Lessons Learned

Today’s blog is about education and disability, with a twist. We all have things we wished we learned in school over the years, whether it be a particularly niche topic or a life lesson that we encountered late in life. I am no different. A lot of my lessons, though, have to do with my disability. And as I thought about blog topics, a question came to mind.  What are the things about my disability that I wish my adolescent self knew? So without further ado, this blog was born. Here’s my top 5…

1.     The Bureaucracy: The fact is that disability means paperwork. I may have seen glimpses of this in my youth, watching my parents fill out form after form, but I don’t think I ever appreciated just how extensive the bureaucracy surrounding my disability was. You have to get used to forms, and if you’re not proactive, you will get bogged down.

2.     The Job Hunt: I wish someone had told my teenage self just how crappy the job hunt would be. I know that it is crappy for a lot of us, regardless of disability, but I do wish I had been prepared for just how much my physical difference would impact my career search. My inability to do grunt work, for example, made finding that foothold extremely hard. Finding this out earlier may not have changed anything but it would have made it an easier to pill to swallow.

3.     Sexuality Success: I wish I had known that reframing sexuality, doing it your way, was a thing. I’ve written an earlier blog on this topic, but it is worth revisiting because it so fundamentally changed the way I look at my body. Looking back now, I can reflect on just how much I did not enjoy those first few experiences, trying to make my body work for ‘normal’ sex, and how I should have just let it go.

4.     The Community: I wish I had known just how cool the disability community really was. I wish I had appreciated my connections more, and wish I had got plugged into the community earlier. I am a much richer person for it, and I am now comforted by the fact that I’m not alone.

5.     The Power of Positive: Ah yes, the big one. I was always a pretty confident guy, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I truly learned how powerful disability positivity I was. Seeing my physical difference as an asset rather than a barrier is the ultimate lesson that I would love my younger self to grasp. Whether it is my disability opening opportunities for me, the way it taught me to communicate, or the way it made me a more supportive husband, it’s been a huge plus for me. My disability positive journey’s been awesome and I wish I had started it sooner.

And there they are. I am sure there are more, just I’m that everyone’s list would be unique. But whatever age you are, take these lessons as you want. And if anyone sees my seventeen year-old self out there, send him this link!