Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Pity Party Has Been Canceled

     I remember once in elementary school, there was a teacher who gave a zero to everyone who forgot to put their name on a paper. Everyone, that is, except me. She pulled me aside after class and handed the paper back to me so I could put my name on it and then graded it. She didn't directly mention my disability, but by the tone of her voice and the look on her face, I could tell that it was the reason I was singled out and given an undeserved second chance. I was happy to not be getting a zero, but my happiness was fleeting. I was being given something that I hadn't earned simply because this person felt sorry for me, and I could take no pride in that. From that incident, I learned what it feels like to be pitied, and the expression on her face and tone in her voice have been echoed throughout many interactions in my life. One place I have heard these echoes are the jobs I have had since I started working.
     One boss decided it was her right to determine what I wasn't "physically capable of", as if she somehow could figure that out better than I could myself, another told me multiple times that I was being disrespected "because of my disability", instead of admitting that there was a much bigger problem she simply didn't feel like fixing. Even though these people were taking something from me and not giving me something like that teacher did, they were expressing a form of pity. They convinced themselves that my disability was not compatible with work, and they assumed I would go along with it so they could justify their actions. They gave the girl with the disability a chance so they could feel like heroes, and then decided it wouldn't work. What a pity, that poor girl. Bless her heart.
      It's because of experiences like this that I feel like I have something to prove in the workplace. I have learned through these incidents that I have to go beyond just doing my job well. I know that I am capable of being a good worker, but I feel like I have to go out of my way to prove that to everyone else. I try not to sit down much, or appear tired or frustrated, because I've learned how those signs of normal exhaustion can be perceived as a weakness related to my birth defect by people who choose to see them that way.
     To be blunt, there are many people in the world who are more physically capable than me, and yet they work less and demand more. Many people feel entitled to a free ride because of circumstances they could have avoided, and yet I don't ask for a free ride in spite of the circumstances I couldn't avoid. It's not fair, and sometimes I get pretty angry about it. But when I think back to that time in elementary school when I was given a free pass, and I remember how it made me feel, I realize something. Receiving something you did not earn, either because someone feels sorry for you or simply because you feel entitled, is not rewarding, at least not for me. I want to earn things the fair way, through hard work and persistence, so I can be proud of myself. Right now it's hard because I have to watch those who took shortcuts enjoy the reward, but I'm telling myself that I'll be able to enjoy them more fully when I do get them, because they will not be pity party gifts, but the positive result of good old fashioned work.

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