My name is Kristine. Spelled just that way. No “A” or “Ch,” thank you. I am a storyteller and a language nerd. I come from a very traditional, somewhat conservative family. As I am decidedly not, that does lead to the occasional heated debate, but I don’t ever feel judged for what I believe. I believe in freedom, equality and respect. This is who I am. Now, I don’t actually believe that’s an exhaustive list, as I don’t actually believe that anyone can write an exhaustive list on anyone, but in my list I left something (arguably important) out: I use a wheelchair.
To some people, now I have written an exhaustive list. Hell, to some, I could have started and stopped with just that one thing. I could have made it to the moon and some people would still probably see my equipment first, person second. Generally I joke around and refer to my chair as my “silent partner.” Like a true partner, it’s with me almost everywhere I go, and while it’s not about to spill the secrets of my private life, most of the time it’s far from silent. The truth is that my chair speaks volumes. It tells people mountains of things about me: I’m different. I’m weird. I’m weak. I’m broken. I am a diagnosis on a piece of paper and nothing else.
Of course, I don’t think that everyone thinks that way. But I have had so many people approach me like they are the modern-day white knights come to save the damsel (that’s obviously) in distress, that it’s hard not to get cynical. Here’s the thing: I am strong — you probably don’t want to arm wrestle me—and I am tough. I really don’t care how many cracks stupid girls following me at the LRT station make about how nice it is to be able to stretch their legs (this actually happened). If you don’t matter to me, chances are your words won’t either. Now I know that many of you don’t know me, so where do I get off telling you that my words should matter to you, right? Truthfully I don’t, but I’d rather people listen to what I say, and see what kind of person I am, rather than see the kind of person they think I should be.
This is not the place if you wanted something fluffy and tear-jerky about “overcoming adversity.” Reading this is not going to become your “good deed of the day” so you can come away from it feeling like a good person because you cared about the cripple. I’ve reached my quota for that. If you don’t look at me as the real-life, rolling, handicap placard, I actually think I have good things to say about life and I might just open your eyes to a perspective you might not have thought of before.
Since my perspective is often times shaped by the fact that I’m in a wheelchair, I am not at all saying that my chair isn’t a part of me and how I see myself. It obviously does, but most of the time my chair is just a chair, one that entitles me to awesome parking. Every time I step — yes, step — out of a car, I see it: The figure of a wheelchair and a person melded as one, confined squarely by two lines. By now, you’ve probably figured out that that’s not me, and I hope you keep reading between the lines to find out what is.