Sunday, October 9, 2011

Letting in the light

October 9

The best part about studying social work is the constant tap on the shoulder that makes you look in a different direction. Things I read or hear pop the bubble around my head, grab me by the ankles and pull me out from under my sofa of inane insecurities. I blink because it’s so bright and then sit back and examine the words that construct, deconstruct, shift and reorganize my thoughts.

As awful as the three-page instructions were, I started on my assignment – which is to understand, analyze and study a privilege we have – I’ve decided to choose my ability (that is being non-disabled) as a privilege simply because I never thought about it much. I mean yeah, every time I’d read Helen Keller or see someone in a wheelchair, sometimes when the electricity would go and refuse to come back I would wonder what it would be like to be blind but I never had to analyze what disability is and how as an able-bodied person I perpetuate a system of oppression.

Ha! I sound like an obnoxious masters student. In simple and better terms, I never thought about disability in relation to myself and what part I play in making life difficult for disabled people simply by never thinking – and therefore never doing – anything about a world that is built to suit people without disabilities.

Something I read in my book deserves to be reread and quoted:

‘What was it like to be a young man being lifted, moved, pushed by a woman? What was it like to have to ask for everyday materials to be taken out of your bag slung unreachably behind you on the chair? What was it like to request a straw for the glass of water naively placed on the wheelchair tray by the researcher, to have to request the glass be brought closer to the mouth, to have to request that a cushion under one’s neck be adjusted?’

People back home asked me why I would go for social work for my masters, is it really an actual profession, what am I going to learn, really? Well, this is why. Studying social work helps me get in touch with things I believe in but which get shoved back under piles of temporary files. It brings things into perspective, lifts up curtains we hang up consciously and unconsciously everyday so that we can live more easily, more robotically, divide time between TV shows, assignments, family and friends without having to see who lives around us, sleeps on a pavement, gets shot because their skin and clothes are hinting at a certain race/ethnicity, has to wait for hours before someone can walk by and push a door open.

I make fun of the touchy, feely, self-help group style classes I have but the self-analysis is profound, enlightening.

The best part about my masters is there are no lines, no cordoned off areas, no gated communities. I’m not learning something that will apply only to my career – I’m learning how to think, act and be something more than I am right now. Not just as a social worker but as a woman, student, person. And I could totally compare how that is cooler than a myriad of professions/masters degrees but since I’m a social worker (in progress) I will not.

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