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To the People Who Say They Are 'Inspired' and 'Amazed' By Me

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I can’t count how many times each week someone tells me I am “inspirational.”  I never know how to respond to such a compliment.

I suppose I should say “thank you,” but often I am left too dumbfounded to respond. The encounter goes something like this — I’m headed toward the bathroom on my floor at work. I press the automatic door-open button.  The motor on the door stalls. Nothing happens.

Still (obviously) needing to use the bathroom, I push my back and behind into the door to slowly guide it open. Another woman headed in my direction sees me struggling and offers to help. I decline her offer, because I really can open the door myself, and I would probably fall over if she took it from me since the whole weight of my backside is now pressed firmly against it.

“Thank you, but I’ve got it, ” I say.

“You’re so inspirational, ” she says with a smile.

There is an awkward silence as I ponder what she has just said. Am I inspirational because I can:

A) Respond to her offer of help?

B) Open a door without assistance?

C) Go to the restroom?

Even though I’m unsure just what I’ve done to inspire her, I’m glad she seems inspired… and also, that I finally made it into the door. I avoid answering her by looking down as I hurry into the restroom stall.

Later in the same day, I get into a cab. I am always particularly inspirational to the cabbies in our nation’s capital. Sometimes they are enthralled just by my existence.

Cabbie: “Where do you work?”

Me: “I work for the DC government.”

Cabbie: “Oh, so you work in there in the cafeteria?” (points toward the food court in my building).

Me: “No. I’m a lawyer.”

Cabbie: “So you answer phones for the lawyers?”

Me: “I answer my own phone. I am a lawyer.”

Cabbie: “Really, so who cooks and cleans your house for you while you’re at work?”

Me (bewildered): “No one. I cook and clean when I get home.”

Cabbie (with mounting, considerable shock and awe): “But your parents must help you, right?”

Me: “Well, I have plenty of friends and neighbors who help me with things sometimes, but I do not need my parents’ help.”

Cabbie: “So…. you really can cook?”

Me: “I hope so. I love food too much to starve to death.”

Cabbie: “And clean the floors?”

Me: “Yep.”

Cabbie: “And get yourself ready for work?”

Me (rolling eyes at this point) “Yep.”

Cabbie: “Wow!  That is amazing.”

Really, Cabbie? Amazing?

I’m not so sure.

You know what I think is amazing?

A double rainbow. The Navy Seals who found Bin Laden. The guy who walked a tightrope across Niagara Falls.

Those things and people are amazing. Me coming home to make a tuna sandwich?


A baked potato?


How about a Mexican casserole?

Well… it might have a little something on the double rainbow, but I’m pretty certain it falls just a little short of true inspiration.

I am just like anyone else in this town — trying to make a living, help others daily, and lead a happy, productive life. I put on my pants the same way you do every morning.

It just might take me 3.7 seconds longer. Do those 3.7 seconds make me inspirational No, no more so than my decision not to give up on myself and just leave the house without pants.

My day-to-day life is not lived to inspire, but to aspire. I start each day with a set of goals and I make it my business to accomplish them before the day is through.

Don’t we all?

Same game. Same aim. Different attack.


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Originally published: April 25, 2015
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