I feel like when I was younger, I was constantly having to remind myself that I was disabled. I know it sounds like a crazy thing to forget but it never really affected me as a child, or rather I didn’t let it affect me. Physically, I was much slower than other children, walked awkwardly and tired from it quickly as well as having no control over my wrists and limited function of my fingers. Every step I took was a violent kick, followed by a hasty swing of my skinny legs back into position on the ground in preparation for the next one. This was naturally very cumbersome and I would trip and fall often, but in the end, I would always find a way to get my flappy, disobedient limbs to do what I needed them to.
Despite these numerous physical obstacles, I remember my greatest annoyance simply being that I could never win when my friends and I played tag because of my difficulty walking. I also remember feeling annoyed at my constant trips to clinics and hospitals because they made me miss out on golden time (playtime) at school – I didn’t seem to care or notice any other differences between me and other children.
More importantly, other children treated me the same as everyone else, bless their souls. I feel like if aliens came down from space and landed on a playground that all the children would just shrug their shoulders and start playing with them too. People were always telling me that I was so brave and that I was their hero but I never really understood, as far as I was concerned I was just living my life. Yes, I knew that I was different than others, but what did it really matter if I ran that little bit slower or if my fingers didn’t work as well?
My difficulty with running was how I found my first best friend. She was American and slightly overweight, meaning that she also ran slower than most other children. She was, therefore, the only girl in our whole year (grade) who ran slower than me and consequently the only girl I could finally beat when we played tag. I knew that she didn’t enjoy playing tag as much as I did, but every day I would challenge her to play it again and again, revelling in the feeling of finally being faster than someone else.
She was also naturally shy and sweet, fitting together perfectly with my confident, bossy personality. I would lead, marching ahead stubbornly on my flappy limbs and she would reluctantly follow, chubby hand in mine, always smiling and happy to oblige no matter what horrors I made her join in with. I clearly remember hours of her reluctantly running away from me on her little honest, tottering legs with me mercilessly tearing after her, screaming in delight as my curled fingers were just about to claw into her back and tag her out. We were a perfect match. 🙂