This is probably going to be more like a “patchwork post” so bear with me this could end up going anywhere.
Having Cerebral Palsy can be a lonely experience, especially if you don’t have any friends with CP or know anyone older than you who has CP. Things have changed thanks to social media but there are times when that’s not enough.
I didn’t have any serious friendships with people with CP until my 20s but I knew of people with CP so that was enough for me, until I got older. I’m not sure what changed but something tells me it has to do with post college life (and it seems like it doesn’t matter what your ability/disability is).
Your 20s are lonelier than you expect. They’re glamorized in culture as the time of your life. The truth is, when you leave college, you leave the tightest, largest concentration of people your age. You must fight for community. Seek it out. Be brave. Be deliberate. #GradAdvice
— Jon Acuff (@JonAcuff) March 14, 2019
I had a great group of friends in college, especially during the second try, but they were always down the hall, in class, or in the same social circle. The majority of them are/were able-bodied and the fact that I had CP wasn’t really high on the list of topics.
But as our careers as undergrads were coming to an end we were warned, and I should have listened, like even a little.
Once I graduated my bubble was gone, I had to look for my community. I couldn’t just wander down the hall or into the dining hall and interact with people who I knew and knew me. I had to work for it (and I still do), add in introversion and it’s a tall order.
Life after college is where things really started to be different, almost all of my able-bodied friends found “a place to land” whether it be grad school, full time jobs, or ministry. But I moved back home, the last place I wanted to be, and tried to start my life after college.
I never thought of networking my way through college, like some do, and didn’t even consider how being disabled would factor into my future and how networking may have helped (and in all honestly, I don’t think anyone else ever brought it up either).
So, I would sit in front of my computer for hours on end seeking out community (and a job). I did this for two reasons, 1) social media was picking up steam and 2) I didn’t actually want to put forth the effort to go out and meet people face to face, again introvert.
I found a community I had been ignoring because of the internet but I’ve still lost the immediacy of community that I had in college (and by extension my 20s). It’s a “six of one, half dozen of the other” situation, but it doesn’t have to be that way for everyone.
I don’t regret anything I’ve done (or not done) in my life but if I had to give any advice to someone else who can identify with some portion of my life, I have to say I agree with the advice that got my wheels turning when I thought to write about this.
You have to put more effort into what you want to maintain once your environment changes, social bubbles are great, but they don’t last forever; lay the groundwork when and where you can before it all poofs away.