Before You Consider Me a 'Lazy' and 'Disrespectful' Teenager
We all know “that teenager” who’d rather take the elevator than climb up even one flight of stairs. You know the one whom you glare at as she parks in that disabled parking spot, thinking to yourself that she is probably using her mother’s or grandmother’s disability card. The “lazy” teenager who wheedles her way out of PE or any sort of exercise. That disrespectful teen who walks out of the store, leaving her mother to carry all the groceries. The insensitive teen who won’t offer her seat to the middle-aged woman who just entered the bus. The teenager whom you look at and think, “What’s wrong with kids these days?” The teen you point at for using a walking stick when she obviously doesn’t need it. The one you chastise and lecture for being egoistical, lazy, disrespectful and inconsiderate.
But did you know that she actually needs that walking stick, along with the many other mobility aids she uses? You see, her joints tend to fall out of place if she doesn’t. Do you know that she actually needs that disabled parking spot so that she doesn’t pass out from just trying to go to the store? Do you know that she would love nothing more than to carry the groceries for her mom, but its just that she cant do that? If she did, the she would be stuck in bed for I don’t know how long.
When you see her in the bus, do you know that she’s returning from another doctor’s appointment? She traveled halfway across the country with the hopes of getting some answers, but yet again, she’s returning with his claims of her illness being “fake,” ringing in her ears – and she really needs that bus seat right now. Do you know that she actually really likes playing sports? She hates having to sit on the sidelines and watch, but her body really doesn’t give her an choice.
If you look closely at her you’ll see the girl who’s slowly falling to pieces, both literally and figuratively. You’ll see how much she wishes she could be like everyone else her age. She wishes she could go out with her friends without paying for it the next day. She hates not being able to do even the simplest of tasks.
You’ll see how scared she is. Everyday she feels her body slowly crumble bit by bit. She’s scared that one day she’ll wake up and find that she can’t walk anymore because her legs are too weak to hold her up, even with the help of a walking stick. She’s scared because she knows that soon she’ll lose all function in her limbs, she will lose what little independence she has today and will be nothing but a liability on her family. Do you know how much that terrifies her?
Every time you tell her that she can’t really be disabled because she’s so young, she wishes you were right – with all of her heart. But sadly, “teenager” is not synonymous with “perfectly healthy.” Her age doesn’t define her health. She may look 16, but her body feels decades older. She’s only 16 but she’s felt enough pain to last her a lifetime.
Please don’t judge her when she uses a wheelchair. She doesn’t mean to disrespect you by saying she can’t do something for you. If you don’t understand what’s wrong with her, that’s OK. Just a smile is enough to make her day. Please just take a moment to look past the image of the lazy, egoistical, disrespectful, inconsiderate teen you’ve conjured up in your head, and maybe you’ll see her for who she really is –me.
Getty Image starfotograf