Young and Sassy, By Siobhan Towner
I lead a full and active life. I like to socialise regularly, shop, travel, sing, go out to dinner, drinks and dancing. I was heavily involved in sports when I was younger. Not so much anymore, but still I’ve always been active and like to keep busy.
It confuses me when for example, I’m on my way to meet a friend for coffee, or out shopping by myself and a complete stranger says to me something to the effect of “good on you.” Sometimes, I act perplexed and ask what they mean, though unfortunately this has happened once too often for me to pretend much anymore. Really? You’re going to congratulate me and sing my praises for getting on with my life? This is the 21st century, people with a disability get out in society and participate and even contribute greatly to society. Why is it so great that I’m doing my shopping?
I’m a singer. I work in administration and events in the public sector. I get up in the morning and mostly, I’m excited to greet each day and see what it has to offer. When I hear from people phrases such as “despite your disability”, “overcoming your disability”, “overcoming adversity”, or even “you can’t do that, because you have a disability” – I want to scream.
I am not overcoming anything, I am living. I am living my life the only way I know how, with excitement and a sassy squish in my theoretical step. I exist and as long as I exist I will continue to live my everyday life, creating, learning, loving, achieving, dancing, breathing and yes even doing things like my shopping.
I’ve been pondering the notion of identity lately. How one identifies is owned by them alone. Disability as an identity is something that I don’t much align myself with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disowning, ignoring or denying the fact that I have a disability by any means. It’s just not a way I choose to identify myself.
People in the past have chosen this identity for me if they are describing me or I come up in a story for instance, they will say “the girl in the wheelchair”, or “the disabled girl”. I find people identifying me like this offensive and it shows a lack of imagination to me. However, it also makes me realise how personal of a concept identity is. I don’t like it, because I don’t identify with it and there is so much more to me. There are many of my identities I would choose to name before stating that I have a disability.
I have led a great life thus far, met some incredible people, and have had brilliant experiences. I really have been spoilt and very lucky in my life. My life is defined by what I can do, what I’m capable of, my experiences, and who I am as a person, not what disability I have or the fact that I use a wheelchair.
By Siobhan Towner