I really love Pauline Victoria.
I first met her when my friend Tony Candela and I were trying to start the Alliance of Professionals with Disabilities in Silicon Valley. We’d meet at Agilent or HP – some large company over there – and work through details with other professionals with disabilities. Pauline was our group’s secretary.
I got to know her a little better when I ran into her at the Oakland airport when she was about to move to the Big Island of Hawai’i, where I graduated from both high school and college. It was pretty serendipitous, and I ever-gradually learned more about her.
One thing that I learned about her is that of most all people, she shares the same philosophy regarding disability that I do. Only she is a million times more articulate than I am. I’ve been a big fan of her video series and her work in disability acceptance, and wanted to share some of her videos with you.
With her permission, here is the first Conversation with Pauline Victoria: What Happened.
note: captions have not been added, however, Pauline speaks so clearly that the YouTube auto captions only made 2 mistakes.
This line of thinking – that our lives are perfect as they are for fulfilling whatever our missions are – isn’t that popular overall in the disability community. Or, for that matter, any community, really!
But as I wrote once on this blog, I feel that when you take the approach that disability is chosen – that somehow, in some way, I, for example, chose to be born into a situation that would cause me deafness, TBI, PTSD, bi-polar disorder, etc, because I knew it would give me the experience in life that I wanted, that it would help me develop qualities that I wanted, then it changes the tone of my trajectory.
Rather than “oh, woe is me” it becomes more, “what am I learning?“, “what am I getting out of this experience?”
As I look at my daughter who has Down syndrome, I only think that she chose this particular course; she wanted to experience her life from a unique vantage point. She wanted an experience here that was different.
The problem, of course (as I see it), is that we don’t remember what we wanted after we are born. We forget why we chose what we did, why we want to fulfill a certain type of mission or another. We get trained away from our heart’s calling by school and culture.
Following that training from school and culture, we fall into what both tend to tell us about groups of people that are different from us. And the disabled do tend to stand out more in a mainstream-based society, don’t we?
I challenge you reading this to think about that, if it’s different from what you have been believing about disability.
I challenge you to think about how different it all looks and feels when you consider that we all might have wanted an alternative experience, that there is something in living a life with a disability that we thought would be the perfect way for us to learn what we wanted in this life. If your child has a disability, I challenge you to see the power in your child, your child’s maverick spirit, wanting to experience life from a completely different (and often more difficult) vantage point.
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E). Deaf, with C-PTSD and TBI, she’s also a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.