Three Things I Have Learned About Myself and My Disability During My First Semester of College – Allyson Clayton

In 2018, I hope I’m stretched even further and continue to grow as a person and advocate. 

You think you know everything about yourself, until something happens, and you realize you know next to nothing. This pretty much sums up my first semester experiences at UNCG. I thought I knew my limits academically, logistically, socially, and in the realm of advocacy, they were firm lines that I held on to for dear life, until inch by inch they were stretched beyond what I thought was possible. This stretching taught me many things, but these three stick out more than the others.

1) Impossible is not stagnant.
You learn something new every day, but you also learn to do something new every day. If there’s not a way already you make one, and if you can’t make one by yourself you find someone who can help. Whether it’s navigating a completely inaccessible part of the campus that is awful if you’re on foot, much more so if you are on wheels, or figuring out a new way to rework a transfer you’ve been doing for years to make it work under new circumstances. If you must, you will learn and master skills that you once firmly believed were going to be eternally impossible.

2) The right people will be willing to do anything to help you when you need it.
Whenever you enter a new chapter I think the thing that is the most unsettling is the initial lack of community, and that’s even more true if you are physically dependent on the people around you. However, when you find the right people, you’ll know it. The friends that I’ve made in my first semester have been life savers.  Whether it’s answering my countless “dumb freshman questions,” taking the long way so we could take the ramps and stay in a group, waiting on the bus with me daily even if it was an hour and a half late and they had plans, or even walking me across campus in the snow, my friends were willing to learn my life and routine in every single aspect so they could help in any way necessary, and in that helped me learn the ropes myself.

3) Living with a disability means not everything is within my control, and that is actually okay.
I guess this should be common knowledge after living in this body for 18 years, but nothing drives this point home more clearly than when you are standing outside in the dark, and the cold, during rush week waiting on a bus that’s already 20 minutes late and nowhere in sight with two close friends whom you can feel becoming more and more irritated. No, the truth is, as much as I try to grasp at control, it was never mine to have. This is a lesson I guess we all must learn regardless of the different abilities we have, but it’s a lesson that some of us have the pleasure (and sometimes pain) of learning in unique ways through our own bodies, minds and circumstances. That night certainly wasn’t the last time this lesson was drilled into me (and it’s not the only time the bus was used in that capacity either, but the bus is another article entirely), but it is indeed the only time it was presented while we were surrounded by a bunch of screaming frat boys in a ROTC-esque formation. 

As 2017 comes to a close and a new semester looms on the horizon, my only hope is that I’m stretched even further and can continue to grow as a person and an advocate.

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