It’s a new dawn, a new day, a new beginning. So here’s the spin on me.
My life began when I was hit by the car.
I really don’t remember much of what came before that. If you’ve ever coated glass with Vaseline and tried to look through it — that’s what my former life looks like to me. There are a few moments I do recall, holes in the jelly, but those are rare.
Even now, that grease remains. I don’t miss it much, what came before. I had a pretty miserable childhood, from what I do remember.
My brain injury was so many years ago. 31, as of two days ago. Gratefully, or not, depending on how you look at it, I was high-functioning at the time. The best one in the rehab hospital. I wanted to get out of there, and they kicked me out two days after I walked my first steps out of the wheelchair. As if gross motor function was the best indicator of brain activity. As if.
What else could I do? I was missing my teenage years — the other kids in high school were drinking, fucking, driving, fighting and having a great time. Granted, I never fit in very well with them in the first place, but I was learning how to feed myself. I still needed to get the mashed potatoes in the right hole on a consistent basis.
I worked so hard to get out of that damned rehab hospital. I wanted to get on with my life. And it worked. I got out in four months or so. But at the same time, I fooled myself. I thought I could fake being normal (and by that I mean not brain injured). I also thought that I could do anything. That was likely teenage hubris talking as well, but still.
When I got home, there were no other survivors to talk to. There was no community. There was no post-acute care. And I was bordering on normal enough at the time. And I quickly figured out that people didn’t understand, really didn’t care how different I was from them, weren’t interested in what I had gone through, and quite honestly, didn’t want to know the first thing about it in the first place. People don’t want to learn about how others are different from them. And they would rather assume that others are just like themselves, and not think too much about making exceptions.
So I decided, albeit unconsciously, to suck it up, ignore my injury, and be as normal as I could. This mode of thinking I have carried with me for about 24 years. It’s only been within the last six or seven years that I’ve started to accept my injury and work with it.
Of course, getting fired from 90% of all the jobs I’ve ever had might have had something to do with that realization, too. But I’m too stubborn for that.
So somehow I got through high school, despite my anger issues, and losing what few friends I had. I got through college, too, even though I got a severe case of senior-itis about halfway through my sophomore year. I ended up not getting particularly good marks in either institution. But my father is an academic. Education is the only way to go, and I was having difficulty enough finding my shoes in the morning, much less finding my own way in life. So I was only too happy to follow his direction. This seemed to fly somewhat in the face of the non-advice he gave me earlier, just after I’d gotten out of the rehab hospital. “What do you want from me, Dad?” I’d asked. “What do you want me to make of myself?” I was desperate for assistance, fatherly guidance, a push in the right direction. “You’re alive, son,” he’d said. “That’s enough for me.”
That was very nice and kind, on one level, but it was not at all what I needed, or what I was looking for. It left me feeling hollow and empty inside, and I didn’t know how to tell him that. Dad has always had this way of talking at you, and not really being able to listen to what you’re saying.
Since then, I’ve found that I’m quite capable of getting a job, but I’m not nearly as capable of keeping that job, for a variety of reasons. So here I am, having a go at doing the freelance writing thing in an effort to keep my family and I afloat whilst I’m waiting for my disability to kick in.
I am no longer high-functioning. I can’t drive a car. I can’t shop for my own groceries. I can’t go into a busy restaurant without tweaking out. Put me in a big-box store like your local supermarket or Wal-Mart and I’ll be a quivering mass of jelly within 10 minutes. I have peculiar sensitivities that preclude me from taking entry-level jobs. If I could get my own office with an environment that I could control, that would be great, but who’s going to do that? Who’s going to work with me? So I stay at home and write. I’m good at writing. At least I can put that to work.