Please watch the commercial below before reading on (it is short):
That ad hit me like a punch to the gut. Do you know why? Because I first related to the uncomfortable girl before I associated with the “Radiohead fan.” It surprised me.
I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been just as guilty as anyone else of stereotyping people in my own situation… just because of how they looked. I’ve made rash judgements about how intelligent they might be, what their interests are, and ultimately whether they would make a good friend for me.
It could be that I’ve been harsh on those like me simply because they reminded me of myself… a part of myself I hated. It could be that in my desperation to change, be more, to be better, I refused to allow myself to relate to the only people who truly understood my struggles.
Perhaps there’s a reason God hates pride.
In my life, pride has led to isolation. I can’t describe the depth of loneliness I feel at moments when no one around me seems to understand what life is really like for someone like me. Unless you’ve lived this life, you cannot understand, and my foolish pride kept me for years from the only group of people who had the ability.
I wasted my adolescence trying to be someone – something – I wasn’t. I wanted to be Cinderella. I wanted the Prince and the carriage and the glass slippers. But since my reality didn’t fit with the fairytale, I just tried to fool everyone else into thinking I didn’t have a disability. I didn’t need help. I had no limits. And I even had myself fooled some of the time, but if another person with a disability dared remind me of the truth, my happy little spell faded back like pumpkins and mice at the stroke of midnight.
So I shut out reality and, in my mind, I became the girl in this commercial, disconnected and staring. The horrifying part is that I am, of course, both people. I am acutely aware of the stares I receive in public (especially while eating at restaurants), so I am certainly in the “Radiohead fan’s” shoes… just wanting to be seen as a person. On the other hand, I’ve been guilty for so long of doing exactly what the girl does. I’ve been nervous. I’ve felt awkward and uncertain. I’ve stared and done most of the things I’ve hated being done to me!
I suppose that makes me a hypocrite.
But I don’t want to be.
Over the last year, I have had the privilege of getting to know so many of my “AMC Family” (others from around the world who are affected by the same disability). It has been a time of growing for me. I am learning how to be comfortable with who I am, pumpkins, mice and all. I am learning not to shudder at the word, “disability.” I’m learning that people like me are just people, like me.
My pride is suffocating and I can finally breathe.
I believe that all things can be used for good… even my history of confused identity. Maybe, since I see myself as a little of both people, I will be able to help bridge the gap between Staring Girl and Radiohead Fan.
Now that would be worth turning in my glass slippers for.