Yesterday afternoon I was walking through my law school’s parking lot and overheard this kid dressed in a suit (probably not really a kid, but he looked like he was around my age, hence kid) getting mad at a parking attendant.
I didn’t really know what the commotion was about, so as he caught up to me I asked if he’d gotten a ticket (very common at my school, almost like a right of passage). He promptly replied “no” and said he was telling the parking guy that he was mad that “people that didn’t look disabled were using all the blue handicap spots. These kids with shorts and tshirts were just using the blue spots and no one was stopping them.”
I stopped dead in my tracks and told him that you don’t have to have a visible disability to be eligible to have a placard. I think the guy was coming from a good place, because he then went on about how one time he had a red placard (the DMV can issue those for temporary disabilities with a doctor’s note) and how impossible it was to get parking, how hard it was to park far away and walk, etc.
I hear ya, kid, I do. But the reality of being a disabled person is most people don’t care. I know many people that “borrow” their grandma’s placard so they can get easy parking. That sucks, because someone who has a legitimate disability will have to park elsewhere or won’t bother to continue looking for a parking spot and will drive away.
I lived at an apartment complex that “stored” laundry machines in the handicap spots because “they weren’t used that often.” Last year at my law school, I’d frequently stumble upon school maintenance vehicles that were too lazy to look for parking, so they’d park sideways in a handicap spot (like that makes it better?). I brought up these issues with my complex and my school…and both times was told because it’s technically private property, it doesn’t matter and there isn’t much I can do.
Insert an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness and like “why do I even try.”
Fast-forward to the reality of being in law school and having disabilities. Did you know that if you’re disabled and want accommodations on a bar exam, you have to apply for them six months to a year in advance? My school’s administration has passively told me and other students with chronic disabilities that it’s nearly impossible to get (and they weren’t kidding when they said the paperwork is extensive).
It’s so extensive that I’m not even claiming half of my disabilities because one of my GI doctors, whom I called yesterday, doesn’t have appointments for six months and couldn’t be bothered. I can’t wait that long to submit the paperwork (and silly me for not planning this shit like a year in advance)…so I’m just filing for ones I see doctors on a regular basis. It’s still a decent amount of paperwork, but if you’re someone that doesn’t see doctors for your health issues, it’d be near impossible to make a claim for help on this exam.
I guess what I’m trying to get at with this post is the best piece of advice I could give to someone dealing with a disability, chronic illness, or just general struggle in some other part of your life – you’re your own best advocate. No one is going to care as much as you. No one is going to be as impacted as you. No one is going to help you as much as you can help yourself.
Being disabled in law school sucks. It’s hard enough for my able-bodied friends. They tell me all the time about how they get migraines and upset stomachs all the time from how stressed out they are. I completely empathize because I feel like shit 99% of the time (and most of that isn’t even caused by law school), but there’s no time for “sick days” in law school. It’s a “go go go” process, which is why when my body was flaring two years ago, I couldn’t ignore the symptoms.
When I started 2LWithIt, I wasn’t sure how I’d articulate my blog’s purpose. As time’s gone on, I know this is a place to share thoughts and experiences on living an unconventional life. People told me to drop out of school because I’d never be able to get my symptoms under control. People told me I was overreacting about how bad my symptoms were (until I projectile vomited across the dinner table…didn’t see that one coming…and then never again told me “it’s all in your head”).
Life’s hard, that’s why it’s worth living. Law school is hard, and despite my best efforts to persuade others to choose an alternative career path, it’s by far one of the most rewarding, challenging, and interesting experiences I’ve endured to date.
So if you’ve made it this far through my ramble this morning, know I’m cheering for you, whatever your struggle may be. It doesn’t have to be a disability. Maybe you’re just stressed the fuck out about a coworker that heats up fish in the microwave and it makes you nauseous every day like clockwork. Maybe your kid is going through a phase where he doesn’t say “mommy” anymore and it breaks your heart. Or maybe you’re like me and you wake up every morning just hoping you’ll keep all your food down (if you remember to eat, what up, #brainfog).
Living with a disability (or several) is an ongoing learning process and I hope that by sharing my experiences, someone out there will be able to cultivate their own confidence about whatever they’re going through. Initially after I got sick, I was extremely embarrassed about the word “disabled,” because why the fuck would I ever want to be thought of as “less than” or “weaker” than anyone else? The truth is you have to recognize your own limitations, and only then can you work on cultivating strength from that experience.
I may not be strong all the time, but today’s one of those days I’m ready to kick butt at everything on my checklist (because without it, I’d literally be lost).
Tell me how you find confidence or strength in stressful situations?