What I Wish People Who Call My Walking 'Inspiring' Understood
When I went on Facebook recently, I found out I had 170 likes. That’s never happened to me before, and it was all because I took a video of myself walking in a gait trainer. Most of the likes came from able-bodied people who assumed I just started walking. However, as much as I appreciate the love and respect and curiosity I got from all of them, that is simply not the case. I’ve been walking for a long time and those steps I took were just a couple in my long journey called life. Here is my story of all the walking I’ve done throughout my existence.
I’ve never and probably never will be able to walk on my own. It hurts to write that a little bit, although I’m at peace with it on most days. Still, I’ve walked with assistance for a long time. It all started with my mom. She bought me a walker and we used to go on treks through the neighborhood. I felt free, but most of the time I was exhausted. You would see me and that walker everywhere. It was my companion and my exercise partner, and with my parents pushing me I never stopped and never quit.
As I got older though, I stopped using the walker as much because I was getting heavier and was more difficult to handle. During middle school I would use the walker exclusively at the Center for Independence — a place where I would go work out exclusively with other kids who had cerebral palsy. The walker was becoming an ancient relic and was no longer a part of my daily life. However, I would still walk at the center, on parallel bars and sometimes outside with a gait trainer. I still walked with my parents to airport seats and just to get exercise.
My mom and dad had very different techniques for how to handle me. My mom kept her body close to me, but at the same time didn’t allow myself to lean on her, because I was heavier than her and I learned to do more work that way. My dad would just give me a nudge with his knee and that would get me going. As time has moved forward my sister and brother are learning how to walk with me and have learned a lot of techniques and grace from my parents. So my family has always kept me walking.
With all the walking I’ve done all my life, why are able-bodied people so inspired by me? Well for one thing, they’ve never seen it before; I seem to be in my wheelchair all the time rolling. While their enthusiasm can be nice, it takes away from my experiences of it. This is something I want my able-bodied friends to experience and understand. I wish they knew how much energy and thought it takes for me just to create one single step. Some of my walking friends know this, but most of them don’t.
So that video was my mission statement to tell the able-bodied world “look at me move.” I may not move like you, but I’m still grooving and I know advocacy is built on seeing as well as talking! That’s why I need to continue to advocate; even if these videos conjure up the wrong ideas, they are at least showing different experiences of my life that many haven’t been seen before. So you better believe I’m going to keep walking or rolling through life — just don’t expect me to run!
Getty image by Jovanmandic.