I’ve seen people post get to know you posts and I don’t know if I’ve done any. Not in a while anyway. I thought I would share some fun facts.
-The past two times that I’ve been engaged, I have proposed to foreign men – that’s hella feminist.
-I planned on being a medical doctor since the time that I was very young until a couple years into college. Still took a lot of premed classes. I will never regret any of my education.
-I became pregnant at 17 and had an abortion when I was in nursing school, and then became pregnant at 18 with my daughter. I had another abortion when she was a couple years old. After that, I never had a strong desire to have more children.
-I grew up in a fundamentalist religion and I am now an atheist. It’s not because of the religious upbringing, it’s because I think that religion is not rational or logical. Even based on faith. I think it’s the the equivalent of believing in fairy tales. And I can say that while continuing to respect what other people believe in.
-I have many disabilities and they are all invisible. You don’t want the list. I won’t bore you with the details. Some of them greatly increase my risk of death. But I’m still kicking.
-I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and I have a lot of nostalgia for my home, even though I was very isolated and grew up a closed religion. Somehow I was able to soak in the beauty of the place, despite everything.
-I don’t have a lot of close friends and I have trust issues because I’ve been abused, bullied, and betrayed so much. It’s kind of amazing that I actually am so open. I think the abuse is actually part of the reason. My boundaries were stripped away from me.
-I consider myself more of an artist than anything else. I’m highly sensitive, deeply emotional, and I love humanity. I just don’t like a lot of people because human nature can be ugly.
-I’ve met people from every background and every walk of life. Truly. From the most destitute to the most wealthy. I’ve been around some of the most poverty-stricken people and people with more money than you can imagine. It has made me very cynical about money.
-A lot of people know me from one aspect of my life and think they know everything about me. I have transformed many times and I will again.
-Obviously my daughter is the most important thing to me in this world. I never expected how I would be changed as a mother. She is the greatest gift of my life, but I would never recommend motherhood because the world does not support mothers and the world is a violent place for females. I live in fear as a woman of a daughter.
-I had a purple wig that even drag queens envied.
-Even though I’ve been with mostly men, I identify as queer. That’s because I don’t care about gender. Love is love.
-People don’t believe me when I say that I’m autistic because I don’t fit their stereotype. And I don’t need anyone to approve. I know myself.
-I’ve been suicidal since I was a teenager and I’ve been in the emergency room many times. I’ve done self injury and even burned my own face. I think part of the reason is growing up in a religion that did not allow me to express myself. That shapes you. Plus of course being sexually abused by so many men that I lost count. Yet people think I’m the crazy one.
-I can listen to a piece of classical music or watch the wind blow through a flower and feel the whole world.
-I’m an example of someone with a lot of talents and a lot of struggles. I learned how to read when I was a toddler, but I couldn’t figure out social interaction. I went through school as a gifted student and graduated with all the accolades, but I feel like I’ve been an underdog my whole life. I’ve had a lot of adversity and difficulties in my life that help me connect with other people that are marginalized.
-I spent almost the first 40 years of my life in an intense caregiving role.
-I can’t handle news about human suffering. I wish everyone respected each other. I will never feel safe in this world. As an empath, I feel the pain of others and it’s torture.
-Even though I have so many deep emotions, I’m a very jovial person. I think it’s how I survive. Despite what I post, people tell me I’m a lot of fun to be around and I am hilarious. A lot of sad people are funny.
-I miss everyone that I’ve lost, whether they are still alive or dead. The grief is the same.
-I’m not this depressing all the time.
-I like intellectual people who don’t try to act like they’re so much smarter than everyone else. Real power is quiet.
-I am a romantic at heart even though I know the darkness.
After living at my parents’ for about a year, and working at the Fingerhut factory and other factories in Saint Cloud, and then ‘upgrading’ to an office job as a staffer at Becklund Home Health Care, I met Jeff. It was a serendipitous meeting, like many significant connections often are. A personal care assistant (PCA) named Dave came into my office one day, saying that he worked with a man named Jeff who needed some hours filled. He said that he was ‘private pay,’ which meant a higher wage. When I found out that it was $15 per hour, I could not pass it up. Sometimes the timing is right because I was burning out on being in the office and I longed to work directly with people again, which was my passion. It did not take much convincing to arrange a meeting with Jeff – a weekend shift at the end of June, 2000. I was 21 years old and Imani was 2 years old.
My parents had company from Arizona the day I started with Jeff, and the house was buzzing with energy. With my hair slicked back with gel, my nose and many ear piercings, and jean shorts and a T-shirt, I made my exit and got into my mud-brown Lincoln Continental Mark 5, which was like a tank, or a boat without sails on the freeway. This was a new chance for me and I felt deeply honored to be asked to serve Jeff.
When I parked in Jeff’s guest spot at his townhome neighborhood, and put the car in park, the shifter fell into my lap. Luckily it was already in park. Not wanting to delay my new assignment and being dedicated to utmost professionalism, I ignored my broken car and walked confidently to Jeff’s front door, ready to work. As I made my way across Jeff’s front yard, his mother, who went by ‘Mimi,’ said, “Oh, Jeff, is she ever cute!” She would remind me of that for years to come. When I rang the doorbell, Mimi opened it immediately, dressed in a red, flowing dress. “You must be Bridget,” she smiled warmly, ushering me toward Jeff, who was lying in his hospital bed in the living room. “Hi, Jeff,” I said, “What would you like me to do first?” I asked him. Both Mimi and Jeff were so charming, and their home looked rich. It was enchanting and relaxing to be there, especially with all the chaos in my life. I told them that their back yard on the neighborhood pond looked like the French Riviera, and they were tickled.
And because of Jeff and his promise of a stable job, I once again moved into my own apartment with my daughter and re-enrolled in college.
I remember the days when I had Imani sleep on my chest so she wouldn’t forget to breathe, which happens with babies born very premature (14 weeks early). I remember the days when I felt my heart strings tugged when I watched her ride off on the school bus, and the joy I felt seeing her emerge from the bus when she arrived back home. And now are the days when she is galavanting around her college campus, becoming grown, finding herself, and making her way in the world. And later will be the days that I will miss those days.
I’m both ready and not for my daughter to leave for college. I know she’s going to the best place, a truly wonderful place, where she will be able to spread her wings and fly. And I will be able to work on my empty-nester bucket list, that has been in the works since I became a mom at 18, and enjoy some of my own newfound freedom. I’m excited because I know that she will be able to chase her dreams, meet so many people from around the world, and expand her world. I hope that she will find her sense of home and community. All of my motherly worries are wrapped up with joyful anticipation into a giant knot of mixed emotions in my stomach. This moment is what I have prepared her for all these years: a successful launch into adulthood. It’s a time that has always been very abstract, that never felt like it would really happen. But now that it’s here, I attempt to process it. Although I know that this won’t really begin to happen until I watch her walk away from me – with more permanence than waving goodbye on the school bus to kindergarten, the first venture to camp, or those early play dates. She will be back, but it won’t be the same. In my heart, I know that she will carry my love with her, and it will be a light to help her find her way in her life and lead her back to me. She will always be my sweet, funny, curious, precocious little girl who taught me about love and life. That is why it is both so hard and beautiful to let go in such a big way.
I met with Imani’s high school counselor today for some business related to her college applications. She said that she would not have known about a lot of her activities if I hadn’t told her because she is so humble. I told her that she doesn’t like to talk about herself. I do that for her, a little too well maybe. Then she said that I’ve been a remarkable role model for my daughter, accomplishing so many things as an independent woman. It kind of took me by surprise because I’m used to feeling like people think I’m inferior as a single mother. But she put a whole different spin on it. We should treat all single mothers this way. She didn’t try to tell me that she knows what it’s like, and make it about her. She just focused on our story, and honored us in a very dignified way.
A couple reflections on today: instead of ‘disability services,’ if you have a disability you go to an office called ‘access services.’ This is a big deal!! The language is changing and becoming more inclusive, and less stigmatized. Pretty soon I hope we get rid of the term ‘special education.’ Because my daughter has partial paralysis due to cerebral palsy, and has trouble getting around (uses a crutch, walker, or wheelchair), we asked about how much time we should allow between classes. The staff was very helpful and said the time we allotted should be fine and that we can talk to the professors to let them know that a little extra time may be needed. The fact that she is going to college is monumental. When she was born, not only did I have the right to ask to keep her alive, but I was listened to, as a young, poor, single mother, with a child with a Mexican father. Then she had great care, and has had access to the best of education. The community has been truly great. And for this, we have many people to thank — for all of the work that has been done to accept disability, value people with disabilities enough to not only save them, but treat them with dignity and respect, forge inclusive medical care, community supports, and education, and so much more. The fact that my kid is going to college is a testament to decades of work by advocates. We are benefiting because of the work that you have done, and we are deeply appreciative and honored. Moments like these, where we recognize that our collective accomplishments really do make a difference, are fuel for the fire to keep the movement alive and growing. Let’s keep fighting for equality for people with disabilities. By now, most of us know someone with a disability. Maybe we are parents, siblings, friends, or neighbors. Let’s not leave anybody out, and let’s continue to level the playing field for everyone to achieve their dreams!!