Shortly after I came out of hospital Lewis, who was around seven years old at the time, came to visit with a massive smile on his face.
“Guess what,” he said. “I’ve found you a job!”
He was so excited and pleased with himself. I hadn’t seen Lewis since before my accident and to a child the only change in me was that I had to use a wheelchair to get around. To him, as a child, that wasn’t a problem because the only difference between me and anyone else was that chair. He’d been in town, seen a group of wheelchair dancers and begged his mum to ask for their telephone number so that he could pass it to me later that day.
It was one of my first encounters of such a thing as “disabled club”, apart from one previous experience at Farnborough Air Day where I found some other disabled people waved at me as they went past, acknowledging a fellow disabled person, just like people in a vintage car club.
I had a problem with this. Although I was polite to Lewis and replied with the same enthusiasm he showed me, and I hope I hid my disappointment well, his attempt to help me only reminded me of the life I now had to lead. I was a disabled person.
Now, as far as disabled people go, I am pretty disabled. I need 24 hour care, need help with most things, and I rely on an electric wheelchair to get around.
But I have had relationships and been engaged, have had a broken heart, I get drunk and slaughter songs on the karaoke (too drunk sometimes I’ll admit, but that’s another story) – I do all the things a normal person would do at my age. I am currently working on my career which has its ups and downs like everyone else’s.
The things that occupy my mind are the same things that occupy yours. Trying to keep hold of the willpower to not press the snooze button or to choose salad instead of a takeaway from tea. What choices to make for my career. My daughter’s birthday. These are what I think about, not the Disabled Club meeting people think I go to on a Thursday morning.
There is living life and then there is living a particular type of life. Yes I am disabled, but that doesn’t mean I have to live ‘a disabled person’s life.’ I suppose on that score you can choose the life you want.
Now I am not judging anybody for the choices they make, I am just saying that I believe we do have a choice: day to day life isn’t all big choices, sometimes it’s just about choosing to do what you enjoy, and I personally cannot settle for a life without the normal things that every other able-bodied person wants.
I suppose this could be seen as some kind of denial, and maybe it is on some level. But choosing not to define myself by my disability works for me and I am happy with the life I live
Just one last closing thought – if I was offered a magic pill to walk again right now I would absolutely take it. There would be no hesitation. But if instead it would rewind time and undo what happened that night September 1st 1991, I don’t think I would take it. I would certainly be a very different person today.
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