A conversation about pity

Ashley Centers

‘You are capable. You’ve got this.” The man on the longboard said as he left me, after helping me cross the street. I had never seen the man before but those words, those six little words of affirmation, felt so good to hear.

Sure he had helped me, a physically disabled woman, across the street but he didn’t make me feel like I needed the help or was lesser than. He didn’t automatically make assumptions upon meeting me about my life or what I can and can’t do. To him, I was just another person trying to get where I needed to go.

‘You don’t have a helper today, huh?’ the man, probably in his fifties, said to me in the middle of the sidewalk, heading downtown.

‘Nope, my friends are all busy with their own lives. I’m all by myself today.” I said. Trying to explain that I didn’t have a ‘helper(s)’ because I didn’t need one, but do have a bunch of really lovely friends, would be too much work. He wouldn’t listen anyway. They never do.

I’m slow, really slow some days, but I’m also capable. I know my limits and won’t put myself at risk or in danger because I have a lot of living left to do. I will push my limits though, especially when it scares me. That’s probably when I need it most.

I’ve always been a social person. I’ll talk to strangers and love having friends around. People-watching is one of my favorite activities and I have never been friends with silence. There’s a reason (or many) that I love music. I’m really good at reading a person’s character because the vibes he or she sends off radiate for me.

I’m feeling less social lately. Maybe it’s this town. Maybe it’s my crazy anxiety. Maybe it’s just my craziness. Some days the thought of being around people (especially a large number of them, or strangers) overwhelms me. I can’t stay home either, though; it makes me feel unproductive, cranky, and wasteful. These are the days I go hide in my favorite coffee shop, artist hangout, brewery, or the one place on campus that doesn’t make me feel all sorts of awkward. I surround myself with the people I love and a way to create.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, despite my wheelchair or anything else that might make me seem in need of pity, or someone to make every decision for me and live my life, I am capable. I’m just trying to live my life like everybody else. Sometimes I might need more help, but I know when I do and when I don’t best. Rarely will I say no to an offer of genuine help, because it’s very appreciated and I really do love meeting and getting to know new people.

I don’t want people to feel sorry for me or take pity on me because of whatever disadvantage they think I’m at. Treat me as you’d treat everyone else in your life. I make mistakes and am far from perfect. Life is hard sometimes and downright scary at others, but I’m determined to not let it get me down or hold me back. I have enough demons to fight (most of them in my head). I want to continue enjoying people.

The best part of living in Moscow is the people. I really don’t want the best and worst parts to be one and the same.

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