We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Disabled; dis—lack of, abled—ability.  I’ve always had the understanding of being disabled; I knew there was a reason why none of my peers knew about the sweet lady in the quiet room that gave me the zebra print hearing aids I so loved, and why adults treated me the way that I did. I thought that was just how I was supposed to live my life—It's not like I knew how to be defiant against anything that came my way. Being this thing—disabled—for me wasn’t anything important; it was just something I knew I was called, and that somehow it was cause for the strange way people acted around me.  As I grew, I filled in the underestimate people made of me with anger. What’s the deaf kid going to do when suddenly faced with the thing that had been so simply bombarding them their whole life, ableism? What do I do with this cocktail of anger and disbelief and hopelessness that I’ve set to simmer for too long simply because I don’t know what to do with it? Let it go? Make something of it? That’s the question for us all, though, is it not? What do we do with the great emotions that we curate in this unfair life? Should we make do with them and accept them as they come and let them be written into the way we conduct as a society until they become a norm?  Somewhere within myself, I know that I’ll never find an answer as to what to do. Surely there is some unriddled passage to life and in some forms, my anger is fair, but for the rest, it will remain unknown. There is no answer as to why my anger turned on me in this turn of internalized ableism and self-hatred.  Internalized ableism has made me hide this part of myself that will always be one of the only definites of my life. Being disabled, and all the ways I navigate being so and the effects of it, no matter how external they may seem, are mine to hold and sort. No matter if I get answers or not, if I get apologies for the way I was treated as a child, I am still a disabled person with my conditions and I will always struggle in one way or another. The struggle is nearly as definite as the disability, so, in a way, there might be no way for me to avoid my experiences. The question comes again of what to do now, now that I’ve pinned my stinging anger in place. What do I do with it now, this thing that’s fed into itself and led to a childhood of self-hatred towards my disability?  I accept it.  I press the brakes on the burning loop with the understanding of not knowing and I look inside the ring with the final destination of nowhere. I apologize, for myself and all the others that won’t. I understand that there is nothing to be done of the past, so I leave that loop behind and kick it over with the promise of healing. I will be better than what I was once surrounded by. I will accept the hard days where I want to circle. And someday, that loop will fade far in the past. I might find answers to the whys. I will accept my disability as it is, knowing there is nothing else to do but know that anger is not a remedy. Being angry will not undefine the definites. I must heal and relearn the way I approach myself and my disability; for that kid that once loved their zebra print hearing aids. And when I do, I’ll pick up a pink case with all the battery stickers, and I will put in my hearing aids once again. Not zebra print, but still.

© Al Miller. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.