I had a fairly good childhood. I was bullied a bit in elementary school, but as far as bullying goes it was pretty mild. In high school I became sort of a floater. I wasn’t really popular. I didn’t get invited to the “cool” parties and the in- crowd didn’t spend much time noticing I was alive. However, I wasn’t really unpopular or “weird” either. I mean I was weird, totally weird, but bullying wasn’t a huge issue in my school and I wasn’t that kind of weird. I had groups of friends from a few different cliques, but I never really felt like I fit in 100% to any of them. Although I was generally liked, I felt a bit like an outsider a lot of the time. This feeling intensified as I struggled with depression and grief. When I developed asthma I inched a bit further outside of that “normal” range. I thought I understood what it meant to be the one that didn’t fit in. That was until I moved to Mexico. Now fitting in has taken on a whole new meaning.
When I was depressed I lost friends. Not because they stopped liking me, but because they didn’t know what to do or say. I made them uncomfortable and people don’t like feeling uncomfortable. But why didn’t they know what to say? They knew what depression was and they were all very aware of what triggered it. I know some of them just didn’t want to deal with it, but others disappeared slowly. These were the friends who wanted to be there for me, but didn’t know how to be. There is a growing trend in our society to judge people for the words they use. It’s hard to express your opinion or even think out loud without being labeled something- fat shamer, anti-Semitic, heartless, or just plain bitch. Where did the discussion go? How can we learn and grow and be there for each other if we’re all afraid to open our mouths lest we accidentally insult someone?
When you have anxiety, stability is the key. Too much change, too quickly can send you into a tailspin. When Jay and I move to Mexico for the winter I notice that it always takes me at least a week to adjust to my new surroundings. But, even then, Mexico is far more anxiety inducing to me than Canada. Many factors contribute to this, but the biggest one is not speaking the language. I’ve been learning since our first trek here in 2012, but I find languages difficult. As ironic as it is seeing that I am an English major, ask any of my French teachers and they’ll corroborate my story. Math, science, history, no problem, but ask me to speak in a foreign language I seize up. I suspect it comes from my desire to do everything perfectly. I tend to learn on my own and only show others once I’ve mastered it. I hate looking “stupid” in front of others. Which poses a problem when learning languages, since the best way to learn them is to speak it with natives and practice, practice, practice! But I’m tired of not being able to be myself in Mexico so this year I’m going to change some things.
On a recent East coast trip I came across a sign that made me ponder a topic that I have a pretty strong opinion about.
My first reaction was that it made it sound like the handicapped person was dangerous. It’s clear upon reflection that the sign is there to protect the individual who likely has a tendency to end up on the road.
Normally I wouldn’t give this sign a second thought, but it’s a topic I’ve discussed and debated a lot. A good friend of mine works in the field and has very strong feelings about word choice. She feels that the words we use to describe people with disabilities are extremely important and campaigns against the casual use of the word “retarded” to mean stupid.