O.I.ndependence Away From Home 2/3

Continued from previous post

The days leading up to the night of my big announcement was a flurry of the longest days I have ever known. If I could take all the times I had been put under anesthesia then woken up in the recovery room, and lined them up from beginning to end.. for about a month and a half, that would be what those days were like. They were a blur of logistics, of waiting, of being patient, the pain and anxiety of not knowing specific details  I knew I was going to go to D.C., I knew that my parents didn't stand a chance at stopping me, I knew that I could do it, but I hadn't quite figured out all the pieces of HOW yet.

With the patience of my friends, my home school's Disability Services Office, my study away program's Disability Services Office, and the 18+ years of being raised by parents - I knew that things would fall into place. I'm not sure if they realize it today, but the biggest factor in my success of going away was how my parents had raised me.
Maybe it's because I am the middle child of two unaffected brothers, maybe it's because my O.I. is a mild-to-moderate form of the disease, maybe it's because my parents always knew I was capable - I'm not sure if I'll ever find out. But my parents always pushed me to "be exactly like everyone else." Everyone else in this case meaning all of those who were unaffected. I was expected to play sports, to participate in P.E., to put school work before anything else, to use my potential to its fullest before I even discovered it! Growing up I had witnessed countless moments of what, back then, had seemed embarrassing times when my mother would exchange "critical words" with school officials. "Sandy should not this..." and "Why have you put my child in that?!" or "I am the parent and I know her best, she doesn't need this..." there were plenty of "Why have you denied Sandy this?" and even more "You guys are not doing enough for her.." When I was six, eleven, fifteen, these incidents were horrifying for me to witness. I wanted to sink into the gel seat of my wheelchair and never surface again. At the time my innocence felt that BY ARGUING FOR my rights, and for an equal playing field, my parents were only highlighting my differences. That they were only making me stick out like a sore thumb even more!

It wasn't until that moment when I had found something I wanted to do more than anything in the world that I realized what my parents had felt; by that time I was a little more than 10 years older than when I had wanted to hide under the bed every time my mom's broken-English stumbled out of her mouth. So it was out of admiration, awe, and endless gratitude that I began to send emails, made phone calls, held meetings, and made all the necessary connections on my own. This was the most important. I wanted to do ALL of the research, back-work, make all the connections on my own - or at least without the help of my parents. I knew that if I could show them I was capable of doing that much their argument against my leaving would be moot.

There were countless meetings with my home school's Disability Services Office, then hundreds of other follow-up emails with the office at my study away school. Hours of research was spent on navigating D.C.'s metro system, even more time was taken to ensure I would have access to a wheelchair company in case something broke down. I met with my orthopedic and got checked out to make sure that I was "okay" to leave. My doctor at Children's gave me the name of a colleague at a hospital in D.C. who was knowledgeable of O.I. I had to ask thousands of questions about the accessibility of the dorms and campus: would the campus be plowed? What happens if I get stuck in a snowbank? How would I get to the hospital in the case of an emergency? These and many other questions were added to a list that easily became longer than my own 3ft self. How did I think of these questions? Easy: I pretended to think like my parents.
I literally would spend hours alone in my dorm room trying to think of all the possible scenarios that might happen to me in D.C. and consider what my parents would throw out there. As the days when by the questions were either answered, or they were crossed off the list as a "non-issue."

Finally, that day when I would tell them I was leaving arrived.

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