by Simone Van Ommeren-Akelman
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I had hoped, on the way to my first day of my sophomore year, that people would be understanding, compassionate. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
A week before I started school, I was in a horrible accident while practicing for an upcoming show with my horse, Mijinou. We were simply jumping, a practice that we had done numerous times before.
Unfortunately, Mijinou tripped.
Mijinou face planted, and somersaulted directly on top of me. It all happened in slow motion; half way through the air, I leapt off of her back and tried to roll out of the shadow that she was casting on me.
I almost got away, but she caught me while I was lying on my left hip. My pelvis broke in four separate places, and both of my hands were broken from the attempt to brace myself.
If Mijinou had landed two inches farther up my back, I would have been paralyzed.
But, of course, nobody saw the story. All that they saw was the girl positioned in a seat attached to two wheels.
I had to be in a wheelchair for a total of ten weeks and crutches for a month after that. I had to stop doing what I loved the most.
But of course, nobody saw that.
I’ll never forget wheeling myself to my first period class and struggling to open the door, while a group of boys standing a mere five feet away laughed.
I’ll never forget wheeling myself through the quad and being surrounded by a group of girls, who interrogated me about being handicapped, and forced me into listening to their snide remarks that were very inappropriate and hurtful.
I’ll never forget the things thrown out of car windows at me, or how many people watched me as I struggled to pick up dropped books.
I’ll never forget the girl who made me wheel over to the culinary garden in order to work on a project together, and watched my wheels contend with the tough turf.
But through all of the negative reactions, I will never forget those who were considerate and those who recognized my condition for what it really was: an injury.
I will never forget the friends who made accommodations for me so that I could still continue to live a normal life.
I will never forget the strangers who just grabbed the handles of my chair and assisted me up hills or across difficult ground.
I will never forget the boy who stayed by my side the entire time and offered me nothing but support and care.
The negative, for the majority of my time in a wheelchair, far outweighed the positive; I will never forget how all those people made me feel. Most times, I felt inferior, belittled, and sometimes I didn’t even feel human.
But the way others made me feel, and still make me feel, was simply loved.
This makes the rest of it okay.