Here's a small essay I had to write about a disability I possess, please let me know what you think as I am unsure whether I'm a good writer or not...
‘Coping with 8’
Fumbling through the local broadsheet newspaper, or trying to receive change from a cashier in Spar supermarket are minor challenges in every day life, if you can call them that. But, for me they cause great frustration and annoyance. Annoyances that will, probably never go away.
Growing up I was always considered ‘a little disabled‘, if there is such a thing, and I embraced that label. Life without thumbs was my physical downfall and although 8 is an even number, it is still two ’digits’ less than a more acceptable 10, when it comes to counting fingers and toes.
Throughout my childhood, I never really noticed this aspect of my life. I liked the way I obtained a lot of attention for being thought of as the boy that was oddly good at art. Most of this came from a very acceptable and friendly primary school, which I went to. And, luckily, I never experienced any bullying related to my difference, with the exception of two very unoriginal comments (both of which came from students of a different school) which didn’t really bother me, but I still remember them non the less. And, with the difficulties I did experience, I had a great supporting family who would always peel a spud, open a packet of Tayto or unscrew a bottle of 7up for me.
Coping with my hands in primary school always brings to mind an essay I wrote in 5th class entitled ‘My Life’. Reading it, I noticed that back in those days, I didn’t seem to have any concern about my irregular arms/hands nor did I sell myself short. I seemed to be proud of the operation I had two year previous, to construct a thumb on my left hand using my index finger, an event which made me feel more odd in later years.
On entering my teenagers I became more conscious of being physically inferior to ’normal’ people. I noticed more people glaring at my hands, wondering what went wrong. The things I wasn’t able to do seemed to take over my life, at this point. Oddly, at this time my family (apart from my mother) saw me as “the go-for“ and thought of me as lazy for not wanting to go to the shop, if they wanted me to. Not realizing the fact that if I dropped change at the cash register, it would embarrass the hell out of me, especially if there was a line of customers behind me, waiting to be served. Now, I’ve been over to Spar supermarket so many times, that I‘ve gotten to know most of the cashiers, and they know to chuck everything in a bag for me - change and all!.
On entering secondary school, I tended to poke fun at myself to give the impression that my problem didn’t bother me. I would say things like “I’m my own species”, because of the fact that opposable thumbs were one of the features that showed that humans evolved from apes, or if someone asked me for ‘a hand’ with something, I’d say, “I can give you two hands, but they’re faulty”.
Gradually, I realised that these jokes began to lose their effect and, in my eyes, I began to feel a bit inferior. At this point I began to feel really low. So much so, that I began to wish there was something more wrong with me rather than just having a small glitch. I thought that if I was more disabled, people would be careful with their mannerisms towards me, they would expect less of me and I wouldn’t have to cope with being ‘almost normal’.
By the time I was 15, I began to read into mannerisms so intricately, that once I wrongly accused someone of saying something derogatory about my ‘hand‘-icap. I confronted this person confidently, as people didn‘t retaliate when I brought up the subject of my hands. However, this person did retaliate, instead of giving in and cowering away from the subject, they hit back and I thank them for that. This 5 minute argument, which eventually we let lie, made me comprehend how susceptible I was to comments, comments that weren’t even directed at me.
Entering Transition Year didn’t help me much. With Transition Year comes a lot of physical activities. And, of course, I shied away from doing any of them. I should have tried, but at that time my philosophy was, “If I can’t do it properly, I won’t do it at all”. That to me was a very noble philosophy, but looking back on it now I realise that I was taking advantage of my handicap to shield me from the embarrassment of trying and failing. This year studying King Lear, one line made an impression on me: “when we are sick in fortune, we make guilty of our disasters, the sun, the moon and the stars”.
Heading towards my last few teen years, ‘Coping with 8’ has become much easier. Physical downfalls definitely alter what kind of a personality you have. Empathy and sensitivity definitely come with having certain disabilities, to some extent. I know now that, things that used to take over my life, can be overcome. I can use a credit card for shopping in a few years time, and I can read a tabloid instead of a broadsheet.
2006 is quickly approaching, the year of doing my Leaving Cert and going to college, hopefully. Thankfully, there are a number of careers in which I am interested in, but nothing definite yet. No doubt it will be a huge change and a major challenge, but one I am looking forward to. I know the unfamiliar cashiers will look oddly at me when I ask them to “put the change in the bag, please”, but with a bit of luck I might be able to somehow become the owner of a credit card.
By writing this article, what I’m trying to say is, moving on is a necessity in life. Excuse the pun, but, in life you sometimes get dealt a band hand or two. Everyone has their own downfalls, but you have to make the best with what you’ve got. When things are unchangeable you just still have to progress with your life. Who needs thumbs anyway? I know I don’t. Well… maybe I could have the lend of a pair when I’m going to the shop.