Five years ago, I did something big. I did something that, for me, felt like a big risk. I moved to New York City for the summer for my MBA internship. It made me uncomfortable, but I knew that if I didn’t take the opportunity, I would regret it. I was excited about the job (and honestly not that nervous about that part – I knew how to be a great employee), and I was excited to live on the East Coast, something I had been dreaming about since my undergrad days. The “risk” was that I was going to be living alone for the first time in my life, away from the help, companionship and comfort of my husband or family. I was also going to be without a car – meaning that my crutch and I were going to be tackling the city on foot. I am pretty risk averse, but I had gone to grad school to change my life and my career, and I didn’t want to end up regretting that I hadn’t gone to New York and tried it out. I could fill up more paragraphs with how that all went – but for now, I will give you the CliffsNotes version. There were some pretty hard parts, especially at first. I was not in very good shape to be walking all over the city, the stairs to the subway were hard and I hated holding up people waiting behind me. I was not prepared to carry groceries any real distance, so I bought pretty much everything from the corner Rite Aid. However, as I connected with people, and learned more about what worked for me (to my friend Deb – teaching me about the M20 bus saved me – and it’s probably the number one reason I knew I could move to NYC after graduation – I will love you forever for that one), it got easier. Now, I am so glad that I did the “big thing”. I had a lot of fun and met so many great people in NYC. I like to think it made me a little bit more of a kick ass lady.
Today, I feel like I am doing something big again by starting this blog. I KNOW people have got to be thinking “starting a blog is small potatoes, homie” – and I would agree. Starting a blog is not the risk, not the uncomfortable thing, the part where I feel myself stretching and exploring an area of myself and the world that I haven’t before. To illustrate the “big thing” let me start with a story:
Last August I was planning for family pictures – the very first “official” session with my little family of 4. I had decided on a fancy, Sunday-best dress code – hubby was going to wear a suit, fancy dresses for my kids, new dress for me. I found a dress I was excited about and proceeded to plan the rest of the outfits around mine (a little tip I found here for Mom to be happy with how she looks family pictures). I scoured Pinterest for inspiration on poses with two babies – and the thing I noticed was that most of the pictures I liked best were full-body shots. At that point I started doubting my clothing choice for the pictures – because if I wore a knee-length dress in fully body pictures, my leg braces were going to show…something that actively avoided. I considered wearing knee length boots, I considered wearing dress pants and I considered totally changing the “dress code” of the pictures even though everything was ready to go. Finally, I considered letting my braces show in the pictures even though, if possible, I never show my braces, crutches, or bare feet/legs (with no/low muscle tone and tons of scars) in pictures. I spent a lot of time thinking about why this was such a big deal to me. I wasn’t embarrassed of my disability (right?!) and even if I was, it is not like it’s a secret – it’s obvious to anyone that sees me in person and unless a camera is involved I make absolutely no effort to hide the braces or crutch. It made me sad when I thought about what kind of example I was setting for my daughters, and my niece with a physical disability. If I didn’t want to show my braces in the picture – did it mean I was trying to create some sort of alternate reality – perfectly edited for an online audience? While I am far from perfect, I have a lot going for me and a lot I am proud of, and it seemed stupid to try to pretend away my disability in photos. Still, it was my process and it brought me comfort. Deciding whether to let the braces show or not was hard. I cried to my mother about my so-called dilemma, and she assured me that she would think the photos were beautiful no matter what I decided. After much internal debate, I decided the decision I would be proudest of was to show the braces. I even specifically asked the photographer to make sure they showed in at least one pose, which you can see below.
And that brings me back to me starting this blog. I’m just a regular gal – one that wants to be a stylish, and smart and confident woman. However, while I was growing up I didn’t see many people that looked like me (read: were physically disabled) touted as being the stylish, smart and confident women I admired. Partially because of that, I have spent the last 30+ years sort of treating the world as a hungry T-rex and my disability as the possible victim – if I kept it still, if I didn’t draw attention to it, maybe no one would notice that I was disabled – they would just notice the style, the smarts and the sass that was Melanie. But you know what? I have FINALLY come to realize that I am disabled and all those other things. This blog is not going to be a hero’s journey, or a magical transformation of some kind. It’s just the thoughts and adventures of a disabled woman keeping it rill (not a typo, that’s how I pronounce “real” and my husband teases me about it all the time) on motherhood, work, style (personal and home), and whatever other interesting things happen to come my way.