10 years ago, my definition of freedom was being able to stay out late without consequence. I wanted to attend parties alongside my peers and remain at those parties without having to check my watch. In my mind, I was oppressed, and the system of parenting was the oppressor. Looking back, being free meant irresponsibility and zero accountability. Freedom meant privacy and having the opportunity to become a young man. I wanted to experiment and be adventurous. The blood in my veins burnt so hot that if this freedom I yearned for wasn’t going to be given to me, I was going to take it.
One night I was in my small room just outside our main house, here in the village we call them “cubes”. I was on my laptop creating my work out playlist. 2014 was the year I had resolved to do better and be better. A major part of being better meant being kinder to my body and getting more involved in fitness. Working out cleared my mind and helped me sleep better so it became part of my evening routine. I am mostly a sensitive guy, so I was pilling up all the 90’s Rnb songs on the playlist. A buzz on my phone distracted me and I went to check who could be texting at 10:30 pm.
I wanted to be free at all costs, so I switched off my laptop, dressed and slowly sneaked out of the home. I headed where the party was. The text was from a good friend and he was inviting me for a wild night out. This was the first time something like this was happening to me. I couldn’t say no, I just couldn’t. We partied, club hopped and had the best time. At around 3 am in the morning we started the journey back home, none of us made it home safely. From Stairs To Ramps: The Beginning – The Accident That Changed My Life
Six years later I am seated on a wheelchair in that same small room as the only male survivor from that day. We hit a trailer on our way home and the three other guys in the car died on the spot. There was a girl who also survived. I came out with a severe spinal cord injury that rendered me paralyzed from my armpits down. So much for wanting freedom, right?
Today, my definition of freedom has changed. I no longer desire to attend parties or go stay out till morning comes. I seek things far more deeper and greater. These days, accessibility, equality, and inclusion are the true measures of the freedom I want.
Over the last five years I have had to unlearn and relearn plenty of things about life and its true essence. Now a disabled man, I have to jump over greater hurdles, most of which were unbeknown to me. These days, being seen and being heard is the truest form of freedom.
In 2015, a year after the accident, I received an invitation to attend a friend’s wedding. I was elated about being invited but my mind could not allow me to even picture myself in a public setting. At the time, I experienced an immense amount of self loathe that there was no way I was even going to consider attending. I didn’t feel good about anything, life at the time was grey and dull. Looking back at that period, now I understand what true oppression feels like. I was being held captive my own insecurities, I held the key and chain, but my fear couldn’t let me free myself.
You get so used to being a captive of your own mind that you start identifying with that kind of oppression. Without it you have nothing to hold on to and you are lost. Having the fortitude to break those shackles and embrace positive progression is what I know to be freedom today. If the battle is won in my mind, then being on a wheelchair is just a visual thing. You can see that I am paralyzed but I don’t look like I am. The opportunity to choose the kind of life you want to have is the freedom you should pursue.