Till I was 15, I was the only disabled person in my family. That changed on May 21, 2008, when my mom and I were driving across the Golden Gate Bridge and a car hit us head-on. My mother sustained life-changing injuries and is now also disabled, using a power wheelchair to get around. Unfortunately, she is much more disabled than I am.
This change in dynamic and life shifted my view of being disabled and the disabled community around me. Before her accident and loss of independence, I didn’t understand what being reliant on a wheelchair meant. I have mild Cerebral Palsy, and while I use a wheelchair to get around, I can stand and even walk around places without a chair; my mother, and many other wheelchair users, are not. The body my mother lost was something I could not relate to, and to be honest, I couldn’t understand the devastation and change of life she was going through.
However, as time passed and I grew up, I began to understand the loss and change. She can’t get up if she drops a pen; she can’t hop in the car to grab an ice cream. The accident, as we all now refer to it, changed not only my mother’s life but also mine. We all need to be grateful for our independence, lives, and abilities because, as I know all too well, they can change instantly.
I am not sharing this to gain sympathy; I am sharing to inspire those around me, perhaps to reflect and be thankful for what they can do, not to ruminate on what we can’t do. I’ve been told I have a positive outlook and often get asked how. The answer to that question often surprises people. I am optimistic because, at the end of the day, what other choice is there? This may be a cheesy answer, but it is how I think when people ask that question. We are given the hand we are dealt, and whatever the reason is, we also have choices we must make in life.