There are so many things I love about the AAPD internship program, but my getting to know my fellow interns has been one of the biggest blessings of this program, particularly my roommates.
Although they may not realize it, my roommates have helped me come out of my shell. I'm not exactly shy, but I have trouble talking to new people and I tend to be quiet until you get to know me (once you know me, not so much). One of my goals for this summer is to take risks and put myself forward.
My roommates made that remarkably easy. Within the first few days, we were getting along like old friends. It was our first two shopping trips that really did it. You have to get past the superficial pleasantries when trying to navigate the Metro and Metro elevators with one woman using a chair, another using a scooter, and a third who keeps almost getting stuck in elevator and Metro doors (The last one would be me—I’m really bad at getting out of the way).
My roommates have also helped me grow through their encouragement. Krystan coaches me along when I get nervous about introducing myself to new people. Jess is the first to support me when I'm unsure about presenting or disclosing my disability. We are all very different, but we are also three peas in a pod. We're all incredibly stubborn, silly, and optimistic. Most of all, we are passionate about everything we do, especially when it comes to disability rights and advocacy.
There is an innate understanding and alliance that comes from having roommates with disabilities. There’s none of the judgment and pity, but all of the support. There is also an incredible level of humor. I don't know if I have ever laughed so much. If you put the three of us in a room, we will inevitably start cracking up. We've got too many inside jokes already. We've had our fare share of serious discussions too. I've told them things about my disability and my life that usually take me years to tell others.
They’ve also taught me an important lesson (which Jess plans to put on a t-shirt someday): Falling happens. It’s inevitable, both figuratively and literally, when you have a disability. It’s what you do after you fall and who is still there after you fall that matters. Although I’ve only known them for a month, my roommates are people that will be there after I fall. Knowing them, they’ll tease and encourage me until I get back up again. That’s the very best kind of friendship.