In my early years of childhood, I lived a very sheltered life, knowing nothing more than the walls of my home. I was a small child, and I had severe separation anxiety at the time, so I would rarely ever leave my parents, and I almost never left home because of my physical handicap.
The first time I fully realized what my handicap meant was my first day of school.
I got to school with no trouble, but the walk to school had been the furthest walk I had been on since I was born. I was taken into my kindergarten class. I was afraid of all the people and adults. The teacher was an authority figure and that frightened me. We were introduced to the classroom environment and all of its pleasures and then it was time for recess. I was anxious to make friends but I didn’t know how to, so I just wandered aimlessly. I was lost, unable to think of how to start, or even where to start. I just kept wandering around.
But something about my physical handicap was new and interesting to my kindergarten classmates.
As I was wandering, I noticed that they were all staring at me and whispering to each other as I walked by. I knew I walked differently because of my handicap. The attention I was getting made me uncomfortable, so I decided to try and hide my handicap by sitting on a window ledge and not walking at all. Nobody came to talk to me; I was alone, until one kid, amused by my disability, started to imitate my clumsy walk. The other kids, thinking this was funny, started laughing and pointing at me. I ran away afraid. As I was running I was tripped, and I hit the ground hard.
This action took the laughter to an even higher level; I had never been more frightened in all my life. All the noise drew in an even greater crowd of children, most of them on the ground rolling with laughter. I didn’t want them to laugh at me; I was scared and afraid, and my heart was beating. It took all my strength to prevent myself from crying.
When the bell rang and they all ran into line, I got up dusting myself off. The teacher had trouble organizing the children, as they were still excited by the novelty of my cerebral palsy. I still saw most of them staring down at my legs, so I didn’t venture back inside until the teacher came out to get me.
This was just the beginning; when gym class came around I couldn’t play football or soccer with the other children. I couldn’t play and the other children would always wonder why. They would ask me, but I was too ashamed to answer them so other kids would give the reply, “He’s crippled.”
The children were curious and wanted to have look at my feet and the plastic casts that kept them in place. Day after day, people would walk up to me and I would hide my legs, but the children would force me to show them my legs no matter how strong my protest. The children would look at my legs with interest and touch my feet as if they had a life of their own. They would look at my legs and at me like I was a monster, a freak, until the teacher came around.
It went on like this for a few years. Every day I would feel hurt in my heart on the bus ride home.
I had gained a huge capacity for perseverance from my torture in the very beginning. I had grown attached to my father and mother, never once taking for granted any of the loving warmth that they would give me as I came home every day. And every morning, I would wake up, get ready for school, put on my casts and see my handicap. I had to suffer the unfairness that life had granted me at birth, whether I liked it or not.
Eventually, my handicap didn’t interest many people anymore. It was just like another boy’s red hair or blue eyes. I had learned to accept my difference and to deal with it. I realized that there are some things in life you had to accept. I realized that I had to persevere, to not give up. I had to think positively and not worry about all the misery of my life. It was critical to my own mental health.
I push myself every day, determined to prove the fact that I can do everything by myself, and that I can do anything I set my mind to. My every thought, my every action, has been directed towards that singular purpose. I do this so that one day I can face my fellow peers and feel truly accepted and equal.