Saturday, January 15, 2011

Freak Flag

This post was created in response to the January 2011 Disability Blog Carnival.  The theme ("Let Your Freak Flag Fly") was created by my daughter, and the January Carnival was hosted on her own blog (candidlycrippled.blogspot.com). 


            Growing up, I never felt much like a freak myself.  I enjoyed a reasonable feeling of “fitting in” and was fairly comfortable in my own skin.  I did, however,  have an unusual penchant for reading about disability as a young child, a piece of myself that I never thought to question.  Even still, I recall an awful moment in my teenage years, when my level of discomfort confused and embarrassed me:  a party held at my high school for mentally challenged adults where I was expected to interact with the party-goers all but horrified me.  It was a freak show I couldn’t relate to; I was actually frightened by the numbers of people around me who were different.  Clearly, my book knowledge and my real world knowledge were deeply at odds with each other.  I remember coming home from school and expressing my feelings to my mother, who noted that I would probably not make my living working with this particular population.
          After my children were born, everything changed, yet at the same time, all things rewound back to my early years of reading.  I became who I was meant to be from the beginning.  Different became normal, and freak flags unfurled around me as symbols of power and creativity and strength.  My children had been born with obstacles to skirt around, and together we fought the dirty looks, the pitying smiles, the ignorance and the patronizing words.  I began working with other children who needed advocates in their lives, someone who could relate to their own unique freak shows.  There is nothing in this world that I would rather do than spend the day with people who do not judge me, freak or no freak.
          Today, almost all of the people I know fly a freak flag.  And, as I get to know them, one by one, I find that I relate to their quirks and behaviors.  I feel the same fears and frustrations that color their days, and I appreciate them all for their humanity.  I’m starting to think that maybe I do have a flag to fly, complete with my own individuality, woven with the fabric of the flags of all the freaks I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.   Perhaps, I am a freak after all.

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