It’s a miracle

The other day I was having an email exchange with a student who used to be in one of my uni classes. We were talking about how we’re both so close to the finish line, when she commented that ’It’s nothing short of miraculous that you’ve made it this far.’
I know this is meant as a compliment. Her intentions are good, and I’ve already touched upon how the fear of saying the wrong thing around disability needs to die. Still, is my making it through university really that mind-blowing? She then went on to say that ’I’d have found the challenges you’ve faced insurmountable.’
This is one reason I’d rather keep my identity a secret: I wouldn’t want this person feeling like she offended me here. She didn’t. I actually receive these strange compliments quite frequently, often from strangers. What she’s basically saying is that not only have I achieved a Masters, I’ve done it while living with a disability, which is doubly impressive. At least that’s how I’d phrase it. I wouldn’t go near the word ’miraculous’, however. Imagine Jesus running out of magic miracle tricks in the Bible.
’You’ve just turned the living-room into an entirely new planet. What’s next Jesus?’
’I shall obtain a Masters degree over the course of 3 years.’
’…and I shall do it  with one hand tied behind my back!’
Look, it’s true that it takes me a bit more physical effort to complete a piece of work than someone who types 700wpm. But here’s the thing: it’s normal for me to type slowly. I’ve never experienced it any other way and I’m happy and comfortable with my unique technique. On top of that, my mind functions normally so I’m not defying any laws by using my intelligence. In a way, it’s selfish what I’m doing. I’m not in university to prove a point or inspire anyone. I’m just looking to progress. My journey up to this time is rooted in luck. Apparently I was almost placed in a special education class in infant school, which would’ve hindered my learning. I’ve had good opportunities and, yes, I’ve had to work to gain more. Most people at university have.
I don’t detest this kind of compliment, it just weighs so much on the assumption that I’m usually chained down by my disability, that I’m breaking the norm of disabled people locking themselves away from the world to contemplate the misery of life. Rather than being about me, it’s about how people imagine I should be. Thus instead of leaving me feeling proud of my accomplishments, it leaves me wondering exactly how bad people think my life has been/is. What does she mean when she calls my challenges ’insurmountable’? What does she imagine these challenges are? One time I experienced this traumatic event where I would blink funny if I thought too much about blinking – faced with such a devastating obstacle, would my student friend immediately throw herself off a cliff? This is the part that annoys me if said by a clueless stranger. ’I couldn’t do what you do’ they say, implying that if their weak brain was in my magnificent body AT BEST they wouldn’t bother exiting their house – to which I ask ’How do you know this?’ Although what I’d really like to say is ’I couldn’t live with your useless head weighing me down.’


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