By Hannah Foley, PRC-Saltillo Blogger
As people experience the many phases that life naturally presents, they grow in ways and learn things that they would not otherwise. They also meet people who may or may not have a significant impact on who they are and their life forever, even after that specific chapter of their life closes and another opens. This often is not clear while they are still in the midst of the phase of life, but rather becomes clear as life progresses.
I abruptly left what was my home for the prior four years on my college campus where I attended undergrad as the pandemic began last March and finished my degree from my hometown. I was unable to walk the stage at graduation for the degree that I literally put blood, sweat, and tears into getting. I was also suddenly ripped out of my circle of people and support system that I had formed on campus over the previous four years. I was jolted out of the place that had become so comfortable to me, despite the many challenges that it presented to me.
I recently returned to campus for a quick weekend visit. To be honest, I was not sure how it would feel to be back and see some of my friends who are still on campus. Would it be awkward? Or, would it be the same or different from it was before I left? If you have been reading my blogs for the last nine or so months, you may remember that I talked about what I have experienced since being back in my hometown surrounded by family and friends whom I have known since before leaving for college freshman year - it can sometimes be awkward, frustrating, and a challenge to be around these individuals because they still see and treat me as though I am a child. They were not around me often while I was away at school and I think that they do not realize that I have changed, grown, and matured while I was away. That, of course, is not the case and the opposite is true. I wondered if I would have similar experiences and challenges with my friends from undergrad when we saw each other while I was on campus because of the amount of time that had gone by.
Well, all that I can say is that campus still feels like a second home and my friends and our relationship have not changed, even though we had not seen each other in a year and a half. It felt like yesterday that we last saw and talked to each other (besides texting and Zooming). It felt comfortable and natural. I was reminded of why I fell in love and had such a hard leaving campus before graduation…. because of the circle of people who constantly were there for me and saw me at my best and worst, our relationships, and the fact that that campus and city and its people changed my life and who I am in ways that I can’t even begin to describe. They know me inside and out. Simply put, they just “get” me in ways that other people who were not around me throughout college do not. They see me for who I am and not my disability and limitations, and treat me as a normal person and adult. It does not matter that I am in a new chapter of my life - our relationship remains the same and they still treat me as a normal adult.
These friends not only charged my life and meant so much to me during my college years, but they continue to do so, and perhaps even more now. If you have ever gone away to college or have sent your child off to college, you know how difficult it is to leave home for the first time and you very much understand how important it is to develop a strong circle of people who are there to support you while away from the comforts of home. That circle becomes your “people” who know and understand you on a whole different level because they have watched you grow, mature, and have been by your side since the day you left home. For those with disabilities, there is a whole different dynamic at play with those with disabilities when going to college and away from those who they have known for the first eighteen years of their life that nobody can begin to understand if they have never experienced it themselves, even if they try to. Only the people who are in your circle and have been with you through all the ups and downs understand you and see you for who you are and not your disability. Once you have gained these types of friends and formed these types of relationships, it is extremely frustrating and difficult to experience people not seeing me for who I truly am and not my disability and treating me as though I am a child. My people from college have lowered my tolerance and highered my expectations for the people and relationships that I have in my life. These are friendships and people who I cannot live and go through life without.
Through life’s phases, there are people who will come and go and some will stay through it all. Some phases of life are more transformational and impactful than others and it is the people that really make them impactful. Once you have experienced things and formed mature, substantial relationships, your standards heighten while your tolerance lowers. This phenomenon occurs to most young adults, but is more prevalent for those who have disabilities, especially those who use AAC.
Communicators In Action - life, college, university, aac, communication, friends