My sister is in town from NYC. Whenever she’s in town I always get super introspective about my life. She is rocking her personal version of success and I am thrilled for her. Then I look at my life and am deflated. I didn’t plan on living in my parents’ house at the age of thirty-two. I’m not sure what I did plan but I’m sure that wasn’t it. For many adults, at least the ones I know their childhood home is a place to visit for a few weeks at a time to recharge their batteries and reconnect with loved ones. When we were forced into the position of having to come to Tennessee after leaving Denver I was crushed. The town that I spent my adolescence in holds very few good memories for me. The awful memories don’t come from my family, not my immediate family anyway. During this time my sister and I were homeschooled and we were often teased and picked on by our cousins and other neighborhood kids for not going to “real” school. Mom said they were just jealous, which was true, but it didn’t help much at the time. Even after we decided to return to public school, a decision I still sometimes regret, I was still shut out. I didn’t go to the school I was zoned for, they claimed they were not equipped to handle my needs and so I rode a school bus for an hour every morning to a different school. I didn’t get to see the few kids in our neighborhood that I was on speaking terms with so that put even more distance between us. They were still my sister’s friends so I still saw them reasonably often but most of them kept me at arm’s length, the same as the kids I actually went to school with. The children in my neighborhood were at least a little better than those I went to school with. Kids at my school didn’t tease me or make fun of me to my face, they just froze me out, because in the American South we grew up with someone in our family who said, “if you can’t say something nice don’t say it at all.” In the South, you also have someone in your family who reminded you that it was impolite to stare at disabled (depending on the age of the relative admonishing you they might say crippled instead of disabled) and a lot of houses both of these things were imparted to you by the same person. The end result was that when I would say hi a lot of my peers would not even look me in the face. They would often cross to the other side of the hallway to avoid me. I’m not sure whether they were just trying to be considerate and not block my path or if they actually thought they would catch something from me.
So when I finally left I wanted to stay as far away as I could from the area. Life hasn’t worked out that way though. Every time I think I have finally settled somewhere else I get yanked back like a yo-yo or a rubber band, or maybe the town has its own gravitational pull and I’m the only one affected. I honestly don’t know what my dreams would have looked like if I had been born without brain damage. I do know that having a disability informed the scope of my dreams. I graduated high school with a 3.0 GPA but I didn’t work my ass off to become valedictorian because if I were going to use Vocational Rehabilitation to fund my college I would have to go to a state school, Harvard and Yale and Princeton and Georgetown were not even a distant hope for me, they might as well not exist. I didn’t really care much about “resume padding” for college either because nothing I would have even considered as a safety school was on the list I could attend. I did take choir but not because it would make me look any better to an admissions board.
The worst part about it is that not a single person ever asked me where I would have liked to go if I had no barriers at all. Not a single person. Many people don’t get to go to their dream school for whatever reason but at least someone asks them what it is. No one asked, not even my parents and it still stings. I’m sure they didn’t realize it or if they did I’m sure they were just trying to be kind. It felt like they assumed I had small dreams, small ambitions.
So when Morgan comes to town and I see that she has flown as far as she ever wanted to I feel happy and proud of her but I also feel just a little bit hamstrung and cheated. Morgan has never made me feel less her she is probably my biggest cheerleader, especially when I don’t think there is much to cheer about. I wouldn’t change her for the amount of money in the world. The green-eyed monster does make its appearance though and what am I to do but struggle with it mightily lest it overtakes me?