The Freedoms campaign has been an eye-opener. On many, many levels.
I was volun-told to campaign for “the freedom to be accepted”. On face-value, this was easy. But as I began drafting my ideas on the matter, I realised I didn’t even know the definition of acceptance…what did it mean at its essence?
I love Google for many reasons – finding the definition of words is at the top of the list. So now I had the definition of acceptance, I could find examples in my life where acceptance had been an issue…easy right? Wrong. Having a disability since birth gives you a certain immunity to behaviours that are shown towards you but are not displayed towards others. Thus, identifying instances in which I may not have been accepted by others took a lot of pondering.
I resorted to breaking it down by aspects of my disability that others may find “unusual”. This was another revealing experience, as I consider myself an expert at forgetting I have Cerebral Palsy (CP). I brainstormed my “differences” and landed on two key things: my speech and my movements. Sussed! I almost continued to write my monologue with ease.
But why do people care?
"Why should strangers care if I was bullied on the school bus, or if I can’t get my point across in meetings?"
The absolute last thing I wanted my Freedom video to be was a sob-story. I am a strong, independent woman with an awesome career – I really don’t have time for pity. I needed to make my Freedom relatable. This is the vital thing I love about the Freedoms. They are not just for youth with CP. They are not for disabled youth. They are not, even, for youth. The Freedoms are for everyone.
Now, I am not an avid social-media poster – and have never posted something about myself that leaves me vulnerable. I honestly hit the “post” button then walked away for a couple of hours so I didn’t need to see the comments. Boy-o-boy am I humbled. The comments, shares, messages and phone calls were overwhelming. Realising that so many of my network relate to my Freedom video makes the whole nerve-wracking experience worth it.
The most profound message I received was from a friend I hadn’t talked to in a couple of years. Beautiful, confident, gorgeous girl. She told me the video had made her reflect on the way she treats others. This was a real boost for me – knowing that if my message had this effect on one person, it may well be mirrored in others.
My final revelation was how my fellow Youth Alliance members told their story, and how I was able to relate in some way to each. This just highlights the universality of the Freedoms.
So, in summary, the Freedoms campaign has taught me:
- It is important to know the definition of the words you throw around.
- Self-reflection is powerful.
- Realise the immunities you have built.
- Everyone has trials, just manifested differently.
- Telling your story is powerful, for yourself and others
This is a part of the Attitude's Youth Voices series. A conversation about what it means to be disabled as a Kiwi youth.
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