Living with a disability from birth, means that there’s often extra consideration needed for the adventures’ life can throw at you. Leaving home and moving to a whole new city is one adventure that has definitely had its challenges.
Most obvious were the physical challenges of figuring out what I was going to need to be able to get the best out of student life. Luckily, I’m not the first person with a disability to go to university. I was pleasantly surprised with the support my university provided for me, and the resources that were available for me if I chose to take them.
The challenges that I didn’t as easily anticipate were the emotional ones. I found myself returning to the question of who I really am, and how I want to present myself (including my disability) to the world. I thought after 19 years I would have had plenty of time to answer these questions. However, becoming a ‘proper’ adult has made me realise that I never found the perfect answer, and that’s okay. Can anyone really say with definite confidence, in one sentence ‘This is who I am.’?
One of the best things that university (or maybe just growing up) has taught me, is how to get over that frightening feeling of not being exactly like everyone else. I’ve found that the university environment is full of people figuring out what they want to do and who they want to be. I think this kind of leads to a mindset shift - where everyone is forced to look at themselves properly rather than going along with the status quo. I’ve become more at ease with the idea that I’m different from other people.
Don’t get me wrong, the differences can still be challenging. It can be difficult facing questions like: Will uni actually let me study medicine if I wanted to? It’s not easy facing these ableist views that do still crop up from time to time. But I feel as I’m learning how to address these issues, and sometimes just live with them, while I am growing as a person.
I still get a kick out the little things, like the dad jokes from lecturers. “You look like you’ve been dancing on too many tables at the pub!” (Which was true of course, but not the reason for the crutches). I also love to make up backstories when people ask why I use crutches (my favourite is to describe the plot of the film Soul Surfer).
So as with anything in life, university has its highs and lows. I’ve always known I’ve wanted to go to university. What I actually want to do after university is slightly less certain, and I’m constantly changing my mind.
Nevertheless, I know right now, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Written by Daisy Eaglesome
I was born with spina bifida which mainly affects the muscles in my left leg. I've had a couple of spinal surgeries to prevent further nerve damage, and operations to correct bone positioning. Day to day I wear a splint for extra support and use crutches.