To the girl with a disability:
I’ve written you before when I was struggling, because I thought you might be struggling too.
Well, I have some more thoughts.
I don’t know about you, but one of the biggest insecurities I’ve had to fight is the idea that I stand out.
That when people see me, they only see my crutches.
They don’t see the fact I’m in college and doing well.
Or the fact I live completely on my own, I can travel on my own, I drive a car and do most of the things they do.
They just see my crutches, and the fact that I’m “different”.
The other day, a boy walked up to me and told me my crutches and my scooter make me “stand out”.
Before I go any further, let me clarify a few things.
I know this person probably was trying to relate, perhaps even be encouraging. There is even a chance he’s reading this. So, I need him to know that I am not mad or hurt anymore. I have many years of practice processing stuff like this, and that’s why I’m writing this. Because I wish I had something to read or someone to relate to when I was growing up trying to figure out how to process life with a disability.
This is for the next girl. Who has a disability and just got told a similar thing.
So, to the girl with a disability who’s struggling with the idea that people think she stands out, I’m sitting down right next to you.
This idea of “standing out” because we have a physical challenge, just plain sucks.
Because, I can’t really say it’s not true. I know my brightly colored crutches make me noticeable. And when someone points it out for no good reason, it’s just a painful reminder.
When a group of mean girls said stuff to me in the past, it made me angry, but sometimes it’s easier to stand up to them or just to forget it. Because I can call the girls who I know care about me, laugh and move on.
But the few times, like the other day, when a guy decides to point it out to me, it’s different. It stings a little more.
Even though I know the guy who said this to me didn’t have ill-intent, it still sent my mind into a spiral later. As a girl with a disability who has wrestled with this idea of standing out and her disability being her only defining trait to other people, when any guy says something, it’s easy to believe that’s what all the guys in your life have thought.
I have other girl friends who have a disability, and we’ve talked about it. I think we have all been in similar places.
What I’m about to talk to you about is something I hate discussing. Truly.
Do I joke about it? Yes. A lot. But rarely do I talk about what actually goes on in my head surrounding this.
I hate writing about this, but when I was growing up, I wish I had someone in my life that could relate to my situation. I hate writing this. But I don’t want another girl to sit in her room, while she’s in high school or even college, torturing herself over this. Wondering if anyone else gets it.
To that girl, I get it. Trust me.
To that girl wondering if every guy sees just her disability and if it is going to be the reason she turns out to be the crazy dog lady, I’m here to give you my two cents and 22 years of living this.
I wish I could tell you that none of that is true. I wish I could tell you that your disability has nothing to do with why you’ve maybe never been on a date.
But I am not naïve enough to think that. I think yes, it has probably played a factor for you and me. Am I saying it is the whole reason? No, absolutely not. We play a part in this too.
High school me was so quiet. Even now, I’m a little on the quieter side. And that was a reason making friends was hard for me for a long time.
What I’m saying is relationships, any kind, are a two-way street. Our disability probably has scared some people off to some extent, but I know for myself, I just avoided guys and people in general for years. Because I didn’t want any rejection on any level.
So first, I want you and I to be aware and real with ourselves: not everyone knows how to act around someone with a disability, and we need to all work together to change that. But also, you can’t, and you shouldn’t blame everything particularly in this aspect of life, on just your disability or on other people.
Hear me when I say: I know for a fact, a fact, that every guy does not see you for just your disability. I mean that.
Read that sentence again. And please believe me. I have guy friends who I love and trust who have confirmed it for me. Your disability does not count you out. So, the next thing I want to tell you is, do me a favor, and don’t close yourself off.
I did for a very long time. I convinced myself that dating, marriage and even just having any good friends, was not in the cards for me. Because I am different, I thought my crutches were all people saw and I have fought the idea that I am a burden to people, my entire life.
For those years I was closed off, I undoubtably made friendships harder for myself, let alone something deeper.
You won’t know what the Lord has for you if you’re shut down.
The year I truly opened myself up, I found an incredible group of friends. So, this isn’t just about dating. I know it can be easy for you to even close yourself off to having a solid community. I’ve done it. Don’t do it.
But to that point of dating and guys, hear this next part and know that while this has taken me a long time to get to, I’m serious.
I am thankful to be a master 3rd wheel and for my very single singleness of 22 years.
No, like for real. Again, I was not always in this place, but hear me out now.
As a girl with a disability, I have been down the rabbit hole of wondering about the future time and time again, wrestling with how much my disability affects others’ view of me.
But over the past four or five years, I have learned how much of a blessing is found in the fact that I’ve never dated. And here’s what I’ve got for you:
I’ve sat with friends who just had their heart broken and then had to start over, with no clue how to be alone.
If you’re like me, you’ve never had that happen. You could hear that and say: “Jordan, that means you’ve never been in a relationship, and that is what I’m afraid of.”
Perspective is important, so let me give you my reality, that could be very similar to yours.
I’ve never been in a dating relationship. And my disability has played a part in that. I have had one really hurtful situation in my life that would’ve been 10 times worse if I was actually dating the guy.
Looking at that and what I’ve seen friends go through, please hear me when I say you’ve probably been saved from a lot of pain that other girls have had to go through.
The second part of this is, as cliché as it sounds, is that I’ve had 22 years to figure out who I, by myself, am.
I’ve had 22 years to figure out what’s important to me and what my identity is.
And sure, in certain moments it has been and is hard. Like in high school, for instance, when everyone was going to Homecoming and I wasn’t. Or now in college, when it feels like weekly, my Facebook feed is full of new engagement and wedding posts.
But looking back now, I’ve had time to learn what is actually important. In high school, I was never distracted by pointless drama or other junk that would be gone in a few years. And these years in college, I’ve been able figure out all these things I’m about to tell you about myself, and more.
In my 22 years, this is what the spiral of “My CP is the reason I will be single forever” have taught me:
First, that saying relationships can’t happen for someone with a disability isn’t true. Someone could come along, and everything that happens for any other girl could happen to me.
But second, if it doesn’t, I have intentionally used this time to be okay with that. Truly. I am.
Because I know these things about myself:
I am a daughter of a King, who has a plan for my life that is far greater than anything I can dream of. Married or single, His plan is epic for me.
I am a sister and a daughter to my brother and parents. And every day, I can learn how to be better to them in some way.
I am a friend who loves deeply. And every day, I can find true joy in being there for people who have been there for me.
I am a writer, who has big dreams that will hopefully sit on bookstore shelves.
I am a voice for the community of kids and people with medical challenges, and I do not take that lightly.
I am a dog lover, sports fanatic, coffee addict and horseback rider.
I am a loud laugher and complete goofball around the people I love.
I am someone with plenty of embarrassing nicknames.
I love a good story. I mean like really love a good story. On the big screen or on pages, I’m here for stories.
I am a Ben and Jerry’s aficionado, and I will die if I ever get to go to The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.
There are so many other things I’ve learned about myself. Really.
But more than anything, I am confident, deeply confident, in the first thing I told you. I know how to have and what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. I am dependent on it and fulfilled by it.
To that girl wondering if every guy sees her just for her disability and if it is going to be the reason she turns out to be the single, crazy dog lady, here’s what you need to know and do.
Your disability doesn’t count you out. He could come along. You could be the one your friends are standing with on your big day instead of you only standing with them on theirs.
But you have to do two things.
Open yourself up to people, and learn who you are.
Because if you don’t do those things, especially the latter, you’re doing what you’re afraid of other people doing. You’re only seeing yourself for your disability.
The world tells you that this one aspect of life is everything. It’s not.
You’ll be okay with or without it. Just know who you are.
Make your list of things, like the one I just wrote to you about myself.
So that, no matter what, you can stand with that. Knowing your purpose and your identity.
Because you do stand out.
But guess what? The thing that makes you stand out is not all of you, and it’s not a bad thing.
Be intentional with your time, don’t listen to the lies or the world.
When you do those things, life gets a lot sweeter. I promise.