my parents meant to put all this extra stress on me, but in my family you could sense a lot of expectation that something will happen, something that will make me better. Progress was the operative word with all the methods we have tried. Thinking of it, planning for it, talking about what will it be like when it finally happens. On my first day at the Institute my dad called me (he was in town staying at a local worker's hotel while I spent the night at the Institute). -Have you made any progress? He asked. And I remember how I replied: Dad, I've only been here a day! I remember it vividly. It was the Fall, September if I remember correctly of 1986. It's not that he demanded progress or that he was mad or disappointed if it didn't happen. But there was a lot of hope for this, that this will finally work that translated into urgency that it needs to happen. And seeing how everybody is excited for this "progress" to take place it was putting all this extra pressure on me. Because what if it doesn't? If I'm not advancing fast enough maybe I'm doing something wrong. It's a huge weight when someone has so much invested in you. And I don't mean just the money although, let me tell you knowing forint exchange rate at the age of seven is probably an odd thing by today's standards- but time and tears and prayers. My parents would do anything to make me walk. They've had a dream of me making my first three steps and they talked about it a lot. Three steps, no braces, no sticks. There was no gadget my dad wouldn't buy me if that happened and no money he wouldn't pay to any therapist that made it possible. He said it a number of times, he'd sell his car, our apartment, just make me walk. All we needed was the darn three steps. I guess this is one thing I didn't properly explain when I talked about my Peto routine. When I tried to explain how on one hand knowing how things will play out has a calming effect on me, while on the other - the monotony that I've adopted into my my life takes a toll, somebody said, well- education can get boring. But in my case this point is flawed. I never rebelled against anything that happened at the Peto Institute because to my family this was more than education. It was the solution to all our problems, it was the central point of helping me get better. The good thing about being at the Institute, sweating and working hard was that I was doing everything I was supposed to. All there was to focus on was now. I didn't have to worry about the future. Back home I've had nightmares. Not being able to walk, being stuck in a wheelchair, that I've always envisioned as one of those big and bulky things you see at the hospitals seemed like the end of life and the end of hope. And yes, if I'm not progressing, I'm failing. Looking back, I have to say, I wish my parents had known a bit more about my disability and the Peto method to find a way to help me navigate my own emotions. Maybe take some ff the stress off. It would definitely give me less to work through as I'm going through adulthood.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
I was going to write about something entirely different, but then my smartphone called it quits on me. For good. As I decided to do the platform update both the network carrier and the manufacturer recommended it chose to froze for a few hours in the middle of backing up data and never unfroze again. Pulling the battery out as many times as I tried it accomplished nothing but brought me back to the same progress screen over and over. I quickly realized that I chose odd timing for such experimentation. Thursday is Thanksgiving so everything will be closed, the day after is Black Friday, when although some businesses will be open and make a killing, mostly stores, services like city buses will not run and possibly couriers will not deliver. I already knew that UPS will not work Saturday and Sunday so if I waited any longer it'd be until sometime next week until I got a working phone. On Monday I'm supposed to be having an important conversation with a client, how can I do it without it? To make matters more complicated, when I tried to submit a claim to my insurer, even as I chatted with a live agent, I was told I need to call their number to verify it. No amount of explanation that I don't have a phone to call from seemed sufficient. My laptop barely boots up for me to use Skype on and I'm waiting on a new one. By some miracle it did on a fifth try. After paying a deductible that I could buy a new phone for I was told to expect one tomorrow. But it got me thinking about the extent we rely on technology again. I went to a birthday dinner at a restaurant maybe two months ago. All the guests were social and interacting with a 1000 of their closest Facebook friends just not with each other. It felt odd to me how everybody was much more involved with their own portable world on the screen that anything actually happening around them. Birthday boy's parents, a couple in their 60's perhaps didn't have a smartphone on the table and felt very excluded. But then I thought about my own behavior. How I pull my phone out constantly to check time. How when it's not there something is missing. How I've learnt to check my messages every chance I get. How when there's something I'm waiting for I even wake up throughout the night to see if it's urgent. But it feels good to go off the grid for a while. I can just relax and enjoy my night for once with the world waiting at home. Without the guilt that there are people that I need to get back to right away. How do I get so worked up? I really enjoyed getting off the grid, if only for a day. Hopefully today I'll get back to things as they are. Blackberry surely owes me. After I put up with their operating system that kept freezing on me they better make it up to me. Either way this week is Thankgiving. With no family in town [or country], I'll dedicate this time to self reflection and eating. I don't expect to blogging until Monday. Have a great and warm holiday
Monday, November 19, 2012
During my time at the Peto institute in Hungary all my weekdays looked pretty much the same. My daily schedule was divided into blocks of exercises that would always come at the same time. You knew what to expect, what would happen next. There was some comfort in the routine, because all I had to focus om was the moment. The exercises themselves followed a script, a sequence we all knew very well. Every day we would have meals at preset times that followed a certain daily procedure that led us to the table. It felt like there was a purpose behind it, that the goal was to do the work and "get better" whatever that may mean to you. With purpose and optimism there was no need to question or worry about the future. And I guess that is what I miss about it: predictability. I often complain that I'm not spontaneous enough. How I like meeting new people that take me out of my routine that often bores me. But I always have a routine to fall back on. In my had I always make plans and lists. I never play it by ear. I stress a lot and knowing what, how and when will happen gives me a bit of comfort. If I'm in court I rehearse, repeat and repeat. i remember how for my trial practice class I would just say my opening and closing arguments over and over in the bathroom to the mirror. Not because I was planning to deliver the speech in its entirety. But with repetition no matter how I needed to adjust I always knew how the different elements went together and transition into each other. If there's a new place I need to get to and I'm not familiar with the route I always try to have a practice run. So I know what to expect. If I go to a party, I figure out when to leave before I'm even there or I secure a ride. I know a lot of my friends are not like there. I remember I went to a classical concert with someone just a few months before I left Poland and they were charged with taking me home, as i took a paratransit to get there. I was kind of surprised when to my queries about what time should we leave and how we get there the answers were more in the lines of when we're ready and we'll figure it out. A lot of my American friends are similar- Josh would always say we'll see what happens and react to the changing circumstances as they unfold. Sometimes we'd find me a ride home at the very last minute or a random friend picked up the phone. It may be more relaxed for some people to just go with the flow and look for solutions only as they have to. I'm talking to a client at 11 and even right now my mind wanders off to think at what time to get up, what to wear and what to eat. I tell myself: It's hard enough with a disability, so I can't risk it and have to give myself the edge. But I can't help wondering- Is it the years of rehabilitation that conditioned me to seek patterns to follow or is it my fear of the unknown.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
I've never heard fire alarms go off as loudly as they did last night. Usually, for the first few minutes you try to ignore it. Perhaps somebody was cooking something, burnt a toast just a little too much and the smoke detectors picked it up. It happened to me before, one time they were even beeping for no apparent reason for over an hour, until the maintenance staff came in to replace the batteries. But this was different. The sirens outside throughout my building started to make a screeching sound. The emergency lights were blinking and firefighters arrived on the scene. I looked through the door watching them go back and forth carrying equipment for a bit before I decided to go out. It was way after 2 am. No chance of getting any sleep or even enjoying the TV shows my DVR had recorded, because of how loud it was there. Oddly, very little commotion outside, as if most of our residents decided to sleep through it. Few decided to bring their dogs out and other critters in cages, but the animals were scared and hardly anything would calm them down. My apartment complex is a big square with 2- stories of apartments on each side and a grass area in the middle. The fire was on the second floor, three doors to the right and up from me, and from the grilled smell you could tell it was a real thing. Even more oddly this the most interaction I've had with my neighbors, some of them I've never even met. People were standing outside talking, trying to guess what happened and who lived in that unit. Some shared other stories about living in their apartments. We chatted for a bit, one neighbor decided to delight himself with a glass of wine, but as many of us went back in drama for more people started. As the fire started, the sprinklers went off, flooding not only the apartment were the fire started but also the ones bellow. Electronics, personal items, furniture, clothes all ruined. Apparently the water was pouring through the ceilings. And it got me to think about how people spend years accumulating things that they get attached to. I've moved around Gainesville way too much to ever make it a home here. Other than a closet full of clothes, suits and shirts that I need for my profession,there isn't really anything that I value or couldn't really replace. I've never properly furnished the place, two years into my lease the walls remain unpainted. I'm not sure what it says about me, if it's a good thing or a bad thing. It's not that I would mind having a cozy little pad but it never happened. I could say it's the money. Or the energy. Or the work. Or the creativity needed. Perhaps it's because it doesn't seem like home? And I saw other people rushing into the apartments to gather whatever pieces of their lives they can collect. In some ways, it was heartbreaking to watch. Some people were pleading with their firefighters to let them back in, gather some essentials. Soon, a representative of the Land lord- Collier Companies/ Paradigm showed up, I guess to help the affected residents, move them somewhere and assess the damage. Soon all got quiet. It was a long, cold Friday night
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
As I was sitting in the audience enjoying a university production of "Ajax in Iraq" I couldn't help reflecting on all the instances I've missed out on a plays, exhibits and movies when I lived in Poland, because of my disability. Here it's just so easy. I have a free evening, I say to myself: I want to see a stage show, what's playing? My disability will never be an issue. Getting into the building will not be a problem. They will have anything in place for me if I tell them I'm in a wheelchair and even if there was some kind of misunderstanding, usually they will just pull a sit out when they see me so I can park there. Buildings old and new, the procedure is pretty much the same. I have no doubt, that from their perspective navigating customers with special needs may be a pretty elaborate production, but from where I'm sitting all I have to do is show up. I didn't get to experience that in Poland. Heck, until multiplex cinemas became widespread in Poland in the late 1990's I didn't go movies that often at all. Somebody had to pull me up the stairs to the building in my wheelchair, then walk up with me up along the isle in to my sit. Pretty steep and as I grew I could easily tip somebody behind me, a step lower who was leading me behind out of balance. When I was very young my dad tried to accommodate me and get me included in those school trips to the opera, museum or the planetarium. Getting me on that bus was often challenge enough. The ride leading up to the event was not enjoyable at all. I knew a moment of truth was arriving. I had to muster all my strength to help my dad if we decided to walk up the stairs. There would always be stairs, you can be sure of that. Every such escapade was painful and stressful for all of us. My dad would pay for each one with incredible back pain, my underarms hurt from where he was pulling me and I would just end up feeling guilty. Guilty and scared that I'm putting him through this and he is trying and failing. Even when my class was planing a trip in advance all I could think of is that I would most likely not go or imagined the pain and the complications if I did. Outside of school trips we didn't even think of planning trying to going to those places on our own time. Granted, my family was never into art that much and after a long week nobody really had any energy to plan a fun a productive way to spend time other than reading, shopping and TV.
But there were shows I would have loved to see. "Metro"- Poland's most famous musical, I must be the last person in Warsaw to not have seen it. But if you hurt the ones you love to see it, you learn not to ask. How selfish would it have been of me? When I was older, before the multiplex area, my brother and his girlfriend would take me to see a movie a few times. It wasn't often and I could probably name all of them. Didn't help with his back problem either. When the new multiscreen cinemas popped up everywhere I discovered I could do it by myself. Just order a paratransit ride for every Friday, grab some corn and see not one movie but two. i guess, I've had a lot to make up for. But for once I could just enjoy myself and I wasn't a burden. When I visited New York I saw "Rent" and "Spamelot" on Broadway. Funny thing. Not all sidewalks had curbs, but the theaters were wheelchair accessible. In Gainesville I've had an annual subscription to the shows at The Hippodrome Theatre for a few years now. I've seen countless student productions, travelling productions of musicals, ballet, and concerts. Some are better than others, but I came, I saw and I took something from it. I've been to galleries, premieres and openings. It brings me a lot of joy to see something as it happens before me live. Culture. I may differ from my parents on this, but I love how it enhances my life, changes my perspective, challenges, moves and inspires. And for someone like me, always watching the life from sidelines until I moved here it makes me feel like I'm experiencing something real, like I'm finally included, without guilt.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Today we celebrate Veteran's Day in America. Buses don't run, mail will not get delivered and some businesses will close. I've decided to take this day to rest and relax, enjoying the longer weekend. For 199 posts I've been telling you about my life and my history. How I grew up in Poland and move to America. How I became an attorney, how my parents sacrificed a lot to send me to Budapest to the World famous Peto Insitute when I was little to make me independent. How Cerebral Palsy affects me and what it's like to be in a wheelchair. What it's like to have a disability that is subjected to a lot of contempt in this country and many false assumptions. I've tried with all my might to make these matters known. And I will continue to try to promote disability awareness and inclusion although I do not yet know how. While many people are initially excited to hear from me, their enthusiasm dies down. Perhaps those are things that not many care about, which explains why we are where we are, but I refuse to believe it. A sad realization: The number one read post on this blog has nothing to do with Cerebral Palsy, upbringing, disability, law and awareness at all. It's the text I've written about my issues with Citibank outsourced customer support. Perhaps I can not get you to care at all, but I shall continue to try. Please watch this video if you haven't already: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NViJKdKgkeQ&feature=player_embedded and let me repeat my plea: let me hear from your disability causes and non profits and let's see if we can work together: firstname.lastname@example.org http://facebook.com/LawyeronWheels, Twitter:@Lawyeronwheels and read about me here;In the press
Top 10 posts
1. Misadventures with Citibank
2. Help us find kids with Cerebral Palsy
3.Gainesville community forum
4.American Dream is not over
6. The Cerebral Palsy stigma
7. I want to do good!
9.This attorney is for hire
10. A blast from the past
Saturday, November 10, 2012
I had to be around seven when they realized that, given any opportunity, I would just lean against any back rest. Conductors at the Peto Institute would from that point on make me sit in chairs without it for better posture and balance. It's not that I minded doing the work or that I rebelled against it. I just always did better when there was a goal, a challenge or a task. When I was a little boy and my mom wanted to make walking around with braces a little more interesting for me, she'd have us go from our house to the local video store. It would take many hours, I'd have blisters on my feet sometimes, my hands would hurt and I'd be exhausted. But there was something for me to focus on, a purpose other than "it's the right thing to do". I've been thinking about it more and more recently since I have gained some weight in the last few years and I feel I have much less energy to do anything. It feels much harder to get myself together. Part of it is age- I'm in my thirties, but once outside my door, I feel much more more active. As I grow older I should be moving more, not less to keep my energy levels up. I've become so comfortable living downtown, just a short walk from anywhere I'd want to be and a bus stop, and yes, I've gotten lazy. I was never skinny as a child, but I've lost a lot a weight and built up strong muscles in the first months I was here. In odd ways I may add. It were not my biceps- I looked more like Popeye. Every day for the first few years it would take quite a workout to even get to the bus. To get out of one of the apartment complexes I lived in I had to roll up the hill that felt quite steep just to get to the gate. it wasn't far but because it was high up it would take me about 20 minutes It was some drop coming home at night! The next one had my apartment in the back of the property. The very last building. It could take me 40 minutes rolling around, part of it the street,just to get out of there. And yet I didn't mind. I lived there for 4 years. I didn't complain or mind, it was something I had to do each day to get my date started. There was a reason to do it. I remember liking to do things around the house and be able to them for myself, by myself. like washing my dishes by hand. Now loading the dishwasher feels like a dreaded task sometimes. I've spent hours of the day going places on a bus and back, switching routes and walking between stops. It's odd when I think how much time I've spent commuting that I considered part of my natural routine. It's still hard for me to do things just cause, and it's getting harder to challenge myself beyond my comfort zone.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
I didn't want to comment on American politics anymore. I'm a resident alien- it doesn't matter what I think anyway . But then, somebody called me a psycho on my Facebook wall, others threw a couple of F-bombs around and I discovered how easy it is to make a Friend into a former friend at the touch of a button. I realized that I'm allowed to have a different opinion, that you can rest assured, I'm not unreasonable to hold views without them being justified in personal experiences. What matters to me and to what extent may differ from your experience. Yet, people were telling me what to think, how to feel, got offended if I disagreed and didn't care to explain, got offended even more if I did. But I realized one thing- if you live half way across the world from me chances are you will never know me and if you're so bothered that you can't convince me that you need to resort to profanity, you were never my friend to begin with. I don't need to live up to anybody's standards but my own. What we feel and how we feel it is our own. And I only need to be true to myself. What inspired me to bring up elections again was not not simply the fact that it's finally over, but that text I saw in the Huffington Post that became incredibly popular on Facebook. Dealing with gay issues, it demanded: If you're voting for Romney, unfriend me. What a silly proposition, I thought. There are many reasons to support or detest a candidate, all personal, all equally valid, many of which have nothing to do with gay marriage or abortion. What matters to you may be not as important to others, because as people we all have our own issues we face. I could easily say "If you care about wheelchair accessibility and me you would never vote Obama". But such emotional blackmail is not only unfair and unreasonable, it's immature. The fact is, that with two issues I care about the most, disability rights and alien regulation the administration record was anything but impressive. It caused quite a stir when the Department of Justice delayed the implementation of the requirements for accessible pools, given that the new Standards for Accessible Design were announced in 2010. The government wanted to make it easy on the private sector; The other is a funny story: I was asked to do a presentation on the new Amendments to the ADA. Try as I may I couldn't find anything that fresh. It soon became apparent, that they were talking about a recent set of guidelines put in place in compliance with ... a 2008 Amendments Act. It took four years to figure out the new procedures, documentation and standards. Every year that a thing like that is delayed it means that I or someone just like me can't get somewhere, use a facility or take an exam in a fair manner. When I tell my friends, they don't believe me. How could this be? They were told that Obama administration is the most inclusive and the most progressive. Some smelled a conspiracy or some evil doing by George Bush. But Bush had nothing to do with it, it's been many years since he left office and his father signed ADA into law in the first place. See, unlike taxes or healthcare, wheelchair accessibility or lack of it is not a matter of perspective or a positive attitude. It's a choice between excluding and including people. A lot of parents of kids with disabilities supported Barack Obama for his social programs, healthcare and financial support. Sadly, as kids grow they will want to be more independent and this will not happen without making the world around them accessible to them. They will want to take a test in a setting that downplays the effect of their condition. maybe they'll go to law school and face the dreaded LSAT.The LSAT. Standardized testing... The recent suits that the DOJ intervened in by producing more discrimination examples show that they have been sitting on all this data, yet, they didn't initiate any suits in recent memory. At least prior to 2006 the LSAT administration was put on probation for failing to accommodate. Now, 6 years after my own struggles with the test, I keep hearing stories similar to mine! Let me be clear. It is the administration that should be leading the pack and revisting their prior measures.
How can you not support Obama- a friend asked- he wants to give you a free healthcare. What is this notion that just because I'm in a wheelchair I want free services from the government. That I'm poor, homeless or on Medicare. I chose a career that would allow me to pay for my own and not rely on others. If four more years mean more of the same then we are in trouble. Wheelchair accessibility can't wait anymore. I don't want anything from the government, but to be able to get into buildings and .. pools. The Obama deportation statistics were scary, but so is the apparent new level of hardship and formalities legal international students now face.
In this election I have softly supported Mitt Romney. Mostly in hopes he could do better. Some of his social stands are foreign to me, but one thing I've learnt as a lawyer is letting go of strong convictions. As I'm not a woman I don't have views on abortion. I just know what the law says. I'm not a big supporter of marriage of any kind in general. While I do believe that people should be able to enter any union between consenting adults they desire with the least state intrusion I also think the government should stop favoring married couples. I do believe in Republican principles in economy. And I'll say one thing: If I can come to America from Poland, push harder every day with nothing but myself and the support my family to go on I believe many more people can and should try harder and do better in this countty
Monday, November 5, 2012
Tomorrow Americans will be choosing their president. Politics screams out from every venue, every medium and website. I don't know about you, but I've decided I need a break. I'm tired of it and I don't even vote in this country. For this one day I choose to focus on the good things in life. What I like about living in America rather than what annoys me. Yes, people here seem to be flying off the handle as the day to decide comes, are probably more divided, angry and dismissive than I've seen before, but I'd like to remind you how giving, loving and open minded they can be. Especially in Florida. It starts with wishing a stranger a good day. A friend from Washington DC observed that back home he wouldn't dream about saying a word to a person he didn't know or starting a conversation on a bus. But then, I had similar sentiments after living most of my life in Warsaw. Everybody is distant, everybody is angry, nobody looks you in the face. It's only appropriate to interact with those in your circles. Work, school, friends, family. Isn't that limiting? Everyone feels so relaxed in Florida, I guess that's what they call Southern mentality. People pass you by and smile asking how your day is and smile. You smile back and respond. Do they really care about how things are with you? Probably not. Every day I smile and nod at more people than I can remember. I'm not going to lie, most of them don't leave a lasting impression. But for that one second it takes to notice another human being we're taken out of our little universe. Things we need to do, errands and shopping lists. The sun is shining, it's a great day and you just had a nice exchange. It will not change your life, but it's a little boost of positive energy. Kindness- pay it forward. I find it strange when I read that a bus driver in Warsaw gets national press coverage for using the microphone to wish passengers a good day. Everybody is so used to them not wanting to be bothered, shutting doors on people, sometimes even driving away. In Gainesville I get a hello and thank you every time. How could you accept anything less as normal? I think I may have written about it before, but when my mom was in town a girl stopped on the street to compliment her on the street. This is America that I love. Where people are considerate and kind. Please don't lose it. Please don't get so caught up in your resentment of each other's politics that you forget what made you great. Because come Wednesday morning everybody will have to focus on mending broken relationships. No matter how this ends someone will be angry and there's just no good way out of this. So, for now, it's Tuesday. Smile at a stranger and relax. Have a great day everyone.
Friday, November 2, 2012
Few weeks ago I saw a movie that struck a chord with me and resonated with my own experiences in Gainesville. "Liberal Arts" - shown as my regular serving of independent and difficult film at The Hippodrome Theatre. A man not much older than me revisits his old college town not that much different from where I live today and establishes a bond with an opinionated, intellectual, well read 19- year old that could have easily been modeled after some of the people I've met. The difference of course being that Gainesville is much more than a university. While in the movie you've had to drive quite a bit to get anywhere outside of school I'm in an actual city. People live here and have for generations. The lead in the film seems somewhat immature, has a hard time letting go of his college experience. That's why he's bonding with the girl who is just beginning to discover who she's becoming so well- part of him wants to mentor her, part wants to be like her or relive his glory days if there were any through her. We find his idealistic recollection of his own college experience through art and literature that he's unable to let go of that is faced with the harsh reality. And it got me thinking about my friends and my own experiences. Yes, I do know people in their late thirties that seem not very much unlike him. They have regular jobs in the city, yes, but enjoy the younger vibe of the town. I call it the "Peter Pan syndrome". With nights of pubs and bars and clubs, "hanging out", no deep committed relationships to speak of the feel stuck in the moment. They could easily move anywhere else, with their skills and mindsets be a great success everywhere they set their eyes on, but they are here. They choose to be surrounded by 19 yearolds, although, trust me, at some point it will only make you feel older, and there doesn't seem to be any end game or any progression. There is only today. There is only this month.
My reasons for coming here were of course different. I was looking for a place where I could not only function and exist, but where I would be liked and accepted. I didn't really have a lot of real life friends before I moved here or many opportunities to meet people. I guess I needed somebody to tell me, you have Cerebral Palsy and that's OK. Meeting those 19 year old kids that were very young, but very open minded and passionate helped me accept myself, because they were accepting me.Not unlike the girl in the movie they were well read and opinionated. Later you discover that it's part naivety, part self created, projected image. Intellectual critic is an attitude just like the hipster fad. But it's what I needed at the time. I also wanted to experience... something. This sense of community, of inspiration that I've known from American films. I've never had a college experience the way people here know it. I came from Poland, I lived in Warsaw, with my parents all through university. I wanted to make memories, I wanted a place where I belong. As a sidenote, I think the movie producers gave this generation too much credit. There are not that many articulate, deep thinking "about things in life" kids that I've met out there, but those that I have did seem very much alike. The movie left me with a quote that I just can't seem to shake off. A prison is anywhere you can't leave. That's how I feel about Gainesville sometimes, waiting for my next big step. Because part of the American way of doing things seems to be,you move out of your hometown for college, you travel a lot, you spend a big chunk of time in your car, you're here, you're there, you meet people, you stick around for a bit, but then you move on