A very good day to you dedicated readers!
My name is Jorain, and I am a new staff member of Disabled People’s Association (DPA). I am replacing Alvan as the new Advocacy Executive. Henceforth, this blog will capture my thoughts and opinions on any matters concerning disability in Singapore and other parts of the world.
Truth be told, if someone had asked me 10 years ago about my dream job, the occupation of ‘Disability Advocate’ would never cross my mind. I was born without a right arm, otherwise known as a ‘congenital arm defect’ in medical terminology. And I, for one, was not always as comfortable dealing with my disability. How did I get here, then? By way of introduction, and also to break the ‘virtual’ ice, let me share a story of how I overcame those negative feelings about my disability. (Hold it right there! You were about to leave, weren’t you? But this is not a sob story, I promise you.)
I could not pinpoint exactly when I became highly self-conscious of my physical difference from those around me. As a child, all I was concerned about was really just food and play. I did not yet acquire my acute sense of self-awareness and the self-loathing that followed like a contagious disease. I did attract attention every now and then, mostly in the forms of glances and innocently curious questions from my classmates, but they did not bother me in the least. I simply knew that I could not play cat’s cradle, or make rabbit and spider shadow puppets.
Unfortunately, like every other classic Hollywood narrative, whereby the protagonist faces an obstacle and hits a low point in life, my blissfully carefree attitude was soon destroyed. As a young teenager going through adolescence, a monster called ‘self-consciousness’ started to emerge around 12-13 years of age. I became acutely aware of and concerned about what others, especially my peers, thought of me. It suddenly became offensive, hurtful even, for people to stare at my stump. Teasing by my fellow schoolmates often turned me into a puddle of tears.
“I did not choose to be different. I did not choose to be born without an arm. Why am I being punished?’’ I would often ask, feeling victimised by a fate I could never change. Such self-despair gave way to hatred, and it was, on a whole, a vicious cycle that transformed me into a fatalistic and melancholic individual.
Thankfully, during my Junior College and University years, I made close friends and started to build a closer relationship with my family. Talking about my disability openly with all of them, as well as hearing stories about inspirational individuals like Nick Vujicic, slowly but gradually made me re-evaluate my life and what I was doing with it. Nick was born with no arms or legs, yet he could golf, surf, swim and even skydive! He did not allow the obstacles arising from his disability stop him from enjoying life. His life provides a strong evidence of how a positive attitude towards disability can allow one to accomplish things that were thought impossible.
“Just what am I doing with my life then?” I had asked myself in disbelief. I had chosen to be bitter about my missing arm, whereas Nick adopted a different trajectory and is leading a fulfilling life. There was clearly something wrong with my perspective.
After much introspection, I arrived at an epiphany: I am not defined by my disability, but by my reaction to it. I am a perfectly normal human being, just like everyone else. Similar to the differences in hair, skin and eye colours across the world, my stump is simply another physical feature that makes me uniquely me! And it is not my physical disability, but a wrong attitude that will prevent me from leading a fulfilling life.
So here I am today, writing my first blog entry as a disability advocate. A quick read of all the blog articles will inform you that my predecessor, Alvan, has done an amazing job. What can I offer to you readers, then? As a young person with disability who recently became more involved in the disability community and joined the advocacy world, there will undoubtedly be many new and unfamiliar things for me to learn and master. It is this fresh and curious perspective of a young person with disability that I will bring to the table. With this in mind, I humbly invite you readers to accompany me on this learning process as I seek to familiarise myself in the world of disability advocacy.