Does anyone ever forward you an email about someone “inspiring”? Do they tell you a story? Maybe clip out a magazine article? You know what I mean. These are the stories of someone with one leg who runs a marathon, someone terminally ill who climbs a mountain, that kind of thing. I’ve gotten dozens of these personally, and this week I even saw someone post one of these on her Facebook wall.
I always wonder what people expect me to get from this. I suppose they want me to remember that I can do anything I want to do. Honestly, I think that’s bullshit. I can do anything within reason, sure. But absolutely anything? No. It’s stupid for me to think I could, and I could seriously hurt myself if I try. Can I run a marathon? Not a chance. My knees hurt like hell when I try to run to catch a bus. On a good day I can jog a block or two before they turn to jelly. My doctor has told me not to run. So has my physical therapist. A marathon is just a bad idea. As for climbing a mountain, let’s see…. there’s the fatigue to overcome. Then there’s the knee issue – climbing one flight of stairs is tough, 4 is nearly impossible, so a mountain seems unlikely. And then there are the breathing difficulties. Climbing a mountain seems about as likely for me as running a marathon.
So what these story-providers are saying is that if these other people who I don’t know and will never meet and who have “worse” conditions than I have can do these amazing things, then I should be able to do whatever I want to do. There are some parallels missing here.
Yes, their logic is off. But then, there’s the hidden message, the message that they expect me to be able to do anything I want. Society expects it. We look up to people who have seemingly-impossible-to-conquer limitations, who then conquer their limitations. We learn that this is how we should all live. It gives the impression that those of us who don’t achieve these amazing accomplishments have somehow failed.
This is a huge burden, and it’s entirely unfair. I will never run a marathon or climb a mountain. You know what my great achievement is? I work at a job, I maintain friendships, and I live independently. No one is applauding these accomplishments (except for my mother, who is the greatest supporter I could ever want.) I doubt anyone will want to publish my story. Society doesn’t think this is so fantastic. It takes all of my effort every day to do what others take for granted, and for that, I am told, at least in an implied way, that I’m not doing enough.
Well you know what? Working, having relationships, and being independent is my goddamn mountain. Deal with it!