Aging with a disability is a little different from normal aging, I’ve found.
I turn 30 tomorrow, and it’s not a small thing for me. Every birthday, I look past tomorrow.
Throughout the years, I’ve overheard various remarks (“Wow she made it to 18?” “I didn’t know rubella babies had high survival rates” “You can still see?”) all of which were based around the idea that by the time I was 30, I’d be dead or wouldn’t be able to see or wouldn’t be able to hear, or some other combination of what they estimated to be Not Living Life either at all or to its fullest.
Instead, I survived. To stay alive. That would be enough.
I’ve busted through medicalized and socialized expectations. I’ve created my own career, and yes, my vision isn’t going to let me fly a plane or a car, I walk pretty slowly in the dark, but…. I can see. And with adaptive devices, I can hear.
I’ve created my own career, based on writing and telling stories, and advocating for people with disabilities. I have a higher degree, I’m married.
But I keep coming back to a conversation I had with a friend of mine recently. I didn’t survive.
For some, 30 is some scary thing, the thought that oh no, I’m getting older.
For some it’s a mourning of their twenties.
I’m embracing the grey hairs on my head (even though they freak me out a little) because I made it.
Because I’m not going anywhere. I’m writing three books, two of which are guaranteed to get published, I’m working on roleplaying games, and I have a life I like.
The point to all this isn’t necessarily how well I’m doing at life. Because even if I wasn’t doing all the things I am…. I’d still be here.
I keep hearing in various forms that it doesn’t matter. That 30 is just a number. That I’m not any different tomorrow than I am today. Maybe for some able-bodied people, it is? I can’t answer that for others, only for myself.
No, I’m not different tomorrow. But rather than telling me not to celebrate a milestone that I wasn’t sure I’d reach for many reasons – let’s just be glad we’re on the planet together. Think about this or other people with disabilities too – when criticizing how we approach aging, be aware that the systems around us tend to say “no” a lot.
Furthermore, not everybody is willing to dismiss the importance of growing older. Not all of us saw ourselves here. Not everyone has always known they would live, and choosing to live is often a revolution of its own. Choosing to thrive, to live the life you want, and to unabashedly exist is no small thing.
Today is the last day of my twenties, and I’m going to spend it finishing the text on my book and send it into my publisher. I’m going to write because that’s what I do. I write like I’m writing to survive, because that IS how I survive.
Today is the last day of my twenties.
Hello, new decade.
I’m gonna rise up. Rise up. Ever onward, ever forward.
I’m going to take my shot.
Yes. I just quoted Hamilton. I CAN.