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What Labor Day Feels Like as a Disabled Person Who Can't Work

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In the United States, Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September each year. Labor Day was designated a federal holiday in 1894. That said, the recognition of American workers each year is nothing new.

Celebrating American workers is important because they are the lifeblood of the country.

But, there is one problem. In the United States, there is an unwritten expectation that if someone is of a certain age group, a person must be working for a paycheck. And the people who are not working are often looked down on or seen as lazy. This expectation of being a worker comes about daily through introductions.

Often, one of the first questions I receive from people I meet is “what do you do for work?”  This question leaves me uncomfortable because I am not working. I am 28 years old and I receive disability payments due to my mental health and cerebral palsy. Due to the impacts of my mental health and my physical limitations, finding a suitable job that I have the endurance to keep up with is very difficult.

That said, I have this constant nagging feeling that I’m not doing enough with my life. Instead of spending my days working in an office cubicle, I spend my days traveling to appointments and participating in various therapies, volunteering one morning a week, and taking care of myself.

Managing my mental and physical health is my full-time job.

My impression is that Labor Day focuses on the workers who bring home a paycheck. Limiting recognition of workers to this narrow group ignores an integral part of the community that allows people to work for a paycheck in the first place.

To me, Labor Day has nothing to do with a paycheck anymore and everything to do with helping improve the individual and the community, regardless of a paycheck.

So, this Labor Day, I will also be celebrating the people who are caregivers, stay-at-home parents, volunteers, and people whose full-time job is managing their mental and physical health.

Everyone contributes in their own way. Let’s celebrate everyone putting one foot in front of the other day after day, because we’re all workers in our own way — paycheck or not.

Getty image by lupashchenkoiryna.

Originally published: September 7, 2021
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