Choosing to be my own mentor!Yash Vardhan
Handicap is a term that implies helplessness. A term used to describe an individual with disabilities, usually mental or physical. I was not born handicapped, not mentally nor physically. But a day came when everything changed, suffered a massive polio attack right up my waist to both my limbs! Certain traits I carry as a unique individual have not crippled me; deeming me “helpless” and “disabled” in modern society. As a paraplegic male walking on crutches, I have experienced soul shattering ignorance and gone through heart-wrenching obstacles. Through a great part of my life, I felt like the person I am was a curse, rather than a blessing. But just as a mentally or physically handicapped individual is no less valuable than anyone else, I learned that what I had seen as disabilities did not make me any less valuable than any other individual in the entire world, despite differences in health. In fact, my unique characteristics shaped me to become the strong, proud individual I am today.
My disability do not have a impact on the person I am today. Most of the people expects a lot because of the innerself I carry with me. Day after day, expected to act some way or speak another. Unfortunately, in modern society, people do not think much for the people having dissabilities. Many believe that they are drop outs and seek attention every moment. Fortunate enough for me, I acquired the knowledge of every single stereo-type I could think of at an early age. Living in a small town, I heard what people had to say about. I initially experienced ignorance all over whether it be at school or from neighbors. Learning that I was expected to be less than a civilized human being at a young age is something I am grateful for, because it taught me that I need to live above and beyond the stereotypes. Today, I am 40+ . I graduated with a decent average, I have been working since the age of twenty three. I am more than satisfied with the person I have become today, thanks to my upbringing.
At times, I would have loved to give up. I would have loved to let loose and do what a lot of my other friends were doing, but I just couldn’t. The reason I stay out of trouble till today and try to be the best of the best at whatever I do is because every day I keep in the back of my mind that many people are expecting me to fail, expecting me to be arrested emotionally,mentally, expecting me to do something, and I refuse to be anything negative that people expect me to be and I will never become just another statistic.
My economic status has also shaped the person I have become today. Many people think that because I worked for good multinationals, I must be rich, but although many think we have it good, we are far from rich. My family is a upper middle class family, my father owned a family business which eventually has to be closed due to so many circumstances, which I do not want to discuss here. None of the jobs are the best paying jobs in the world, but they put the food on the table. My parents worked hard day after day to provide for the family, keep the house running and enjoy some of the luxuries we are used to. There were times where my parents struggled to keep on the gas, the light and even keep the house in general. I have seen them work as hard as they could to keep us at the class where we are at just to keep my late brother and me happy and healthy. This has shaped my personality in a way that I do not take anything for granted. I am grateful for everything I have, whether it was given to me or I worked for it. I worked at jobs that gave good returns as a salary sans job security, but I did it because my parents have shown me through example that you have to do what you have to do to survive. Had it not been for the later stage life struggles I have seen my parents face in this dog eat dog economy, I would probably be another spoiled, lazy brat.
On top of the economic struggles I have faced and the way my life affects my actions, another thing that has molded me into a strong individual is my willingness to live and fight the situation at large. I learned to keep what people thought of me as well. I could not expect sympathy; dissability could not kill me, unless I allowed it to. Since that time, I push myself as hard as possible. Many people believed that it would make me weak or hold me back from performing certain tasks, but today I live above any one’s expectations. Day by day, I pushed myself both mentally, at school and physically, at work and the social gathering. Many of my peers or co-workers watched me time to time and many of them would say, “I don’t know how you do it. I think I would die.” Every time I heared those words I smiled. Those words reminded me that through every single day of my life I am overcoming obstacles many expect to be impossible. This is how my life has shaped me.
While all these made me mentally stronger, my economic struggles made me more appreciative and my background made me more tolerant; through sleepless nights and lonely days where I would sit and think to myself what life would be like if I “came out of the closet?” During that long period of thought I realized that I am putting such great importance on these things which is so easy to overcome, made just as ignorant as those who stereotyped or believed the life style was impossible. I also realized, in the words of the great children’s author Dr. Seuss, “Those who matter won’t mind and those who mind don’t really matter.”
Coming out was a great relief for me, but I experienced exploitation of my strong commitment when I joined the job. People judging my life style, people telling me that you need to do a bit more or you do not exist, people telling me that I had to like one or the other and that I was just confused. There were times I would just want to run away and hide because it was unbearable, but I knew it was something I would have to face because I will never stop experiencing such things in this big bad world. My way of stepping up to the plate was standing up alone for a fierce launching project for a big telecom giant and it is a history in this segment as of now. I reported how much it hurt me to hold it inside and how difficult it was to let it out. I told people that I knew what I was getting myself into and that in a world full of hate and ignorance I might never stop dealing with criticism. As those words left my mouth, I felt my hard beating through my chest. I saw many jaws drop because many people had not discovered what I was made off! My initial professional days has had such a great impact on the person that I am today because it tested me in many different ways. It gave me the strength to deal with exploitation and ignorance from all over. It helped me realize I should not get mad at what people say because people are always going to talk. It gave me the drive to keep going at anything I do.
Everyone is made differently. No two people are exactly alike. For some reason, different things scare people. Not many individuals are open minded and ready for change and their fear of that leads to ignorance, discrimination and hatred for one another. It takes an individual to own up to who they are and be proud of it because all of our characteristics have shaped us in some form. Sometimes individuals hide who they truly are to fit into society, but I, for one, have embraced my personality and have let my characteristics mold me into the person I am today. The idea of embracing who you are led me to write a poem which could also apply to any characteristic one may feel ashamed of. The poem says,
“Embrace who you are, we’re all made unique,
Don’t keep your traits hidden, this isn’t hide and seek.
Seems you’re a bit confused, I think it’s about time
You realize your reflection won’t show what’s inside.
You act so damn confident, but it’s clear you’re afraid.
Now look at the person your lies have made.
Your façade’s your affliction, a painful addiction
You go day to day mixing up fact and fiction.
Your tongue’s never bitten, so why start now?
You smother the real you inside, deep down.
Is it the truth you don’t want them to see?
Do you really want to make yourself what they expect you to be?
It seems so cliché, but we’re all one of a kind
& it’s those who truly matter, that really won’t mind.”
I feel this poem relates to every one because a lot of people are afraid to show the real them. However, in my story, I refuse to be fake. What some people consider a social handicap, I learned is a blessing. Every single thing about me, whether it be my race, economic status, health or sexual orientation, has molded me into somebody I have come to love. The unique parts of my personality have allowed me to open my mind and become what no other might expect from me. I would not be any one else and that should be the ending to every one’s story.
I love writing, because I am a reader, a passionate reader of the events. I try to see how a particular event would and could affect the people living in its immediate surround. Nothing can be achieved without enduring a bitter fight: this is written on foreheads of Indian men and women. Now I have struggles for becoming an entrepreneur after several rejection of my candidature for jobs. One has to wrestle for acquiring a licence, fund and everything for setting up a small business—the regular odds from establishment. However persistent efforts pay, and it always pay.
Because my disabilities do not define my life. Our culture is such that if you do not look like people in magazines and in movies, it is assumed you have a sad life. My life is not so different from others: I graduated from college (with honors), I hold a Master’s degree from University, I am a certified spiritual trainer, and I have 20 years of full-time work experience in administration, project management and supply chain management. I drive my car. I have traveled to most of the places in India, mostly self driving. Why do I feel I have a happy, satisfied and peaceful life? No doubt most of it is due to my faith. I know I am never alone. That is not to say I never have a bad day, but knowing I am not alone and that I am loved by my Lord, my "MASTER" gets me through the rough times and is omnipresent beside me, in me. My wife and my two lovely children are wonderful role models. I feel challenged by learning from them to continue to grow in faith. Of course, none of these would be possible without my parents and my elder sibbling for introducing this world to me. Sadly, they all passed away when I was relatively well off.
Lastly, there are my friends. Some are close by in location, some are not, but all are close by in thought and prayer. I have a group on my email listing of “earth angels” and one email to that group and I know I am lifted in prayer by many.
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