I am a mother, daughter and friend. I am fluffy-licious and proud, an extrovert. I am disabled, educated, a thinker and a doer, loyal to the very end. I am a sap and a bleeding heart. I am a fighter, creative, set in my ways. I am bisexual, but first and foremost, I am a human being.
I grew up poor, really poor. The kind of poor that most people cannot understand. Yet, I am so glad I did. I learned so much from my mom and dad. My dad was a paraplegic. He taught me strength and courage. My mom worked her way out of the employment trenches to a professional career. She taught me perseverance. I remember my mom washing clothes in the bathtub and sewing my school clothes. There weren’t excuses in my house, never a reason for laziness. We made do with what we had and we excelled in it.
I am blessed with an insane ability to overcome and improvise. I can make anything out of nothing. This has been the foundation of my life path.
Growing up, I was always moving. I don’t think I stayed in one place more than a year until I was in sixth grade. This made me very outgoing. When you are the new kid all the time, your options are to shrink and hide or destroy and conquer. The latter was definitely my style.
I was never popular…loud, brash, fat and always craving popularity. I always wished I could sing or dance really well so people would be enamored with my talents, instead of overwhelmed by my personality.
I was constantly teased until I started fighting back–literally. If I wasn’t teased, I was avoided because I wasn’t shy and quiet, the way a girl should be. I wasn’t afraid of snakes or tools or bullies. I said what I thought and was the first to march for what I believed in.
There were always a few people who took the time to know me. A few brave people who were more concerned with their own drummer than the crowd. They found a surprise in me, a die hard loyal friend. I always tried to help those around me and, I always ended up being the person they came to for help. Those people who became my friends were always amazed at how sensitive I was too…I was playfully teased for crying during an AT&T commercial, even a few tv shows. I couldn’t sing or dance but, I could listen and help.
It wasn’t until my early 20’s that my life seemed to start. I learned some diplomacy, I became confident. I was already a single mom by then with two kids. I worked hard to try and tame the other me that was too much for most people.
As a single parent, I needed to get an education to provide for them. I realized that my ability to be compassionate, to listen could be a career. I enrolled in school to become a social worker. This is where growing up poor and being a fighter really paid off. I worked and went to school and raised my babies. Nothing stood in my way of being a parent or my career/education. There were no “I can’t” or, “it’s too hard” excuses.
Over the next twenty years, I worked hard. I excelled at my employment. I was helping people and working with others to make a difference. The gifts of empathy and compassion and even destroy and conquer became my biggest attributes.
Then, I became disabled. At the height of my young career and age. Now, as I ride a scooter through the store, people assume that because I’m heavy, I am just lazy.
Random people make comments about living off the system and obesity. Like they are an old married couple. They have no idea that I worked all the systems for twenty-five years. They have no idea that I have a severe form of arthritis that has crushed my spinal cord. They cannot fathom that I used to be a competitive athlete bigger than I am now. They don’t consider what it is like to be 40 years young and single and disabled.
I get so angry sometimes. I’m not angry that I am disabled, I am angry at their uneducated, label driven assumptions. I am angry that people feel the need to stereotype instead of understand, support or question. I would love it if someone came up to me and asked me, “what’s wrong,” instead of assume something. I believe in educating people. I believe that people are afraid of what they don’t know.
I am fluffy-licious, I am beautiful. I love my life, disabled and all. I love my labels. I am not ashamed of what my body looks like or the way I must adapt to the world. I don’t regret one thing in my life because each thing, negative and positive, has made me who I am. In social work, these are my strengths.
My favorite term that I learned obtaining my degree was “Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual.” This is how a person is measured, understood and assessed. This is how I wished the world understood and quantified people. What is a person’s quality?? Not quantity, quantity of their size, bank account or number of friends.
I am me, the best me I can be…the only me I can be and, that is good enough.
What is The Human Experience? It is the validity in your story and the story of 7,000,000,000 other people in this world. How do you put a label on being human? You don’t. You open your heart and listen. This is the foundation of our publication, The Human Experience, and we want to hear your story. Join us in spreading the diversity of the human experience with the world by sharing your story.