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When I Realized My Life Path Would Be Different Because of My Disability

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I love being a cheerleader. There is nothing better than unabashedly supporting friends and family as they go to and from the important moments.  The big ones that define the chapters of our lives, cheering as tassels are turned from left to right and mortarboards thrown in the air at graduations; standing misty-eyed, bouquet in hand at endless weddings; planning baby showers and holding new bundles of joy.

Perhaps more importantly though, there are those little moments, celebratory dinners purchased to recognize promotions, the tears cried and fights resolved as boyfriends, fiancés and husbands are gained and lost, new apartments and homes christened with dinners of delivery pizza and cookies. All of these moments big and small are equally deserving of celebration, and I have never wavered in this steadfast belief. These are the moments of friendship, of closeness and a lifelong bond. As a friend there is no greater joy than being a sounding board, talking for hours and celebrating the moments both big and small.

In the beginning, I kept up and we cheered together moving from educations to first jobs and apartments.  Bottles of wine, congratulatory cards and soon-to-be-dead houseplants graced my coffee table when moving into my first home, but soon an all-too familiar pattern takes hold and lagging at the back.  I’m left running alone to an invisible finish-line, charting my own path, going under around and through the obstacles rather than hurdling over them with ease.

This isn’t meant to sound like the self-indulgent rant of an emotional teenager.  I’ve always taken pride in my ability to chart my own path and valued my hard-fought successes, finding power and joy in simple victories otherwise ignored by my able-bodied peers. With the same hard work, grit and determination that got me here, I have constructed a full life full of travel, professional success and wonderful friends who are the center of my world.  I’m content to let them pass me by, waiting patiently until their lives slow down, until they trip over the complications that come with life and advancing age. While I certainly don’t want to celebrate the misfortunes befalling my tribe, these are moments when I can catch up, wipe away the tears, bandage their scabbed egos and send them back on a crash course to the next big life moment.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened but somewhere along the way, I recognized that my life might not follow this wife, baby, mother, huge career trajectory my friends had always planned for. Maybe those moments weren’t meant to be mine and the smaller successes are enough, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder: have I had all my big moments? When will I wake up and find myself forever left behind?

Getty image by Hackisan.

Originally published: May 22, 2019
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