So, for all of you who know me as well as those of you who don’t, I am officially announcing my retirement from being disabled.
“How can you do this?” some may ask. In fact, I can hear a few of you asking that question right now.
Well, I’ll tell you, I gave it some thought, and what I focused on was the idea that those who live normal lives retire from their jobs, why can’t I retire from being disabled? I mean, what’s the difference between what they have done and what I have done? They have worked hard all their lives and deserve to live out their lives the way they want. Don’t I deserve, as much as them, that same consideration, to be able to retire when I’m 65?
“But it’s not the same,” some may say, pointing out that while they are no longer working, I will still have a disability after I retire.
That is not the issue.
Having a Disability is Not All Fun and Games
Sometimes, people look at me when I tell them I’m on disability and they nod their heads, as if they know I am keeping some kind of secret. They think to themselves that I have pulled one over on the government. Really, there are people who think that being on disability is simply a free pass, a get out of jail card, that allows you to not work, and, because you look ok you’re not really disabled. I even had one person tell me I did a “Good job.”
There is nothing I can do about how some people think, but the way I look at it, being disabled, although not recognized as such, is just as much, if not more, of a job, than going to work every day.
There is the daily, twenty four hour, minute by minute grind that rips you apart emotionally and mentally. There is no escape. You don’t get to go home at the end of the day. You don’t get weekends off. You don’t get a vacation.
What Does This Mean?
What makes me think I am even ready to retire from being disabled?
Am I done with therapists? Am I considered rehabilitated? Am I “normal”?
I. Don’t. Know.
All I know is, as with those who make a conscious decision to retire from their occupations, retirement for me is a choice. Ready or not, here I come.
I may not be ready for retirement… time will tell. All I know is I am taking the next step in my life; from now on I consider myself officially retired. I am no longer “disabled”.
There are reasons for retiring.
I have worked hard at regaining my life since I was 19 years old. Many of the victories during my “working” life involve me being able to do something that anyone else could do naturally. Those victories have come from simply wanting to be able to live my life, and have not gained me anything that I didn’t already have before my injury. Those victories wouldn’t be anything special to most people, but to me, those victories are oh, so precious and meaningful.
People who live normal lives and have worked hard all their lives certainly deserve to be able to retire. I think I should be able to retire after working a lifetime to get my life back after brain injury; because, as you all know, it is hard work. On top of that, it is lonely work. Thankless work. Emotionally and mentally draining work.
Living for the Moment
My wanting to retire has nothing to do with being able to retire. I’m going to do it whether I am ready or not, realizing that this decision I have made has more to do with my attitude and how I look at my life, than how I actually live it.
My retirement is the product of an idea that has been rattling around in my brain. This idea is very simple: hasn’t this gone on for long enough? Haven’t I worked hard enough? From now on, I am not going to be disabled. Instead, I am a flawed human being, just doing the best I can to live my life.
I’ve always joked that when I turn 65 I was going to “retire from being disabled”. It just seemed like a funny, wise-guy thing to say, but, as with most jokes, there was an element of truth to it, only that element of truth didn’t occur to me until just recently.
Saying I was going to retire from being disabled was a way of adjusting my attitude. The basis for my retirement is this: all my life I have worked to get to that place where I would feel as though I had achieved some sort of normalcy and life would come easy…or easier. I was always living for the future, living my life so that, one day, I would feel as though it had all been worth it, and I would be at a place of peace and joy.
I finally realized that I will probably never get to that place, and because of that, I better make an adjustment to how I was living my life. Most importantly, I decided I better start living for the moment now instead of always living for the future. To do that I would need to better appreciate everything what was going on around me and try very hard to live in the present. Be more spontaneous.
I will not worry so much about being organized, about planning and setting myself up so I would avoid missteps or errors. I will learn to accept being flawed and to enjoy what was happening.
I will learn to take a step back from what is going on in order to appreciate what has just happened, or marvel at the situation I have just found myself in.
I will try to be present–a completely new thing for me.
Living and working for the future was great and important, but I have realized that all there really is is the present, and by always concentrating on the future I was sacrificing my ability to live in the present. Saying I am retired allows me to think differently about my life, and to focus on what is going on around me.