Day 318: The why.
With everything going on it’s been tough to write about just one topic. When I started 365 days, I started it with the intention of highlighting my struggles and trials through one full year of my PhD with the idea that I may (or may not) keep going for the duration of my PhD process. Then COVID hit, Black lives matter protests took off (finally), and I had the realization that I, like most people, am more than just my studies.
We don’t study things in a vacuum. I wasn’t given my PhD topic or told what to be interested in. I selected my topic and my interests based on who I am as a person. I wanted to help people. Okay, truthfully ever since I was in kindergarden I told everyone I wanted to be a scientist, so my love of science shouldn’t come as a surprise to my colleges who knew me during my (very) early education.
That doesn’t change the fact that I got into my field for a very specific set of reasons. I peered into the world and what I saw was a place that was super accessible! … only if you had two hands and legs. This connection was further strengthened with my own disabilities due to my service in the Marine Corps. I got to see first hand how people treat you when you can’t do what everyone else can. It was as eye opening as it was frustrating.
I wanted equality. I still very much want equality. So when the Black lives matter movement started (a long ass time ago thank you) I was of course supportive. Equality matters, I love the LBGTQ+ community, the Black community, the POC community, the Indigenous community, we’re all one giant family on this tiny speck of dust we call earth. So in the middle (or now tail end really) of 365 days I’m talking more about the issues at hand.
This may seem like a shift of interest, I was SUPPOSED to talk about my education, but I cannot without talking about inequality, the whole reason I am studying in my field to begin with! What kind of advocate would I be if I sat quietly while I actively watch people suffer? I cannot and will not. I was forced to do that as a child and now as an adult, with an adult voice, I can say no more.
People (conservatives) will often say keep politics out of science, but science is always political. What they mean to say is don’t publish science disagree with THEIR political views. I could theoretically talk about disability in a vacuum, this is true. I could focus purely on disability and nothing else. That wouldn’t tell you the whole story though, it wouldn’t give you all the information. Imagine reading Lord of the Rings and they didn’t tell you the story along the way, they just skipped to the parts where the ring was being destroyed. No motivation for it, no emotional attachments to why they were doing it. Just purely they destroyed a magic ring. I guess we will never know the why.
The WHY I study is just as important as the WHAT I study. Without knowing that disabled people suffer due to lack of accessibility you may be confused as to why I’m even doing the research I am doing. You may think it was a waste of time! The why tells us so much more than the what. It lets you understand why I’m driven, why I’m here, why this is important. It even helps you understand the struggles and hurdles along the way.
So while I may be going back and forth between seemingly random topics, they all stem from the same why. The need to finally see the world have everyone be treated equally. The future needs to be accessible to those with disability, it needs to rid itself of the biases. Some of the smartest people are being forced out of education. What if the person who could cure cancer or AIDS, or even COVID-19 is poor and/or Black? Why should they not get the proper education to achieve what they are capable of?
Birth circumstances shouldn’t dictate the quality of a person’s life. So when I say we need to get out there and tear down the system. Eliminate the police. Eradicate monuments to domestic terrorists. I say these things because it is the same motivation that drives me to research spinal cord injury. It’s the need to make the world a more equal place.
Humans as a whole could be and achieve something greater than we are individually. We were given by accident or by luck, reason, logic, a consciousness with depth and texture that isn’t really seen on our planet. It would be a shame to squander it by using it to make us as an individual feel superior because you were born with a certain skin color or you were born to parents who had a certain amount of money in the bank. What a waste of potential that would be… right?