A Different Perspective #3

"A Different Perspective" will feature posts from those who are close to me. I thought this would be a great way to let readers 'meet' people who make me who I am today! This post is written by a close friend and a stupendous guy I am lucky to call a friend! S is currently serving in AmeriCorps in Minnesota. 

I met Sandy in the fall of 2008, senior year of college. Up until that point she was mostly just that Asian girl in the wheelchair rolling around campus who shared a lot of the same friends as me. Similarly, she has told me she saw me as “that pale white guy” walking around campus during this time. Even then, I was learning lessons from Sandy. And in the 3 years I’ve been able to call her my friend, I’ve learned many more. 
Attending a small college, it was impossible not to notice her on campus. She was a curiosity for many people. We also shared our campus with a small program within the college for high-functioning mentally challenged students who often had conditions affecting the way they looked. Unfortunately, Sandy was often mistaken for a student in this program, and was sometimes approached differently than she should have been during her time at school. I also have to admit, the first time I saw her, I wondered the same thing myself. The truth is, I had never seen anyone that looked like her, and had never been acquainted with anyone with different physical attributes and in a wheelchair who didn’t have some kind of mental impairment. I asked someone about her, most likely in my brash insensitive way, probably something like “who’s that wheelchair girl I always see, anyway?” Eventually I learned "that wheelchair girl” was actually much more than that. She was someone who no one really had any business making any assumptions of and defining by her physical appearance.
When I started hanging out with Sandy three years later, I was thrown into her world a bit. Going places with her, she’s often a center of attention amongst strangers. And really, you can’t blame human beings for having their curiosity be piqued by something they are unfamiliar with. That is far from exception. What is exceptional, however, is the ease in which Sandy deals with this attention. The ability to blend in at will is something that someone like me can take advantage of in life. But it is not something people small in stature and/or in a wheelchair have the luxury of knowing. Instead, they are forced to understand what comes with appearing different when otherwise, as a human being, they really aren’t different. And the grace in which Sandy handles these situations is amazing for me to see.

By seeing Sandy handle the challenges that come with her disability, she has helped me in handling my own medical issues. Throughout my life before meeting her, I was the one amongst my friends with the most significant medical history and challenges stemming from them. I can’t help but be comforted by watching Sandy’s indefatigable patience in handling not just challenges of being in a wheelchair and appearing different than the majority, but also the enormous amounts of frustration that comes with knowing at any moment she could break several bones in her body (from an accident that would leave the rest of us with little more than a cut needing a band-aid). It really helps me to put the frustration of having a seizure every once in awhile into perspective. I would say to anyone who has faced difficulties from medical conditions, (and even though it’s something I’ve learned from Sandy, it absolutely still applies to her): It could be worse... and even if it was worse, it doesn’t mean you need to let it get to you. It doesn’t mean you need to let it define you.
And she doesn’t. She’s long since being “wheelchair girl” (and I hope I’m past being “that pale guy”...). Osteogenesis Imperfecta is far from the first thing I think of when I think of Sandy. To me, Sandy is much more likely to be associated with memories of weekend adventures in college, her sharp sense of humor, exploring public libraries, and devouring whoopie pies.  As someone to talk to when times are tough, as someone who is simply... a damn good friend. One of the best.

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