I’ve already mentioned that my classmates loved to help me at school. I couldn’t tell you how it started or when, but I have memories of friends helping all the way back to kindergarten. Both of us saw the fun side most of the time. As friends were constantly willing to help, they gave me a sense of belonging and independence.
The days when classmates helped were not always full of joy. There were moments of stress.
Friends would fight over who would do what for me. A small argument would grow in the middle of class. They would look to me to decide. Sometimes the teacher would jump in.
Sometimes we had to pause the learning and talk as a whole class. This happened in fifth grade. The guidance counselor came to lead the discussion. I sat next to her and she tried to restore the overall understanding.
What was happening?
How did I feel?
What could we do next to resolve any issues?
That day didn’t end fast enough. I cried during the meeting…in front of everyone. My peers saw my tears that day. Once again, I was embarrassed. I didn’t like being put on the spot. Or being the center of attention in what felt like a negative way. I’m not sure the meeting changed a thing. My answer was this — I didn’t want to choose. I just wanted to keep being my normal and let everyone help as they desired.
We were still so young. How could I understand this in order to explain it?
When I was in elementary school, I couldn’t because I hadn’t actively walked through understanding how I viewed myself and what I believed deep down. My identity had never been my disability or the limitations we all knew existed. They wanted me to talk about it. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t see it.
What was meant to build a bridge of compassion left a wall of unasked questions. I would discover these questions much later.