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Setting High Expectations in My Life With a Disability

As I approach my 30th birthday, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on where I am in life and where I expected to be at this point. In some ways I’m far from many goals I had set for myself, and in other ways I’m exactly where I need to be. I’m also far better off than I was even five years ago.

We all have disappointments and successes in our lives, and each seemingly compound with each passing year. It’s life. One distinct positive has been my realization that although the world may hold low expectations for me and others with disabilities, they’re irrelevant. Only I can determine who I am and who I’ll be.

While having cerebral palsy may expose me to more overt societal expectations, or a lack thereof, I don’t believe having a disability makes my experience all that unique. But I do believe it provides clarity on the subject. Everyday tasks create hurdles for me that just don’t exist for most people. Alongside those hurdles are the successes I get each time I overcome a new challenge. While my life may have more difficulties, I’m also exposed to more satisfaction when I persevere through them.

I also admit my mentality used to be somewhat timid, as I would internalize the negative expectations I would receive from people. Those expectations were rarely conveyed in an overt fashion; instead I would be told “oh, you needn’t worry about that, you’re doing great” (by just existing) or my willingness to do a basic task would be considered shocking.

After a while, those types of reactions can seep into your own expectations. At times  I’ve asked myself whether a goal was out of reach, not because I didn’t want to achieve it but because I questioned if it was “realistic.” My family and friends have never set those barriers for me, but I often got the message from society, “that’s probably outside of your reach.” Like many young adults, my confidence was fleeting. It could be easy to settle on the less ambitious and satisfying but ultimately more comfortable path of settling for things or goals that weren’t really what I wanted.

On the brink of 30, I now realize how silly all those external expectations are and how they subtly influenced my decision-making. I now know that no one can tell you what you can or cannot do. It’s my life, and I’m the only one who can get me to where I want to go.

Turning 30 should be fun.

Getty image by Kristina Jovanovic.