Today I made the decision to throw everything I have into this last month of the year so that the next year can be successful.
I'm doing it because something has to change in my life. I can't go another year on Social Security, $800 a month to support myself and my disabled wife. I can't go another year asking our best friend and live-in the care provider - borderline disabled herself - to pool all of her money she gets for feeding, bathing, dressing and everything else she does for me just so the three of us can survive barely above the poverty line.
I'm doing it because I'm tired of having three pairs of pants and one pair of socks. I'm doing it because I'm tired of having a dishwasher that doesn't work. I'm doing it because I'm tired of owing my incredibly awesome landlord well over a year in back rent accumulated over the last four years ever since my appendix exploded and our finances went down the drain. I'm doing it because we've lived for too long in the kinds of conditions that people shouldn't be expected to live in simply because the disabled are all but invisible in society.
That last reason, by the way, is why I'm doing what I'm doing the way that I'm going to do it.
The disabled are invisible. Ask a disabled person how many times they've been involved in a conversation where a waitress, a store clerk, or any other kind of stranger you might interact with in daily life spoke to the person with them as if they weren't in the room. Ask a blind person how many times they've had people speak loudly to them, or a deaf person how many times they get ignored in public gatherings. I'm in a wheelchair, and I regularly have people try to read my grocery list to me rather than just let me look at the damn thing myself.
What was the last disabled character you saw on television? Better yet, were they played by a disabled person? There's a term in the disabled community called cripface, or gimpface, which refers to an able bodied person playing a disabled person in a TV show or movie.
When was the last time you read a book that had a disabled character in it? I'm not even talking a lead character, just a supporting one.
Sure, we make good soundbites, good human interest stories where everyone can smile and talk about how brave we are and what an inspiration we are before they put us on a shelf somewhere to be forgotten and go back to their daily life. We're good at making other people feel good. Most of the time, it isn't about us.
I only have two talents, two real skills in this world, my words and my art. I can't flip burgers, I can't change a tire or fix an engine, I can't build a house or even run a cash register. I can string words together in creative ways that tell stories, and I can illustrate them. That's all I've got.
So as many of you know, I've decided to write a story about a character I can relate to. It's the kind of thing that Stephen King, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman or any of a number of other horror and fantasy writers might write, and could certainly write better, but not from the perspective that I'm going to. They don't know what it's like to be in a wheelchair, they don't know what it's like to struggle to do the basic things that everyone else takes for granted. They can tell wonderful stories of angels and demons, magic and monsters, fear and redemption, but they don't know or understand the world that I live in and the way that I see it. My disabled protagonist is going to do the same things that every protagonist does: she's going to struggle, she's going to fight, she's going to love, she's going to hurt, she's going to lose, and she's going to persevere despite it all.
So I'm going to use the two things I have, my words and my art, and I'm going to do something you rarely see in fiction or popular culture. I'm going to tell the same kind of story that any other writer might, but I'm going to tell it in the way that only I can. I'm not going to do it to get rich, or to be famous, or to create some kind of role model or icon for disabled people to look up to.
I'm going to do it because it's all I've got, and nobody else can.
I'm going to do it so that maybe a reader somewhere will treat the disabled person in their life a little bit different, see them as more of an equal.
I'm going to do it so that maybe other disabled people will do it, too, and disabled characters won't be such a rare creature in popular culture.
I'm going to do it because I don't know what else to do and I can't continue to live like I have for the last 10 years. Something has to change. Something has to give. The walls have to come down, even if it means I run over them with my wheelchair head first.
I'm not going to change the world, just mine.
Today I took the final step and put my project up on Kickstarter. The next 30 days are going to change my life, and when the year comes to an end I'm going to be in position for success. The next year is going to be the best I've ever had, and it's only the beginning. I'm making my new year's resolutions now.
I will climb above the poverty line and leave it behind me.
I will get off of Social Security and bring everything I need for success into my home on my own terms.
Getting by is no longer an option. Squandering opportunity is no longer an option. Being anything less than my highest potential is no longer enough.
As I've often had to do in life, I'm not taking no for an answer.