I am definitely not writing this to upset anyone, but I feel as though this is an important issue that needs to be addressed.
Last Tuesday, I was having one of the best and least stressful days that I have had this entire school year. Everything was going well for me that day, and I felt like things were starting to fall into place.
Later that night, everything changed. I was checking my Snapchat stories as I did every other night, and I came across a video of me that someone took and posted to the Iowa State campus story. This video showed me on my Triad heading back from one of my classes on campus, and I took a screenshot of the video and included it as the first picture.
The moment I saw this video, my heart dropped, and I felt absolutely horrible. Embarrassment, shame, and utter sadness swept through me, and I watched the video over and over, constantly worrying how many thousands of people saw it. I just couldn't understand why someone would take the time to make me feel bad about a machine that I need to help me get around instead of even asking me about the situation if they were curious.
The next day, I unsuccessfully tried to put the embarrassing situation out of mind; I felt uncomfortable even going across campus to my classes, and I admittedly kept my head down to avoid everyone.
On Thursday, I experienced the second negative encounter of the week. I was also heading back from one of my classes, and I noticed that these two individuals kept looking back at me. I had a feeling that they were not my biggest fans, so I slowed down and tried to stay out of their way on my Triad.
"My Triad is not an accessory. Most importantly, my Triad does NOT define me. I am more than my Triad and my disability."
To my surprise, however, they also slowed down and confronted me. Angrily they said, "You shouldn't even have that thing on the sidewalk because it's a distraction. If you want to stand out even more, you might as well just hire people to carry you around because that looks like the kind of person you are."
My throat closed, and I had no idea what to respond because I was so panicked and taken back. With tears forming in my eyes, I just kept scooting across campus to get back to my dorm. I've definitely never been in such a cruel situation like that before, and that comment combined with being on the ISU snap story truly broke me and majorly affected the way I felt about being at the school. Sadly, being physically handicapped and riding a machine that is not well-known isn't exactly a great way to make friends easily, but these two situations made me feel even more isolated and different.
After sitting with the hurt for a few days, I realized that I cannot wallow in pity and let the negativity take over. Instead, I needed to speak up about this issue and make a difference in people's lives that may feel the same way I do. Just because my Triad doesn't look like a traditional wheelchair or power scooter, it still is necessary for me to get around.
Not having knees due to my Larsen Syndrome and having all dislocated joints makes it extremely hard to get around, especially from one side of the campus to the other. If I had been in a traditional wheelchair, no video or comments would have even been made.
My Triad is not an accessory. My Triad is not a toy. My Triad is not a way for me to show off. Most importantly, my Triad does NOT define me. I am more than my Triad and my disability, and if you would have taken the time to ask me or get to know me, we probably could have been great friends.
"Please just be nice to people. Always. You do not know their story or situation, and positivity can go a long way."
Please take note from the positivity about my Triad spread on Yik Yak tonight in my other three pictures. These Yik Yak posts lifted my spirits and restored my faith that there are accepting people out there who look past appearance to see the real me. Thank you for again making me feel as though I belong at Iowa State and can accomplish anything no matter how difficult it may be. You rock.
The moral of the story is: please please please just be nice to people. Always. You do not know their story or situation, and positivity can go a long way. I will not let ignorance win, and I do not wish to spread negativity and spite toward these types of people. Instead, I am taking this experience and turning it into an opportunity to increase awareness for everyone at Iowa State, colleges everywhere, and just to people from around the world.
Feel free to share! Negativity did not and will not break me, and I am going to continue proving my point that I can do absolutely everything while keeping a smile on my face.
My Triad & Me 😊