November is a time where I like to focus on gratitude with Thanksgiving coming up. As someone who lives with Cerebral Palsy, I try to be as grateful as I can each day. I have been blessed to have a great support system of cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, friends, and my younger sibling. There are days when being grateful is a challenge, though. I am allowed to have my bad days like any other person.
I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I didn’t have CP. Maybe I would’ve worked part-time in the summers by now or be able to drive a car. I wonder if I would constantly question my worth as a human being if I wasn’t disabled. When I realized that I was different from my peers, I began to feel like an outsider. The older I was, the more intense this feeling became. By the time I was in high school, I felt like I was living on a different planet than my peers.
Contrary to what most people might think, Cerebral Palsy does limit me. I do have things I struggle with and cannot do. Sometimes I wish I could’ve played on a high school sports team or had someone ask me to the prom because they genuinely liked me instead of becoming a viral news story on USA TODAY. I don’t want to be seen as someone who people are around because they are doing me a favor or they want to earn community service hours.
It’s challenging to be grateful when the world doesn’t treat me equally because of my disability. Nowhere has this been more true than in my seemingly endless job hunt. I have been looking for a job for two years and haven’t had any luck. When I pursued a college degree, my ultimate goal was to become employed after graduation. I didn’t want my college degree to be unusable, especially if I would have student loan debt to pay off. Many nondisabled people seem to think that it’s an absurd idea that someone like me would want to be a part of the workforce. I’ve learned that nondiscrimination laws don’t help you when looking for a job because employers don’t even want to interview you after you disclose.
During this time of year, gratitude is often thought about frequently. For disabled people like me, gratitude can be a challenge when you try to fit into a world that doesn’t always accept you.