perspective

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently taking a really cool photography class. I never gave photography more than a passing thought for most of my life (excepting Instagram here), but I needed the credits and I liked the idea of walking around the City taking pictures during my lunch breaks. Anyway, this week’s assignment was about perspective and how the photographer is in control of making the viewer see his or her artistic vision. Photographers play with different angles and techniques in order to get the perfect shot. The very essence of the art is making people see a certain object or person in a new light (often literally.) It’s funny, though, because even though the students’ assignments were all exactly the same, none of our photos looked a bit alike. Everyone had drastically different views and ideas that they captured in their pictures. And the even funnier thing is that that’s a pretty good metaphor for life in general. Everyone has ideas and thoughts and stories, and they don’t always align with what others think and do and feel.

NYC Windows

When I was a teenager and my aunt drove me to my high school, I used to spend the half-hour trip reading in the front seat. My cousin always conveniently left her fashion magazines in the car, and I loved flipping through them. A lot of the magazines featured real women writing short memoir-like pieces about a particular aspect of their life. One day, I found one about a woman with a disability and her experiences with dating. I don’t recall the specifics, but the woman had something along the lines of a lopsided back and misshapen legs. She wrote about how she would hide in dark corners at swanky bars so that attractive young bachelors would not notice her “flaws.”

I distinctly remember feeling a shred of pity for the poor woman who, I believed, had it much worse than I did. After all, I’ve always had a decent figure and shapely legs that I consider to be my best feature. But as I continued scanning the story, I read something to the effect of “It could be worse: I could be an amputee….” Yup. While I was rejoicing that I wasn’t shaped like her, she was thanking her lucky stars she was not missing a limb like me.

NYC Street

It was a pretty insightful lesson I learned from that fashion magazine. People have different ideas about EVERYTHING. There’s no objective hierarchy in terms of whose disability is worse or better to have, just like there are people who prefer blondes to brunettes and people who are willing to hurt each other just to prove that their ideology is more correct. There are people who will consider a disability a deterrent to a relationship and those who will love someone with a limb difference, not in spite of, but WITH the disability. It really depends on the person’s perspective.

NYC Art

So there you have my thoughts on this. I’ll leave you now with this short anecdote: My boyfriend and I were at his parents’ house last week when his mom started talking about a new adoption show I’m working on (I’m Having Their Baby on Oxygen, if you want to check it out.) I casually mentioned that I’d like to adopt a special needs child someday. Her response was not what I’d hoped for; she said it would be very. difficult to raise a child with special needs.

“Well, I turned out okay,”I said sheepishly.
“Oh Caitlin,” she laughed. “But you’re not Special Needs!”
I have no idea what “Special Needs” means to her, but it’s nice knowing that the picture of me in her head is one that doesn’t fit the category I’ve been placed in all my life.
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weekend adventures

Chris and Chewy being cute (as usual):

Hi there! Before I say anything else, I just want to wish everyone a happy summer! I know it hasn’t technically begun, but the weather is warm and my schoolbooks are away. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s summer! And with summer days, of course, come fabulous moments spent with family and friends. This past weekend was a pretty awesome way to ring in the high temperatures and the fun. On Saturday, my boyfriend Chris and I took his little brother and his family’s dog to their grandparents’ house for an indoor picnic (since it was kind of rainy.) I should probably admit here that I’ve always been nervous about how his family would react to my limb difference. I want to seem like a model girlfriend who is perfect for their Chris, and an obvious physical disability seems to be the antithesis of perfection. So suffice it to say that I was pretty nervous at the start of the day.

Chewy wanted to drive:
Like all great adventures, of course, our journey involved a few pitstops. We headed to Home Depot first to pick up some supplies for my house (since my parents are remodeling some rooms.) Already anxious and therefore more aware of my arm than usual, I did the only thing that would relieve the tension and help my mood a bit: I offered to carry the dog, Chewy. I placed him securely in my oversized handbag a la Paris Hilton and navigated the aisles of the store with the boys. I quickly discovered that carrying an adorable toy poodle around actually drew more attention to me. But it was different this time because people were smiling and interacting with Chewy rather than staring at my hand and feeling sorry for me. So that was my first realization of the day: a cute dog really does lift spirits – and not just my own! Although my dad is not a fan of puppies, I plan to get one the second I get my own place. After all, the two cutest things in the entire world are puppies and babies.

Speaking of babies, Chris’s toddler cousins also happened to be visiting their grandparents that day. The four-year-old boy, bright and energetic, ran around the yard hoping I would try to catch him. After a dozen or so rounds of Tag, he approached me and asked about my prosthetic hand. I told him that it was my “special hand.” Being a kid, he begged me to try it out for himself. He even tried to pry it off so that he could play with it. I found this incredibly endearing and pretty funny. It’s interesting how something most people see as a huge flaw that should be ignored becomes an intriguing potential toy to a toddler. Second realization of my Saturday: kids will be kids and won’t necessarily care about the things the world expects you to be self-conscious about. They’re blunt, curious, and innocent – and that’s the most refreshing and organic reaction anyone can hope for.

Brandon, the coolest 11-year-old on the planet: 
And this reaction isn’t just limited to toddlers. By the end of the day when Chris was driving us back to my house, the temperature had risen and the air felt unbearably hot. It was definitely way too hot to be wearing a heavy artificial arm. So I pulled it off and left it in my handbag (We left Chewy with Chris’s sister, so he wasn’t in the handbag anymore by this point.) To my surprise, Chris’s 11-year-old brother Brandon said absolutely nothing about my lack of a hand. He had never seen me without the fake arm before, so I was expecting him to say something or at least ask about the little arm. But he never did. He just acted the same way he normally does.

When I mentioned my unease to Chris afterwards, he just smiled. “You see?” he said. “Like I’ve always told you, there are lots of people out there who are not going to care about your arm at all. It’s not even going to register to them because it’s so minor and because they get to know you for who you are. Brandon asked me about it once over a year ago when you and I started dating. So now he knows and it doesn’t matter to him.” So yeah, there’s realization number 3: To most people, something as minor as a limb difference isn’t going to matter. Note to self: stop being so paranoid!

Peace,
Caitlin 🙂

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media/meme monday – $#*! people say to amputees

  Yes, it’s another Josh Sundquist video! It’s just too funny not to share. He made this during the “$#*! People Say” video craze, and it’s brilliant. The best part is that it features things people have actually said to him. I guess most folks just don’t know what to say when they meet someone with a limb difference. I mean, we deal with stares and awkward comments on a daily basis. So why not have a little fun with it? Here are some of the funniest (and weirdest) comments and questions I’ve gotten:
“Do you sink to one side when you swim?”- random lady at swimming pool
“You’re a cyborg! Do you know how many dates you can get at a sci-fi convention?” – my lovely and hilarious friend Liz
“Hey, weren’t you wearing that ring on your other hand yesterday?” – my boyfriend Chris (to be fair, he had been running on very little sleep when he said it)
“Do you wear it while you’re sleeping?” -random person (in reference to my prosthetic)
“Can I touch it?” – creepy strangers
Here’s hoping that you enjoy Josh’s video and that no weirdos you meet today invade your personal space!
Peace,
Caitlin 🙂

 

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happy birthday to this guy right here

  On this lovely day, my wonderful boyfriend Chris turns 23. Yep, 23. He’s getting to be an old man! (Okay, I’m being hyperbolic.) Anyway, the handsome man you see here happens to be the most amazing human being I’ve ever met. He’s sweet, funny, smart, loving, and a zillion other great qualities that cannot be confined to a short and simple blog post. To sum it up, he’s my Prince Charming. I’ve never been one to believe in fairytale romance, but this is the real thing. Chris just gets me. He loves me on my good days and my bad days (and trust me – you don’t want to see me on a bad day.) He’s seen me go from deliriously happy to angry to sad to practically insane, often all within the span of an hour. He appreciates my strangeness, my nerdiness, and even my moodiness.
Being silly
  And in case you were wondering, he has been absolutely 100 percent supportive about my arm. He’s the one who’s given me the courage to stop wearing my prosthetic all the time, telling me that he finds me prettier when I’m comfortable. And you know what? He’s made me believe it too. I do feel a lot happier and more confident without it. I look like myself. And according to Chris, that’s a pretty good thing.
  So yes, I really hit the jackpot in terms of finding my other half. And now, I get to celebrate another year of his life, another beautiful year we’re together. I’m off to go eat some yummy cake now, but I’ll leave you here with a quote by an author I really admire (because if anyone knows anything about love, it’s him):
Peace,
Caitlin 🙂

 

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interview with ryan niemiller

Hey there! A lot has happened this week, the highlight being that my boyfriend Chris started a new job in New York. I’m super proud of him, and I know that he’ll do amazingly well there. He’s very interested in the work he’s doing, which is the key to any great career. This, of course, got me thinking about my own future career and jobs in general. While I’ve never experienced discrimination because of my disability (I work as a writing tutor and as an intern for NBCUniversal), I know that it’s a very real possibility for many people.  So to get a better perspective on the matter, I decided to interview Indiana-based comedian Ryan Niemiller. Here’s what he had to say (I color-coordinated it for you because I’m thoughtful like that):

Me: Has your disability ever been the reason why you didn’t get hired for a job you applied to?

RN: Certainly. It comes with the territory. People see me and since I have a fairly obvious disability, it’s much easier to assume I can’t do something without giving me a shot than it is to give me the opportunity and see what I can do. I used to get really mad about it, but it’s a natural human defense mechanism for some. But really, as frustrating as it is, do I really want to work for a place that assumes I’m incapable?

Me: I understand that you’re a professional comedian. Do you view your disability as an advantage or disadvantage in your stand-up career?

RN: I’d say it’s 80/20 advantage to disadvantage. My arms make me unique. I can guarantee there are no other comedians just like me in the world. I’m not just a late 20’s single white guy comic. I have something that helps me stand out, a hook if you will (pun intended). I have something I can immediately bring the audience in on. At the same time, there’s the fear of me being a comic who ONLY talks about his arms. Plus, a lot of times I have to over prove I am actually funny and not just a gimmick. There’s certain bookings I probably don’t get because people assume I’m a novelty act. Luckily, it doesn’t happen often.

Me: I know that you work as a barista at Starbucks. What’s the strangest reaction a customer has had to your arms?

RN: A little girl screamed in terror once, which was fantastic for my self esteem. But really, there’s not a lot of strange reactions. Most people just stare at most. I’ll get the occasional, “Wow, you’re such an inspiration!” line, which is irritating, but really, most people just want their damn lattes. 🙂

Me: Would you say that your co-workers treat you differently because of your arms?

RN: Not at all. Anyone who gets to know me and sees me operate doesn’t worry about my arms anymore. Once I am given the chance to prove myself, I take care of business and it’s a non-issue.


Me: So let’s say you were born with two “normal” arms. Would you still be in the profession you are now?

RN: I’d like to say yes, but honestly, I doubt it. I developed a sense of humor as a defense mechanism – I’d make all the jokes before anyone else had a chance to. If I was “normal,” I doubt that would have ever developed the way it did. I’d probably be an accountant or something equally lame. Ha ha.

Me: Let’s take that question a step further: how do you think your life would be different if you had “normal” hands?

RN: I’d probably be happier, as unpopular of an answer as I’m sure that is. Not that I’m necessarily miserable right now or anything, but my arms do lead to a lot of issues that I wouldn’t have to deal with otherwise. Getting jobs wouldn’t be as difficult, it would be easier to find someone to date, etc. But really, that’s just speculation. There’s no real way of knowing. Maybe I’d be even worse off.

Me: How do you respond when someone asks you about your hands?

RN: It depends on tone. If it’s a child, I try to be patient, because as irritating as it is, they don’t know any better. If it’s an adult who I don’t know well, usually with annoyance. Because I rarely get asked simple questions about it. I know some people are just curious so I try to be patient, but I’m almost 30 years old – I am a little tired from answering questions.

Me: What’s the best way to own your disability? By that, I mean: what do you do to feel confident when the world gets you down?

RN: I make money off it. I travel the country telling jokes about it, and then they hand me a check afterward. For me, it’s hard to get much better than that. And recently, I’ve just started cutting out a lot of the negative energy in my life. So if you’re not with me, you’re against me. That’s how I own it.

Me: Now I’m about to go all college-application-interview on you: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

RN: Not a damn clue, and that’s half the fun. 🙂


   Thanks so much to Ryan for his time and honest answers. 


   If you’ve got comments or thoughts or ideas or anything else you feel like sharing, comment below! 


Peace,
Caitlin 🙂

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