Monday, August 6, 2012

Measuring Time

While many measure time by clocks, watches, or even sundials (lol), for the past three years, I have been measuring time with an hourglass that revolves around my accident--from the moment that I fell off a cliff onto my back and severed my spinal cord, never to walk again.  

The moments seem so unreal as I look back on them.  I can't believe three years have gone by already.  I remember the months in the hospital thinking that my life was over...that things would never be the same again.  I was fixated on all the physical pain and misery from that terrible moment as well as the long list of my inabilities I had mentally created.  I was torn between quitting and moving on.  It was a big decision to make, but I chose the latter:
I moved on...and it did get better. 

As I reflect upon my experience in D.C. this summer alone, I can recall many moments of learning and growth that have come as a result of the accident--wonderful experiences I never foresaw while in the hospital like this internship in D.C.  Pushing through tough storms physically and emotionally, answering a million questions in my mind and heart, discovering new relationships, managing my internship, and exploring the city have each taught me something new and exciting about myself.

For one, I have proven to myself and others that despite my tendency to get lost easily and fear of getting stuck in a stinky metro elevator,  I can be independent in a wheelchair.  Back in Utah, I had the support of my husband, family, friends, and school--my safety net that protected and made accommodations for me.  I have lived and traveled abroad in the past, but have never had to do it on my own in a wheelchair, so I felt hesitant to live on my own in a relatively big city, afraid of big falls causing breaks in my body without help, afraid that I would get too sick without anyone helping me, and even getting around and doing my own grocery shopping by myself without a car.  As I became more familiar with the streets, the metro, the people, the culture...I found that it could be done, one step at a time. 

Sometimes, things do get rough though because my independence around the district depends on universal design--reliant on civil engineering for businesses, metro stations, cement sidewalks, etc. The fact that I live in an ablelist society becomes more apparent whenever I have to navigate around ridiculously designed metro stations with elevators in inaccessible places (L'Enfant Plaza) or worst--broken ones, but I managed as best I could with that challenge.

Now, if I can do that, I can do even harder things.

As I reach another milestone in my journey, I would like to thank AAPD for the opportunity of a wonderful summer of continual learning.  All that I've learned this summer could not have been possible without their assistance and encouragement.  I now feel more confident in my abilities to navigate this world and am ready to enter the workforce as a productive citizen.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with such kind bosses at Disability Rights International, who really cared about my well-being and growth.  They really are some of the greatest voices of the disability rights movement today.  I am also thankful for the chance to live with and learn from my roommates, Allie and Bonnie--the voices of future disability rights leaders.  I'm thankful for the friends I've acquired this summer as well as my long-time confidants, Carlina and Jeff, and the many ways that they have enriched my summer, including exploring the city and long dinner conversations.  This has truly been a summer worth noting in my hourglass book of events--time well spent.

Thank you all for an unforgettable summer!! Now I am about to take another bold step by flying internationally on my own for the first time, to London, England. Wish me luck!



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