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How I Stopped Squinting My Way Through Life With a Disability

While my vision is limited, I’ve seen a lot during my 27 years in this body. The body that took me 24 years to accept. My entire life up to that point was concentrated on “being normal,” to fit in. To accomplish this goal, I shunned the large books, white canes, and Braillers that were designed to help people like me better navigate the world. Here is why I decided to quit squinting my way through life.

Eighth grade history class. It was time for us to work from our textbooks. I couldn’t pull mine out of a backpack or retrieve it from a shelf. Nope, my book was situated in a large cabinet. Those books were as heavy as boulders. The books’ weight, however, didn’t hold a candle to the alienation I had attached to it.

This textbook dance happened every day. It was humiliating. I felt alone and afraid. I began my high school career with this trauma still weighing me down. The bullies didn’t help things as you can imagine, and I began to squint instead of asking for help reading the teacher’s writing. In short, I suffered terribly.

I felt this way throughout my secondary school career until college, where I took part in a disability studies course. My world changed. It made me realize the strength and power I had as a part of a movement greater than myself. I accepted myself for who I was. I was now free from the prison my mind had built.

The whole “sticks and stones” thing sounds good, but words do hurt and cut like razors. It is important to realize their insults are but skin deep. The only thing these derogatory behaviors show is that the bullies’ observational skills won’t get them into Harvard. They have no power unless you let them have it. Power comes from embracing who you are in every facet.

If you let others define you by virtue of your disability and not your character, you cannot live authentically. My eyes may not work as well as others’, but my heart, passion, and determination work just fine. It is these qualities and others that truly matter in life. You matter.

Disability is not a fate to be resigned to, but a life to be lived, cherished and embraced. It’s easy to give in to bullies’ words, it’s easy to be mad at the world, but it’s hard to keep pushing forward and asking for help when you need it. Stop squinting your way through life. Our bodies and experiences are uniquely ours. Let’s live in them with confidence and peace.

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Getty image by Chris Boswell.