Thursday, September 14, 2017
"Hi, I have Tourettes....and I'm not Evil"
I was outside of my dorm building this afternoon, reading a book for one of my graduate classes. My little picnic table was off the beaten path in the center of a grassy area by a parking garage. I should mention that this table doesn't border any sidewalks.
It was a rather quiet afternoon. Perfect for studying.
I stayed there for over an hour, just reading. Not sure how much I actually retained, but I knew I was going to read it again later.
Then...off to my right (by the parking garage) I hear a shout - a shout that was coming towards me.
"Hey (name I missed), I'm going to make a new friend!"
Odd. That's not a phrase I remember hearing a lot. Especially on a college campus.
I look up from my book, and a young African-American man (about my age) is climbing on the bench besides mine. I wasn't really startled, given what I had just heard, but I must say that I was surprised - and maybe a little nervous. Why did he want to meet me?
He said to me, in a very cheerful voice, "Hi, I'm (name). I have Tourettes...and I'm not evil."
I don't remember tensing up, but I must have, because I smiled and relaxed my shoulders.
He asked my name and we proceeded to have a pleasant conversation. It turns out he had already attained his bachelors and was on his way to getting his doctorate (at least, I think that's what he said. It was at the same time that he mentioned getting his black belt in martial arts). We ended our conversation by his mentioning that his favorite holiday was Halloween and that he was looking forward to it.
After he left, the only thing that I could think of was...
"Wow. That guy was very brave, and he will make something of himself."
That young man is going to bring about more change than any activist for physical or mental illnesses. Because he's living proof that his disability didn't get in the way of attaining success - in classroom or out.
Now, I must confess, when I was younger, I was very afraid of people with a physical or mental disability. As I've grown older and met more people, I realize that I shouldn't focus on their disabilities, but on their humanity. As I've had more positive experiences with people with disabilities, that fear has diminished to nothing. I just never realized it until I met this young man.
As I sit here writing this post, it just occurred to me - why isn't more positive experiences with mentally or physically ill people present in fiction?
What about the people that have friends, best friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wives that have these illnesses? Why aren't they present in books as being positive influences?
From my brief experience with him, I saw a young man grow in confidence, and come to think of it, so did I.
Let's keep that trend going.