The younger version of me has been referenced quite a bit on this blog and I thought I’d revisit that now. So I came across a tweet on Twitter where a disabled user asked other disabled people if they could tell one thing to their younger self, what would it be? So many possibilities but I settled on one.
It’s perfectly alright to be yourself because you are enough exactly the way you are.
When I reminisce about those days, I’m reminded of my mouth full of braces, my awkwardness and my colorful crutches since at the time my crutches were mismatched. One was red, the other green. I was practically a set of Christmas lights. Whatever, right?
Those times in middle school were unequivocally tough. I had just graduated elementary school, the safe bubble I’d been in for several years. Sixth grade would mark the first year without my beloved paraprofessional. Without the support and sense of security she gave me. I’d also have to make an entirely new set of friends who were unfamiliar with my disability. Would they judge me? Make fun of and tease me? I had no way of knowing until getting there. I put up a tough defensive wall with the other students but really it was to protect myself from experiencing any pain. Middle school is in many ways all about self discovery. Adding CP into the mix didn’t make those years any easier, as you can imagine. After all, I myself was still working out how CP fit into my story. Who was I with CP? Is that all the other kids saw when they looked my way?
There’s a big possibility that all this self-doubt and insecurity was just stewing and stirring around in my head. They knew I was more than my disability, they weren’t gonna tease and ridicule me because I didn’t walk or move around like they did since they didn’t need crutches. The voice in my head saying I wasn’t good enough or popular enough was just lying to me. Truth is, I was good enough, am good enough. As for popularity? Honestly, who cares. A few close, goodhearted friends was all I needed and I’d be just fine.
There seemed to be immense pressure to be someone you weren’t back then, all in the name of fitting in. I thought it was enough to deal with on top of trying to be who I already was by default. The person I was trying to be. The person I wanted to be. I’d tell 11-12 year-old me not to give into the pressure. Don’t give in, stop fighting and let that damn wall down. The others weren’t trying to hurt me, they were trying to get to know me. Big difference. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely a few jerks like in this anecdote but the majority of the kids at school were kind, funny, energetic and colorful. At least, as far as I can recall. Besides, middle school is tough for a lot of people. Hardly a “peak” by any means, right?
Truthfully now I barely remember any of it. The fact that I went to the same institution from sixth to twelfth grade, in the same building, made the years blur a bit. Which is alright I guess. If it’s blurry, I can focus more on my future and the mark I hope to make on the world as a more secure, confident person. As an adult. Some days it’s a fight to make sure CP doesn’t win. That the fear doesn’t win. Some days it’s hard, of course. Naturally. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows but you all know that by now. I had to teach myself that being me was acceptable, a safe move. The right move. In retrospect, it was. You know what they say about no regrets.