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5 Things I've Learned From Disney as an Adult With Disabilities

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I’m a Disney girl. I’ve always been a Disney girl. I grew up watching “The Little Mermaid” and “Cinderella.” When asked what I would do if I could do anything for my Make-A-Wish trip, I said meet Mickey Mouse. My best friend and I still go see most of the new Disney movies in the theater. It’s funny because I relate to and appreciate the movies differently as an adult. As a kid, I liked the stories and music. As an adult, they have deeper meanings.

Here are five things Disney has taught me as an adult living with various disabilities:

1. It’s OK to be sad. –“Inside Out”

It might sound silly, but one reason I love “Inside Out” is because it shows me that Sadness is just as important as Joy. I have a tendency to be more like Joy, always looking at the bright side. But as an adult with a disability it can be hard to see your peers do things that you can’t or haven’t done yet. Things related to working, friendships / relationships, and becoming independent from your family. Figuring out this stuff is hard enough when you have a disability or chronic illness. But, when you see your friends and peers doing them “without any trouble” it can be hard. It’s OK to feel sad, scared or frustrated… feeling those emotions is just as important as being happy.

2. Dare to do things that scare you. “Finding Dory”

I love this movie so much. One scene stands out for me, though. It is when Dory wants to go through the pipes to find her parents in quarantine. She’s scared because she was given directions by two crabs but they aren’t able to go with her. “I can’t be somewhere where I have nobody to help me.” I have low vision (totally relate to Destiny) and it can be scary for me to go places by myself. I get nervous in unfamiliar places because I worry about things like going off curbs and down steps in my power wheelchair. But like Dory, sometimes you have to do things that scare you. Be brave. Don’t limit yourself by being too scared to do something on your own (within reason).

3. Never stop dreaming. –1950 animated “Cinderella”

Simple enough. Never stop dreaming and don’t put limits on yourself. If you want to do something, try as hard as you can to make it a reality. I say “try as hard as you can” because I get it. Working towards certain goals when you have a disability can be filled with so many extra considerations and complications. You may not be able to achieve all of your goals, or your goals may change, but the key is to never stop dreaming.

4. Have courage and be kind. –2015 live-action Cinderella

This is one of my favorite sayings now. I even bought a sparkly decal with this saying for my wheelchair. I feel like this has always been part of my personality, but I never really thought about it. Having courage when you have a disability can mean many different things. For me, it has to do with my outlook and how I approach various situations. It’s kind of a combination of everything I’ve described. Understanding that there are going to be tough days, but there are also good days. It takes courage to keep moving forward despite all the obstacles that can go along with a disability.

Being kind is a good idea for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for someone with a disability when faced with certain situations. For example, staring. Instead of getting angry or frustrated, I simply smile. I wave to curious kids. I try to remember that most of the time people are not trying to be mean or rude. I approach these situations as learning opportunities. I want to be friendly and educate them. I’m not perfect though, and have definitely had days when this kind of thing gets really old. I know sometimes you need to speak up and and make your frustration known. But on the whole, having courage and being kind is the way to go.

5. Appreciate both the good and bad times. –“Moana”

I wasn’t sure about “Moana” at first but now I love it. There’s one particular line that stuck out to me after re-watching it a few times. Moana’s grandma tells her “Sometimes the world seems against you / The journey may leave a scar / But scars can heal and reveal / Just where you are…” I like this because it’s so true. I have physical scars from surgeries and IVs. While I can’t really see them (they’re on my feet, behind my knees and on my back) knowing they’re there is enough.

If I really think about it there are also emotional scars. There isn’t a specific incident or event that sticks out. I think it’s more subtle, from a lifetime of having to “fight.” Whether that’s through illnesses, physical therapy, succeeding in school, and now work, it’s just a fact. I have to work harder to do what I want. There are also the effects of feeling left out at times, like I alluded to earlier. It all adds up. The point is to try to appreciate both the good and bad times.

So there you have it, five things Disney has taught me over the last few years. Some may say Disney movies are just for kids, but I disagree. You’re never too old to learn something from them.

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Images via Giphy.

Originally published: June 6, 2017
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