What would you say to your younger self if you had the opportunity? Wheelchair User Jessica Cochran thinks about this topic and writes the following letter:
Dear Younger Self,
You are going to face challenges in your life that you’ve never imagined, at times it will be hard, and times your life will hang in the balance and fear will surround you. It is going to be a rough road but I’m here to tell you that despite those challenges you have it within you to grow into someone strong, kind, determined, and beautiful.
Right now being disabled is something you don’t identify as. You’ve been unwell but the conditions that will change your body and the trajectory of your life are yet to show themselves. I know this sounds scary to you and there will be times where you are really fearful but I’m here to tell you that this isn’t the end for you, it is just the beginning.
You will feel new levels of pain, fatigue, confusion, and fear and these moments will, at times, leave you thinking you don’t have the strength to do it… but you do. These experiences will be cornerstones to your learnings as you finding your “new self”.
You’ll find new hopes, dreams, passions, and friends. Communities who share your drive, passion, and fire will embrace you. You’ll help bring change, true change, to this world. You will learn so much from yourself and these communities; embrace it, absorb it, and know that you have found your tribe.
You’ll face times where your life and livelihood are held in the care and expertise of others. Sometimes you will come across individuals who try to gaslight you or don’t have your best interests in mind. Sometimes you’ll experience neglect. Take those moments and stand your ground, learn what you can from those interactions, as you’ll use them to help yourself and others.
Have faith that with time you will be surrounded by an incredible team who cheer you on in all you do, and care about you and the life you want to live.
You will lose friends along the way, unable to understand what is happening and unwilling to respect your newfound boundaries. It will hurt and confuse you. You always go above and beyond for those you care about but unfortunately, some will take advantage of that. These losses will lead to something incredible though, you will eventually find yourself surrounded by friends who understand you to the point that they feel like extensions of yourself. Many of them will know what your conditions can do from their own experience and will look to you for guidance as they take on that journey after you. They will laugh with you, be there in moments of hardship, embrace your quirks and love every bit of you and who you are. Remember to lean on them when you need them, remember that you don’t have to do this alone and there truly is strength in numbers.
As scary as much of this sounds I want you to know that there are so many amazing things in store for you and you will learn to unite both the challenges and the wins and create something uniquely beautiful.
Your Future Self
About the Author
Jess Cochran is a 31-year-old from Melbourne. Jess lives with physical and psychosocial disabilities as well as chronic illness. Jess is a writer, performing artist, actress, model, and disability advocate.
She hopes that her continued involvement with advocacy, writing and the performing arts will help break down the barriers that performing artists with disabilities face when trying to access work, training, and performance spaces.