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Living Life is Not “Inspirational”

Selfie of Jeffrey VanDykeWritten By Jeffrey Vandyke, Graphics Design Specialist

Because I have to use a wheelchair to get around, my disability is very apparent. You may not know the specifics, but there’s typically a big visual difference between a generically designed wheelchair and those that are a custom fitted piece, which makes me standout like a single neon light in a dark room.

With this comes a wide range of responses from strangers… some unfortunately avoid you on sight like you have been infected by the 2019 version of the plague, others are thoughtful and present their best smile; but then there are also those well-intended, but less than impressive comments, which belong to the “I’m so inspired by the courage you display by in public” or something similar to that affect crowd.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the intent and I appreciate the encouragement, but let’s be real… I either go out in my chair or not at all. Life with a disability for many of us is no more of personal choice than the length of our finger(s), mole on our arms, or shade of our skin. We can either make the best of what we have or not, it’s completely up to the individual living with the condition.

See, all things considered when strangers tell me I’m an inspiration simply for being out and about, it feels as though there simply congratulating me for getting up in the morning. They know nothing about legitimate things I have achieved or had to overcome in my life that might actually qualify as inspirational. I’m seen by strangers as an inspiration because despite my disability, I’m still living life. The way I see it, anyone can choose to get up and live life despite whatever challenges they may face. That’s not what makes someone inspirational. The things they accomplish while living their life and facing the many obstacles it brings are what qualify them as inspirational.

A diagnosis or disability in large part is placed upon you randomly… no approval needed. Our only real option is to continue to live our lives as best we can. Is this feat inspirational? Perhaps, but please don’t confuse what we have to manage with what we do, WHILE we’re managing. If you are a person who is aware of some of our genuine life achievements, we will gladly accept an “inspiration comment,” but there is no need to point out how inspiring we are if you are only referring to our ability to live life like anyone else.