I was sitting in a prospective student orientation hearing school statistics. In an effort to create a diverse school environment administrators had percentages they tried to maintain. It didn’t take me long to figure out my admission would be a slam dunk.
And it was. I was admitted; attending was another story.
It’s my first memory of thinking that my “different-ness” could be an asset.
It took me a few years to realize that this was indeed a disturbing thought for a 4th grader to have. That doesn’t mean that there were/are situations where this fact holds true.
There are times when I’ve tried to use having a disability to my advantage. Once you let the genie out of the bottle there’s no getting it back in, so you have to be careful..
Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.”–Josh Billings
Some time during high school I realized that my life was like a deck of cards. Sometimes my disability can be my ace in the hole. Sometimes it’s a joke(r). Other times it’s just another card in the deck.
I’d like to say that most often it’s just another card in the deck. Honestly that’s what I’d prefer. However that’s not how the world works, at least not now, but maybe someday.
I don’t walk around highlighting the fact that I have Cerebral Palsy. Just uttering the words “Cerebral Palsy” leaves people dazed and confused. It does open the door for educational moments but most of the time I don’t have the time, or the energy.
When it comes to day to day living I keep things as general as possible, but it’s pretty obvious I’m in the “otherwise abled” category. I prefer to see myself as just another one of “the guys” for a lot of reasons; a big one being I don’t want to hold my disability over people’s heads.
Think of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” story we’ve all heard. If I brought up having Cerebral Palsy all the time what would that do? It would raise awareness, but would that be for a greater good? I doubt it.
There have been times when I’ve been looking for employment when I wondered if full disclosure would actually work in my favor. I mean companies put disclosures at the end of applications for a reason (& I’m sure they have quotas to fill, just like that school).
There have been times when I really wanted “that” job so the thought of using my different-ness as an asset crossed my mind. But how does someone do that without the potential for backfire?
I’d rather be the best one for the job when compared to other candidates. Not the candidate that filled a quota. I really don’t want to be the person who can’t do a job that everyone knows was a pity hire. (I’d rather not have a job if that’s how I get them)
Having a disability does leave room for other abilities to develop. It’s one of the best reasons to have a disability, in my opinion. As tempting as it is to broadcast my disabilities/abilities for my own advantage, it’s more important to show what I can do and let the work speak for itself.
Life is a deck of cards. Play them well.
*A similar version of this post was written on March 6, 2013