I get so wrapped up in working hard at work that I often forget to take a day off. Unfortunately, if I forget too many times, I lose the time I’ve earned, so I have no good reason not to take them. Ok, I would be lying if I said I really thought I need to take all my vacation days. I know, that sounds absurd. Think about this, I’m part of a minority group cast into two groups: wonderous, inspirational doers and miserable incompetent can’t doers. Looking at those extremes, it’s easy to see why I don’t allow myself to take vacation days until I am down to the wire of losing them.
How many individuals in the whole population are inspirational doers, really? I don’t think there has been an official study on that, but I would guess the most common response to that question would be, “well, it depends…” Inherent in the answer (it depends) is a vast world of flexibility, individuality, preferences, and acceptance all colored gray, open to interpretation. People with disabilities are not yet invited into that world. Ok, we’re invited when it is convenient for others to invite us into that world, like when no one else wants to wash the dishes so all of a sudden the disabled person is capable of helping. Oh, but now it’s time to make cookies. Now the job is fun. Hey disabled person, you just sit there and let me make the cookies. Isn’t that nice of me?!
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, you’re the exception. You’re the one member of the socio-economic majority who sees everyone as inspirational. Right. You’re also full of BS. You don’t think people with disabilities are inspirational, you feel sorry for them. You feel you need to protect them. Those poor unfortunate souls. They must be so miserable. They need you to save them. There is good reason why in social work, you are culturally competent when you acknowledge your bias, own it, and actively work through, not when you pretend you have no bias. At the very core of other people outside of my minority group needing to fight my fight for me is the oppression of people with disabilities. There is no reason why other people should have to speak up for me, but people without disabilities are the ones with money and power, so I have to wait for them to invite me or allow me to participate. Thus, pretending you are my savior, in my eyes, only perpetuates the oppression of my own voice. I don’t want you to fight for me. I want to fight for myself.
Back to this work thing. I could take my vacation days a lot more often. I could take sick days a lot more often. You probably could too. Why don’t you? Are you considered a hard worker? Are you invaluable to your workplace? Why would I want anything less for myself? The major difference though, between your hard work and my hard work is pre-existing expectations. If I let my employers, or anyone else for that matter, set my bar of expectations, I guarantee you the bar would never be as high as I set for myself. The difference being I have no mentor to push me towards high ground, because all that exists in the current world of people with disabilities is Mount Everest or a flat path in the woods. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; people with disabilities are as diverse as people without disabilities. The polarization of my world is exhausting. I may not be able to climb Everest, but I shouldn’t be confined to a flat walking path either. Worst part is, I am not even my own gate keeper. In the meantime, I stand on the outside begging and bargaining with those on the inside during vacation days.