I am not a math person. My aversion to mathematic equations dates to my earliest arithmetic memories. Given my distaste for equations, it might come as a surprise to know that my life often boils down to what feels like a continual deficit.
In tandem with learning basic arithmetic as a pigtailed first-grader, I also learned that the amalgamation of me was never enough. Interactions with my peers, teachers, medical professionals, and the world at large sent me the message that I was deficient because of my disability. I could attempt to rearrange my desirable attributes into tiny piles, hoping to gain exponential worth, but to no avail. Overcompensation for perceived brokenness and the absence of “normal” physical milestones would never break even.
I subconsciously attempted to gain respect, dignity, and equal standing by excelling intellectually. My academic aptitude blossomed as a promising avenue to secure my full humanity. Or so I thought. Though I continued to bolster my education to be noticed for something other than my uncoordinated wiggle, I should have known my arithmetic would never add up right.
I was wounded by a lack of respect, acceptance and, quite frankly, love. The constant critical stares of my peers, year after year, augmented my desperation to prove myself worthy.
Upon the culmination of my grueling college career, I wanted to shout my accomplishments from the highest peak of a snowy mountain. “I graduated summa cum laude! See, I told you I was smart! I told you I was worthy! Please see me now.” Much to my chagrin, this trinket of social standing seemed not to matter at all. People continued to treat me as incapable, a perpetual burden to be ignored or dismissed. Despite my lifelong calculations, my proprietary formula for equality had failed miserably.
The truth of my perceived inadequacies is just that: They are socially constructed. I am not inherently lacking.
Whatever problems other people have with my disability are theirs alone. Should people make the decision to undermine my humanity based on assumptions, that is their choice. I have no obligation to change their minds.
I can only choose to remember that I am indeed worthy, enough, and equal. Just as I am. Just as I always was. If I could time travel back to my first-grade self — the version of me on the edge of self-doubt and contemplating her place in this world — I would assure her of her forever worthiness.
While her math skills would continue to be questionable, her complete humanity was never in doubt.
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