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Growing up as a person with a disability had an incredibly long list of challenges.
I could go through all of them, but honestly, I no longer believe them to be relevant. If you woke up on the right side of the grass (or snow, in my case), then you have challenges in your life.
I spent the majority of my life (I am currently 55) trying to fit into a world that was not structured for me. So much effort was put into creating a world where I would be able to live like everybody else. In hindsight, it was kind of like trying to build a house in the middle of a lake—it just kept sinking.
As years went by, I retreated more and more into myself and my world got smaller and smaller. Emotional safety was the prize I desperately chased. Turns out, it was like trying to catch a sunbeam…not possible.
My quality of life did not improve, and I could not understand why. From my perspective, I was doing all the “right” stuff. What I know now—that I did not know then—was that I was still trying to make myself fit into what other people wanted me to be.
2020—the year that most people thought sucked the most—was my best year ever! I found a life coach, made some incredible friends, read tons of books, learned about hypnosis and meditation (yup, there is a difference), and asked myself the two most difficult questions known to humanity:
>> Who am I?
>> What do I want?
I couldn’t answer either one which really made me slow down. Discussing this with other people revealed the “what is most personal is most general” rule of the universe. In other words, not many people can answer those questions.
Let’s try examining life using cartoons because that’s how I roll:
When I look at my life up to this point, I see myself as the mouse in the hole looking at the cheese that our feline arch villain has placed just close enough for me to get a nose full. Oh, man, I want that cheese but if I step out, there is a pretty good chance I’m not going to make it back.
That was my life. I had so many opportunities, so many adventures, and so much stuff, but at what cost? Decades of trial and error. Decades of success and not so much success. Employment was similar to Russian roulette—were employers going to be kind and accepting, or something else? The positive employers were when I got the cheese—the “something else.”
The epiphany that lead me to sit down at my computer today came from a book written by Elizabeth Gilbert titled Big Magic. The gist of what gave me my “aha” moment was when Gilbert discusses the idea of creativity not being for others but for ourselves.
What? I don’t have to figure out what other people want before I do something? I can do this for myself and consequences be dammed?
The next epiphany was the vison in my mind of me not being the mouse in the hole waiting to become some cat’s lunch. I am the Road Runner and society is Wile E. Coyote. I do not have to fight against anything. I simply step aside and let people deal with their own consequences.
Okay, so, the Road Runner kinda laughs in Wile’s face with his, “Meep, Meep” before he zooms off leaving Wile flat under a rock, on a cliff face, or run over by a truck, but I think this analogy still applies. Wile did it to himself.
What is my point?
Every person on this planet has challenges. Some people can hide theirs better than others, but the challenges still exist. These challenges can be nationality, religion, skin color, physical ability, lifestyle, traumatic events. If I missed your particular challenge, do not take that on as a personal affront, please.
But here is my point: if we take responsibility for what we want in life, it gives us the personal power to sidestep that boulder (that just got launched via the ACME catapult), flip our tails, and take off down the road of our lives that leads to where we want to go.
Do yourself a favor and do not waste another day, hour, minute, or second trying to do what others want.
Figure out who you are and what you want and then work on being, doing, and having that.