If This Shit Doesn't Scare You Anymore, Then You Must Really Be an Adult
At some point in everyone’s life, there comes a certain moment. You never see it coming, and some people may try like hell to resist it, but it gets everyone eventually. You can even trick yourself into thinking that moment has come before it actually has, but you’ll know it when it really hits. I’m talking about the moment that a person realizes that they have really and truly crossed into adulthood. Mine hit me sometime last week, sneaking up on me like a pack of ninjas. This is probably a little odd for a 32-year old to be saying, but let me lay it out for you.
As my post last month mentioned, I moved from my home state of Connecticut to Wisconsin in April. With a little time and distance, I realize now that I was in a massive personal rut at home. I lived on my own, sure. But in every other sense, I was either outrightly miserable, or miserable and lying to myself. I had a job that I enjoyed, but it was in an industry that had no measure of security and no hope of any kind of advancement.
In the interest of full disclosure, and for those of you on the site who don’t know me, I have cerebral palsy, a physical handicap. My case isn’t that severe, really, I just walk funny. But as minor as it is, it informs everything I do. It has to, to some degree or another.
So I have this job, and instead of viewing it as any able bodied person would (I’m working 23 hours a week, I’m never going to going to get more hours, I’ll never get a raise, I can’t get promoted. This sucks), I instead considered myself lucky to be working and settled for a significantly less than ideal situation. A lot of this was knowing how hard it is for disabled individuals to get jobs, and some of it was a lack of motivation. I was happy just to be working, I knew there was no future where I was, but didn’t care. Since my disbabilty made me view myself as a burden on everyone, including family and friends, I didn’t think I deserved a future, and thought I should spend the rest of my life slogging through this hamster’s wheel I had put myself in.
Then I met Kory, and everything changed. I’ll spare everyone the long version of the story, since Sam tells the tale better than I could.
Kory and I started dating long distance in May of ’09. I was happy for the first time I could remember. She has a disability as well, and it gave us a strong common ground to build a loving relationship on. We talked from the outset about me moving to Madison, Wisconsin. At first, this was nothing but a nice idea for me. Since I had so little in the way of an income, I figured she’d get sick of the long distance thing and dump me long before it was economically feasible for me to relocate.
I visited Kory in Madison on Labor Day Weekend of ’09. I almost didn’t go home. Madison is a very disability-friedly place. We could get around as much or as little as we wanted to. She has a real, honest to God, 9 to 5, 40 hour a week job, something I couldn’t come close to accomplishing in Connecticut. I decided right then that I had to leave Connecticut and move in with her. We then began to talk about it as an actual goal, rather than some pie in the sky kind of conjecture.
So, I went home, we continued the long distance thing, and I tried to position myself financially as much as possible for relocation. Not easy, I assure you, especially on $180 a week, along with other expenses, such as rent, utilities, and food. But I did what I could.
Kory came to visit Connecticut in December ’09, ostensibly to celebrate my 32nd birthday, but more importantly, to meet all of my family and friends. I was nervous, mainly because when I had floated the idea of leaving Connecticut to most people, they thought I was insane. Why would I leave when I had a job that everyone thought I was happy with, although I was hiding my dissatisfaction, which left me feeling absolutely purposeless and harboring suicidal thoughts for the first time since junior high. Regardless of what everyone was saying to me, I just had a gut feeling it was the right move.
Anyway, everyone in my personal circle met and loved Kory immediately, finally meeting the person I had fallen so completely in love with, and didn’t give a second thought to uprooting my life for.
I think everyone around me just needed to see what a disabled person was truly capable of in the best circumstances, that we’re capable of more than being people who have to rely on others for everything, as long as the conditons are right. In Madison, I’m using mass transit (impossible for a handicapped person where I lived before), I’m cooking meals (I always thought I was too klutzy to do much more than make sandwiches and use a microwave), and doing many other things that I never thought I was capable of.
Some of this has to do with the fact that I have more opportunities in Madison, and some of it has to do with Kory challenging me and not allowing me to settle for the easiest way to do things. This is what I always did back home, largely because I was more concerned with how my actions would affect those around me than what was actually best for me.
Since we started living together, we’ll occasioanlly talk about getting married. I want to, but in my experience, most marriages don’t work, so I feared that going through with that would be the kiss of death on our relationship.
We were in a mall a few weeks ago, and as we were walking we passed a jewelery store. Kory stopped me and said, “Honey, can we take a few minutes and look at engagement rings?” I said sure, thinking it would make her happy, and as we were doing it, I realized that the thought of us getting married made me happy as well. I knew in that span of a few minutes that I truly wanted to marry her. Screw what had happens to “most” people I know who tried it, and damn the statistics which show marriage to be a failing institution. We want to do it, and regardless of how it turns out, we at least know we will have given it our best effort.
And that’s what true adulthood is to me, really. It’s not some generic milestone, that when achived, makes you a more evolved person. It’s the ability to make your own decisions based on nothing more than your own instincts and desires and to finally stop letting other people’s example lead you.