When I turned 16 in September of 2015, it was the first time I felt like I wasn’t my age. This was when many of my peers received their driver’s licenses. Cerebral Palsy means that I can’t drive, and I was jealous. On my 16th birthday, I was able to have my aunt, uncle, and cousin, here for the day. This was very special to me. I enjoyed being surrounded by loved ones on my birthday. I knew I wasn’t getting my driver’s license that year, but my 16th birthday was still memorable.
At 16-years-old, many of my classmates were getting their first jobs. I wanted to join my classmates when they started working part-time in high school. I wanted to save money for my future and help my family out. I’ve always wanted to give back to my family. They’ve always been there for me.
Since graduating from high school in 2018, I haven’t felt equal to my peers. I enrolled at Westfield State University that fall. I was unsure of what my major should be. After my first semester, I chose to major in communications. I wanted to pursue a career in journalism or public relations. I had a fantastic first year and excelled academically, and contributed to the campus newspaper.
I attempted to gain work experience during the summer following my freshman year. I contacted a woman who runs a publishing business. Unfortunately, she works from her home, which is inaccessible. Following that, I started looking at statistics on people with disabilities in the workforce. I wondered if I’d ever find work the more research I did. In 2021, 19.1% of people with disabilities worked in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is up from 17.9% in 2020. I was terrified by the statistics. I began to wonder why I’d gone to college in the first place.
Following various challenges at Westfield State, I chose to drop out. This fall, I am looking forward to pursuing an English degree at the local community college. After earning my associate’s degree, I will hopefully earn a bachelor’s degree in English.
Dropping out of Westfield State has allowed me to reflect on what I’d like to do in the future. I hope to become a journalist or an author in the future. Last summer, I started my blog. I’ve enjoyed writing and sharing my experiences with people around the world. I’ve also joined a wonderful community of disabled people on social media. I feel like there is finally somewhere I belong in this world because of my blog and the disability community. I don’t feel ashamed of my Cerebral Palsy anymore.
As I entered adulthood I began to think about moving into my own apartment. I wanted to live on my own like any other person my age. Cerebral Palsy added some extra challenges to this process. First, I had to find an apartment that was workable for my needs.
Eventually, I was able to find a first-floor apartment that worked. I had a ramp put in and used equipment from my parent’s house to make this apartment more accessible for me. I couldn’t find an apartment with a roll-in shower, so I brought my bathtub transfer bench from home. By the end of the year, I hope to have a roll-in shower installed in the bathroom.
Cerebral Palsy has made my life’s path unique. I have had to deal with difficult circumstances. However, this doesn’t make my life’s journey any less meaningful. I’ve enjoyed the journey so far and cannot wait to see where I’m going next. I am incredibly thankful for my friends and family, who have helped me get where I am today.
Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics Summary – 2021.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24 Feb. 2022, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.nr0.htm.