When things seem to be different, it’s hard for people to accept what they don’t normally see in everyday life, especially when people don’t quite understand how to react to it. Take, for instance, my disability, which is Cerebral Palsy better known as “CP”. I have had CP since birth, so it is difficult to know what “normal” is, but my question is does anybody? 

Ever since I can remember, children have been one of the most amusing experiences I have ever come across. Up until I was in fifth grade, I was in schools that had disabled students only, and I did not have to deal too much with children who were not disabled. Only when my Mother would take me shopping with her, did I begin to notice the other children and how they would make their silly little remarks or make faces, which in return, I would have to make goofy faces back at them. Then I was moved into a school where there was one class for the disabled, and all the rest of the classes were filled with “normal” children. Once I was in with children that were able to run, jump and play, all the games that children played at that age. I began to want to be like the children that I had watched. While at recess one day, I decided to get up out of my wheelchair, and I got myself behind the wheelchair so I could use it like a walker. The children would look and stare, but I didn’t care because I wanted to be like them and just have fun like they were. It didn’t go over that well. Some would laugh, and others would make funny faces and try to imitate my every move, but it didn’t bother me. I just went on my way and laughed until one of the aids would come and put me back in my wheelchair. But as soon as they would leave, I would just get back up and try and do it again. 

A few months later, I had one of my annual doctor’s appointments, and that is when they gave me my first real walker. I thought I was hot stuff, until that day when I was walking from a class, and this boy I kind of had a crush on offered to walk me to where ever I was going. I got excited when I get excited, I tend to start to shake; then my nerves get bad which makes it very different to speak, so by the time we got back to class I could not even breath, let alone talk to him. He almost had to give me CPR. 

When I got to high school, the children were just bizarre. At this age in teenagers’ lives, they don’t care about anybody but themselves. Sometimes I felt as though I had a disease, especially with guys. The girls were not that bad; it was more the guys that gave me trouble. For example, it’s hard to get dates when you have this person that shakes every time a cute guy comes along and says “hi”, and it takes all you have not to be nervous and move around uncontrollably. But when all the focus is on not moving and also trying to stay in your wheelchair, then when you try to talk, you lose it all, and the guy you were impressing just walks away. Another perfect example is when a girlfriend of mine knew I liked this guy that helps in homeroom, a classroom for disabled students go when they have problems with other classes or anything else that might happen to pop up.  One time we were watching, a movie, and this guy was sitting in front of my girlfriend and me while watching this movie. Lisa, my girlfriend, decided to tease me about telling him that I liked him. Well, Lisa wasn’t teasing; she told him right then and there. Let’s just say he was a little shocked; he didn’t even look at me for two weeks. I guess he never had a girl with a disability like him before. Some teachers were not quite the best at understanding either. The one that comes to mind was a math teacher; the second I got in his class, he ask me if I could write, of course, I replied no; the next thing I knew, I was out there. That was okay by me because the replacement teacher I had was great; I even got a “B” out of the class. 

There were so many other reactions that I have gotten from different kinds of people. For instance, when I’m at the Valley Plaza, I got some of the funniest glances. I recall this girl that was by me who had this strange look on her face, it was as if she saw an alien from outer space, all the while, still walking to where ever she was going. People, young and old, would look and comment on how I would do things, like if I took too long to get my money out to pay for something. Sometimes when people get impatient, I have even more time to get my money out. That’s what gets their pants or dress in an uproar. Also, there have been times when people will come up to my money for no apparent reason at all. My favorite one was when I was buying a Christmas present for an ex-boyfriend of mine,   and the gentleman offered to pay for the gift just because he wanted to. 

I may have been coping with my disability, but it wasn’t until I got to Bakersfield College that I accepted my disability, but it wasn’t until I got to Bakersfield college that I accepted my disability. B.C. was something new and different than what I was accustomed to in high school, or elementary school. At first, I was a little bit hesitant to go on, but I knew if I didn’t go on, I would just be sitting around the house doing absolutely nothing but watching soaps all day. Not that I don’t watch them anyway, but at least that’s not all that I do. I have learned so much, not just from classes that I have taken, but from people who were in the boat as I am. I was amazed at how many people went to B.C. that had disabilities of some kind or another. I started to meet new people that had the same issues as I did, and I felt good that I wasn’t alone. I also got to know some of the people who worked at the college and that is when I felt more comfortable with my disability. Joyce Kirst, an instructor for the High Tech Center gave me my first job. After working there for a few semesters, she entered me in this contest that had a brand new IBM home computer for the prize. When I won, I had to make a speech in front of twenty or more people. My first thought was Joyce, you had to be kidding, I had never made that kind of speech in my life. I practiced what was going to say for a week. Finally, when I made it, I could not stop; people probably would never shut up. At least I did get over my shyness, even though people probably would like to have seen me a little shyer. 

I began to open up to a whole new area in my life. On the weekends I started staying at a girlfriend’s house, and some of my other friends took us to my first bar, and to say the least, I was astonished at the way that people acted. When we first went in, they were saying “why would they come they come in this bar or something to that effect. When a few hours passed, and everybody had time to get a few drinks down their throats, it started to get exciting. While sitting at our table, people would be dancing and coming up to us to ask if we wanted to dance with them. At first, I was thinking how it would be so funny to see someone in a wheelchair that was a little bit drunk trying to dance. But one of my friends said to me, “Kim”, we can dance just like anyone else, if don’t like me, that’s their problem, not ours. We have just as much right to have fun as anybody else in this bar does. From that night on, I didn’t feel as different from the people that were in the bar. 
     I had my first steady boyfriend when I was in my second year at Bakersfield College. He was a character, me that people with disabilities do not have to sit at home and stare at the wall. Every weekend you would see him either at a party or at a local dance club. If he wasn’t at a party or a bar, he would be out on Chester Avenue cruising with all the teenagers blasting his stereo. You could him coming a mile away. People would stop and stare at what was coming down the street. He wasn’t afraid of anything he got a kick out of people coming up to him and asking about the stereo that he had put on his wheelchair One time he told me that a police officer stopped him for having his stereo up too loud while going down the streets. There were a couple of when I and a girlfriend would go with him. Well, let’s just say I didn’t like to be noticed, more of the background type and watch. 
      I have learned a lot from other people’s reactions toward me; some were good and others were bad. For instance, instance, I’m not able to drive, I take either Get-A-Lift or the city bus. Which I never had an issue with until this one particular Saturday when a friend and her husband wanted me to come to see their apartment, I got ready that morning and got on the city bus. I wasn’t too sure where they lived because I wasn’t too familiar with the south side of Bakersfield, so when I got downtown I wasn’t too sure what bus to take. Once I figured out the route, I was on my way. When I arrived at their apartment, to my surprise, they were not even home. By that time, I was not too happy, I was upset and frustrated that I went all the way over for nothing. I wasn’t sure what time the bus was going to be coming back around, so I went back to the spot I had gotten off. I was angry and hot of course with those combinations my body moves out of control, much more when I am nervous. When I saw the bus coming I tried to get on.  When the bus stopped, the Driver asked me if I wanted on. At first, I wanted to ask him if he was going to the plaza. But because he had trouble understanding me. So another rider told him that he thought I asked if he was going to the plaza, he looked at me and I said, “Yes”. While I was trying to get myself on the bus, the handle that was on my control box had come off of my wheelchair. Of course, I had trouble putting the damn thing back on. When I finally got myself situated, I could hear people talking about how I should not be by myself. This woman sitting across from me kept asking if I knew where I was going and if I knew where I lived