Not All Steps are Created Equal

This post is a commentary on the following video. Make yourself smile and give it a watch.

https://abcnews.go.com/Health/year-cerebral-palsy-celebrates-taking-independent-steps/story?id=56370753

I had a moment like this. I know this awe and see this little one in her journey! I was 5, me and the fam were dancing to It’s Raining Men, and my little 5 year old mind was like “If I can dance unassisted, I can walk unassisted.” I turned to my mom and said “I think I can walk without my walker” and promptly set off across the house “I’m doing it!” I said “I’m doing it!” There was no video documentation because it was in the middle of a dance party in 2003- let’s be real.

A few things-

Walking is glorified to an extreme. Often when videos similar to this are shared around, I don’t give them a second thought because the underlying appeal to them is that the person has “overcome” their disability and “never gave up” on walking. This feeds beliefs that wheelchair usage is bad, and that physical ability is just a matter of willpower. In reality, there are real, hard to swallow limitations to the physical abilities of people with physical disabilities. Make no mistake: The walking itself is a small piece of why this is special. The truly miraculous part is witnessing a little girl understand that there are suddenly so many more options for her. Her life is no longer as prescribed by what she can and can’t do: she broke that expectation once and she can do it again, one step at a time.

This four year old already exhibits more bodily awareness than most people. It’s easy to be here for the victory, to share this video and share in Maya’s excitement. But few are here for the journey- the specific efforts that go into this moment. The most telling part of said journey is when she exclaims “I even took a big step!”. To most watching, each step seems about the same. But Maya knows what qualifies a “big step” she is already defining for herself how her body works in a world that won’t be able to know her body as well as they know others.

There is community in adverse experiences. Part of why this video is going viral is because it’s unexpected: an appreciation for an action that abled people take for granted by and large. But as I said in the beginning, I had this moment too, as did so many others. Disabled people are everywhere. There is no shortage of hard won first steps, but often, we at some point feel we are the only ones experiencing x, y, or z, because often community is lacking in the moment amongst abled majority. But we out here, cheering each other on, watching from the other side of 15 more years with disability.

So to Maya: keep taking those steps, big and small. There is so much more for you to call your own. Can you relate to this story? Did you have your own moment? Let me know here. Let’s share in that community!

Today, this is where she stands.

– Sonya

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