For years, people have been asking me the same question.
“Do you wish things were different?”
They ask me what type of job I’d be interested in if I could walk or what sport I’d play.
They ask if I think I’d be a different person.
No matter what the answers to those questions are, it doesn’t matter.
The reality of my situation is that I do have a disability that keeps me from joining the military or playing football. That’s how it’s always been, and probably how it always will be.
Not to say that it’s impossible to improve, but in the grand scheme of things, I am the way I am.
Of course there’s days when I wish things were different, where I daydream about what life would be like outside of a wheelchair. That should be obvious.
Then again, I can’t say whether or not I’d be a different person at my core, if my thought process would change or if I’d even want it to.
Our experiences are by-in-large what makes us who we are, right?
Our pains, our struggles, our failures and our triumphs form the way we think and how we handle any given scenario.
What we deal with helps us grow and become stronger individuals.
Of course, it’s understandable why someone might find solace in a dream, curiosity or imagination when things get crappy, but in that alternate universe, are you really you?
My experiences have given me some level of empathy and understanding for what others go through, especially those who have been robbed of mobility through no fault of their own.
I can better relate to pain and emotional distress.
I’ve been there; I’ve done that (or in many cases, haven’t done that, which helps too).
I’m able to talk about my life in a way that helps people put their own into perspective.
In my own perfect reality, CP free, without the pain, the frustration and the stigma I deal with, it’s likely I wouldn’t be able to connect with others the way that I do.
Nobody would be who they are today if their ideal visions were their reality. If that were the case, nobody would have problems.
That Utopian state of mind sounds great, but as we know, everybody has problems.
Everybody wishes things could be different, or that they could have a do-over or that they were born into another body into another life at some point.
The individual struggles people go through are tragic. Luckily, sometimes there’s beauty in tragedy.
No one wants to hear the story about the person who had it all and stayed that way for the rest of their life.
Our struggles make us unique, different from the person standing next to us.
At the same time, we are able to connect to and learn from others’ imperfections and use what they go through as motivation to go out and make the most of what we’re given.
With this, we can write our own stories full of tragedy and maybe end up with a happy ending that matches up with what we want to be.
In order to get that happy ending, focus on what’s in front of you, no matter how much it might suck, and deal with.
Hypotheticals are pointless. Save them for when you’re playing Desert Island trying to figure out what book you would want to read for the rest of your life.
Maybe it’ll be a memoir about an underdog who achieved everything they wanted to against all odds.
That does happen, you know. Maybe it’ll be my memoir, or yours.
Jacob Barrett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org