“Everyone wants to come to America.” I cannot believe that I am one of the 5% of the entire global population who holds an American passport. I cannot believe that because of this blue covered booklet that says United States of America on it, I am one of the most privileged and coveted people in the world. This journey, 90 days in, has been a real mind fuck for me.
I am armed with this new knowledge, this new information, a new perspective. And I cannot just let it sit inside me. I cannot go back to America and know what I know now. It’s no joke – knowledge is power. I just have no freaking idea what to do with it. I’m afraid, I’m empowered, and I’m angry.
No one says I want to go to Bhutan where the people are considered the happiest in the world. No one says I want to go to Norway or Finland where the social services are the best in the world. No one says I want to go to Costa Rica because they have such beautiful green rainforests. Everyone wants to come to America.
My mind has been spinning for weeks. I am going through a deep internal struggle and trying to navigate these immense feelings I’m having. As I was transiting through the Paris airport on my way back to America – for a short pause in my journey – and the airport staff were treating me like I was an animal, like my brain was more non-functional than my legs, I became so angry. I was humiliated, degraded, and just downright disappointed in humanity. To be clear, this is typical in airports – America and elsewhere – and it wasn’t unique to this layover. I was and am treated like less of a human, and I’m angry about that. I’m angry that I was born into this world as a disabled female when it’s been designed for able bodied men. And because of it, I am pushed to accept less.
The words are hard for me to say – ‘I cannot walk.’ I don’t ever tell anyone ‘I cannot,’ and saying these words, knowing that it makes me lesser of a human to so many people, are the most difficult order of words to ever come out of my mouth. If I’m being honest, it’s why I’ve made this commitment to seeing the world. I’m trying to find my place in it, trying to figure out why I had to be the one born into this body that is physically imperfect.
And while I am dealing with my own frustrations around human rights and equality, I hear stories from people around the world. I hear of women and their children who left their husbands in Ukraine and are captured into human trafficking as they flee their country and cross over the Moldovan border. I hear of women and men who are leaving their countries for years on end to have sex with men for money, all to feed their children. I see a woman in Uzbekistan who works so hard for so little, and does it with a smile. And a man in Indonesia who has gone bankrupt three times but continues to give and give, telling me that giving means more to him than money. I listen to stories of men, my age, who went through a mass genocide in Cambodia and have memorable, horrific stories to tell. I learn that disabled people are not allowed to work in Kazakhstan and see firsthand what demanding independence means as I cross over the Kosovo-Serbia border. As I hear these stories, experience them firsthand, I begin to hate myself for even considering that I might be treated unfairly. These people have real struggles, real fights to put up; mine are nothing compared to what they are going through. How can I even, for a minute, be angry at my own situation? And yet, I am…
I look at and feel how our planetary society works, and these imaginary lines that political systems have created on a sphere floating in a universe none of us can truly comprehend. Yet somehow, we – all of humanity – have managed to create an unspoken ranking of who belongs at the top and who belongs at the bottom.
I’m at this point in my journey – a really deep, thought provoking point – where I know I need to navigate through my feelings and deal with my own anger of my place on the totem pole of life – a disabled female – but also know that despite that, I am still one of the luckiest. How do I deal with being so overprivileged and so angry at the same time? How do I live with myself knowing I have so much, but that there’s still space for increased equality? How do I deal with the fighting dynamics of overprivileged guilt and selfish anger, competing against each other for an emotional resolution so a peace can be within? I’m not sure I have enough energy to resolve both sides of this fight.
I sit with my thoughts every morning and night and try to resolve this demanding desire to let the anger go, to be truly grateful and accepting of what I do have, to not want more, yet I know America has more to offer me and others like me. I find myself spinning in this giant emotional circle, stuck with where to go, but knowing that I simply cannot stay here. How do I get the merry-go-round to stop? I want to fight for disabled females – for people like me – but other countries, other people like me, are so far away from having even an inkling of the rights I have. So, who do I fight for – me, or them?
I haven’t even touched some of the most impoverished countries in this world, and I know they will be emotionally difficult for me. I will need to prepare myself for the intensity of emotions that will come with it.
This journey comes with some hard times. It’s a very profound experience, seeing the world. I didn’t go into this thinking I would be sunbathing and drinking frappuccinos all day. That’s not who I am. I went into this to grow, to grow in a way that couldn’t be undone. I know that what I’ve seen and heard, from my very ignorant small-town American perspective, has changed me. I’ve grown. Seeing the world – counting the places – has become highly, highly addictive. I cannot stop; it’s like a drug. I’ve become cultural insatiable and I’m fearful that I won’t ever get enough of this, that the stories and people will never be enough. I fear that the more I hear, the more I know, the more I experience will all put me further away from ever finding my own place in the world. I fear that the true inequity our planet holds will be too much for me to understand, and the search will become a fast spinning and unstoppable merry-go-round, driving me to insanity.
I wish, with my entire heart, that everyone could experience this unfathomable overload of information and emotion. I wish everyone had the opportunity to get a worldwide perspective, firsthand, away from a YouTube video or classroom textbook. I know that I am one of a few hundred people in the entire planet who are doing this. I know it takes determination and courage, and I know I’ve worked hard for both of those things. But people all over the world have determination and courage; we can read endless media articles about those people, and I’ve spoken with dozens of them. And so I’m back on the merry-go-round, spinning in my world full of resources and privilege, while others watch from the sidelines. I want to invite them to join me, but I’m spinning too quickly for them to catch up. America is spinning, leading the way in so many areas. I was born in between these imaginary lines, and my privilege shows up all the time. Every day when I get into my fancy wheelchair. Every border crossing I make, with my little booklet titled United States of America. Every perfectly enunciated word that comes out of my mouth. I’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve it. I’m not sure how to accept this gift, something that millions – billions – of people are just as worthy of receiving. Why me?
To receive updates on new blog posts, please subscribe here or follow me on social media.