I’ve been told numerous times that I’m an inspiration or am inspirational. Most of the time I take it as a compliment, say thank you, and move on…but now I really can’t deny the larger implications of using those phrases.
It could possibly depend on the context in which it’s said. If someone tells me I’m inspiring for doing ordinary things, like going to the gym, then I would get annoyed. A lot of people go to the gym and exercise nowadays. Others have their perfectly fine reasons for going to the gym, and I have mine. However, if someone tells me I’m inspiring for achieving something I worked hard to accomplish, then I suppose I wouldn’t have a problem with that.
Still though…let’s say a physically disabled person decides to run a marathon, and this makes it into the mainstream media. I have seen this before. I would think that running a marathon these days is decidedly ordinary…not that I’m dismissing or minimizing the accomplishments of this disabled person who takes part in the marathon. What I’m doing is criticizing the media that uses us as inspiration porn or click bait; that this person ran the marathon in spite of being disabled, thus really perpetuating the notion that those of us with disabilities actually can’t do anything. Here’s a newsflash for you: this notion is not true. Do I exist solely in this society as a physically disabled Latina to inspire you, a physically non-disabled person? Nope! I really hope not.
Honestly, if we want to have real, genuine acceptance of disabled people, an acceptance based on true understanding and a drastic shift away from a cultural aversion to anyone different from ourselves, we can’t give in to the visual click bait and feel-good inspiration porn. If you are inspired by someone living their life in spite of hardship, that’s wonderful. If you consume media designed to separate and divide those of us with disabilities from those without, you should be ashamed of yourself.
As for whether or not I myself think I’m an inspiration…I’m going to go ahead and say I don’t know about all that. Right now I’m just super focused on my next steps and reaching and maximizing my full potential. I’m still making my disability fit like the perfect pair of canvas shoes. If that so happens to uplift other people, then I suppose that’s on them. Honestly, if the only thing that a non-disabled person takes away after hanging out with me is that I’m an “inspiration” I would say they need to hangout with me more than they have been. I know for a fact that I possess other traits, traits that go far beyond–and have nothing to do with–my diagnosis. No, I’m not going to list those traits out. You’ll have to find them out for yourself, if you want. Or not; whatever you’d like.