Being a Disabled '20-Something' - So, What's It Like Now?

Most of what I have written so far have been stories from my childhood or general reflections. Since recently turning a year older though I think I am well enough into my 20's to be able to say 'something' about it. (But truth be told probably in a year I will read this entry and think... umm girl you were totes wrong!)

I should probably start by describing my friends I ended my teenage years and began my 20's with:

This crowd of incredible, inspiring, self-motivating, intelligent, caring, hysterical, talented, and compassionate hooligans are the folks I went to college with. And they are truly something. I know, at least I hope, we all have friends that we can say that about but I'm pretty confident that if YOU readers... from Australia, India, Nepal, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan, and every other corner of the world were to meet my friends, I am pretty sure you would hit it off with them too. They're just ridiculously great and I love each one of them for their nuances and quirks.
It wasn't until recently that I realized the group of friends I made in college are not your typical 20-somethings. Most 20-somethings are not all in grad school with a desire to help others, and to do so with an equal hand and knowledge of academia, compassion, and a sense of moral right. I think this has a lot to do with the college we went to -- a small school in Massachusetts that requires all of its graduates to hold an internship, and by the time we graduated .. let's just say that the words 'social justice' or 'race, class, and gender' were concepts, theories, and experiences all of us have a wealth of information to speak on. They are not afraid to be out of their comfort zones because we went to school with an expectation that you should be out of your comfort zone, we volunteered not because "it's something you should do for your resume" but because we were curious and interested about the larger issues in our volunteer experiences. They are go-getters to the max. I truly believe that nothing will stop my friends from achieving their futures because they proceed with a determination and certainty that "I am doing this because this will help me reach my future goals, and I care about what I am working towards."

These folks are also the people I shared my first drinks of alcohol with, told me what to do about boys, we helped each other through our first 'professional' experiences at 19 or 20, helped each other with our resumes, supported each other's student activities events, competed for leadership positions around campus, we stayed up all night downing jello shots and racing through papers... and the memories of "growing up" (let's be honest here, I still am) together could go on and on. Towards the end of school and as we each went our separate directions (AmeriCorps, PeaceCorps, grad school, fellowship programs, full-time teaching positions, etc.) we all reminded each other that we got to this point because as much as we like to have absurd amounts of fun (and do borderline questionable things ...ahem..that we vaguely remember the morning after), our work and what we are focused on achieving will always come first. And more importantly, we always continue support and help guide one another through this odd phase of our lives. This time in our lives where people expect us to "Enjoy being young! Live for the moment! What are you up to these days? Are you in school? Are you working? Plan your future and career wisely!" It can get confusing to say the least.

So.... uhhhh... back to the original topic of this entry. All of that is exactly what being a disabled 20-something has been like for me so far. Yes I still get stared at, and no I never know what to tell a guy I have just begun dating about "what my 'deal' is", and I'm still learning how to 'network' like a grown-up, and I am still learning when to say the words "Can I give you my business card?" (before or after the goodbye?), and I'm still learning whether or not it's appropriate to talk to my advisers/supervisors about "What did you do this weekend?", and I'm learning how to hold my own at meetings with the 'big-wigs,' and while all of that is happening I am forever trying to keep my family from worrying, and learning about what an accessible apartment really means, ... and on and on and on...

And that's just it isn't it? It just goes on and on and on. I don't have a magical 5 year plan that has been all laid out with bullet points and career objectives (okay, actually I do but it was REQUIRED...And I also learned that just because you have a plan DOES NOT mean you have to follow it!) The point is that being a disabled 20-something, for me, doesn't really seem all that different from being a 20-something in general. There are a thousand things that I am still learning and I am quickly finding that as I am getting older, I never get to choose what I want to learn, because things will happen before I know it and the event or moment will have passed -- and then I'll just be on to the next thing.. and the next and the next. I have options, will I learn it or will I let it pass? Because I'm such a nerd though I have a tendency to do the former of the two.

Will probably turn this into a blog button!

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2 Responses to Being a Disabled '20-Something' - So, What's It Like Now?

  1. This is a good blog Sandy. I learned a lot about you by reading this one entry. I also like the Keep Calm sign. Can I use it on my FB page?


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