I’m Still Standing

By Katherine Magnoli

I was born into a large, very musically inclined family.  A fact I have reveled in for many years; because its results had many benefits.

One in particular that I celebrate is that my exposure to a wide range of music turned me into very old soul with an open mind.  

However, even though that is a huge benefit of my upbringing, I will say there is definitely some rough spots. You see, it is one thing to be the youngest, but it is a totally different ball game to be the youngest who is living with a disability.

Now, I could sit here and write a whole article about the obvious; some members of my family over protect me, while others push me to be independent, but I won’t. To be honest, that never bothered me because in the end either way it pushed me to be more independent. No, what I want to talk about is even things that some of my family and friends may not even know that they do.

First on the list, is the eye rolls and comments I receive based on the way I choose to dress. I can’t even begin to tell you how both comical and hurtful this is.   The reason I say it is both is because on one hand they have no idea the amount of effort it takes to reach up into my closet just to bring the hanger down of the outfit I want.  Not to mention; the physical energy it takes to do all the twisting and turning that is required to put on clothes every day. They do not know this, because I rarely talk about it.  I choose not to for two reasons: 1) I don’t like to have people see me sweat and 2) I try to go through life with a positive attitude.

On the flip side it is hurtful because again they are completely unaware of  the amount of soul searching it took to accept my body enough to convince myself that when I put on a tight dress or outfit I look less like Quasimodo and more like Jennifer Lopez. They are unaware of this because I rarely open up about the fact that I spent years allowing comments like; “You would have the perfect body if you weren’t in a wheelchair.” or “You would be the hottest girl if you could walk.” diminish my self-esteem into the size of a toothpick. I want to point out these comments came from past mistakes with guys not family members. With that being said; they do not know that it took years of finding my passion and following it wholeheartedly to gain the confidence to dress the way that I do.

Which brings me to another point that is difficult when being the youngest living with a disability.

I can say in my life that I put a lot of pressure on myself to show both those who overprotected me and those who pushed me that I am more than they ever imagined I could be. Now in many cases this is recognized with great admiration from both friends and family. However, it has been my observation that there will always be that one person who either doesn’t show you any recognition or worse they may even try to belittle what you’ve done. Unfortunately, I have come across both within in my circle of friends and family.

Now please do not misunderstand me, I absolutely adore every person in my life. However,  I am writing this article because I recently saw the movie Rocket Man. Which for all of you who don’t know, is a biopic based on the life of the great Sir Elton John.

Before I go on, I would like to point out that if it wasn’t for the eclectically musical family I derive from I probably would not have been interested in seeing the movie about this great talent. I say this because if it was not for my family, I would not have known any of his songs other than the Lion King. Therefore I want to thank them again for that.

Anyway,  back to my story;  as I was watching I realized many similarities in his life and my own. Now, in no way, shape, or form would I ever compare his out of this world talent and success to my own. However, I definitely related to his constant need of approval and acceptance from those around him.  He feels this way up until the very end of the movie . I apologize in advance if I spoil the movie for some of you.

However, I must explain that at the end he comes to the realization that in order to really live a life of self acceptance and joy he must forgive all of whom he feels did not see his true worth.

This brings me to the point of my article, I want to publicly forgive the men who said those things about my body. I also want to forgive family members who have rolled their eyes or asked me, “What are you wearing?” without any knowledge of the physical or mental preparation it took to get dressed.  I even want to forgive those who don’t see the hard-work I put in to following my passion of writing and advocating every day. I want to do this because in a way I could not be where I am today if it wasn’t for all of that, so along with my forgiveness I want to say “Thanks.” I want to say thanks because if it wasn’t for all of that I could not end this article by quoting Sir Elton John, and saying “I’m still standing,” metaphorically of course.

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