I was an irresponsible child. I was always late for things, I didn’t finish things I started, I didn’t even start things I thought I would fail, and I got away with all of it because people used my disability to ‘explain away’ and excuse my disrespectful behavior. I never considered how my irresponsibility affected other people. I was sometimes told that I was oblivious, but I wasn’t. I just didn’t care. I even said that to my father once. ‘I’m not oblivious. I don’t care.’
When I started my programme to cure myself, I was often late to appointments or I cancelled the appointment too late for the therapist or health provider to give the timeslot to someone who needed it. My massage therapist was the first one who called me on this behavior, and I ‘explained it away’ by believing she could just use whatever time she and I still had within the space of the appointment to treat me. I didn’t realize how disrespectful and irresponsible this behavior was, especially when it wasn’t just a couple of occurrences. It happened all the time. She and I eventually parted ways, and she was one of the first people I’d met who imposed consequences for my behavior. Part of why I used to get away with so much was that there were never any consequences for my actions, even when they had a negative effect on other people.
When I moved to Toronto with the purpose of committing to consistent therapy, I was told there would be consequences if I didn’t do the work. I was still sometimes irresponsible about punctuality, accountability, and responsibility for my own behavior, especially due to the fact that I was answering to so many different people and they were working on my body. There were many times where I stayed in bed or stayed home because I didn’t want to be touched or ‘worked on’ like a problem to be fixed. I wanted to maintain a certain amount of my own dignity with my body, even though I was aware that I lived in Toronto with the intention to better my body.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I ‘got my act together’ and started being a lot more respectful of other people’s time, generosity, and willingness to help me. I don’t know what the turning point was, but being in Toronto was extremely beneficial for me because I definitely grew up and matured. I reconnected with my massage therapist later on and she acknowledged that my mindset with regards to punctuality and accountability were completely different. I was on time for appointments and I gave due notice if I couldn’t make them. This responsibility and sense of being true to my word became stronger as a result of my participation in the Landmark forum in 2011.
I have written about Landmark before and how I struggled with the idea of creating a new life for myself when I couldn’t ‘walk out of’ my disability. However, one of the biggest gains I acquired through participating in Landmark is that I do what I say I will do. My integrity is a lot stronger than it used to be. If I tell someone I will meet her at King’s Cross at seven, I’m there at seven (usually earlier). If I tell someone I will email him, I do. There are times when I still slip up – as everyone does – but I have a much stronger sense of responsibility than I used to, and I get things done even if I am afraid that I won’t do well.
My younger sister is mature, responsible, conscientious, and accountable. She has always been more mature than I am, and had already had these skills for years by the time I learned to develop them and use them in life. I think it’s partially who she is naturally and partially because of her participation in team sports and her early exposure to work. Team sports and work environments force participants to pull their weight and they impose consequences when expectations aren’t met. I feel like the jobs and internships I have completed in the last few years have also helped me become more responsible. This is – again – something I consciously work on and make an effort to improve. It wasn’t until responsibility became important to me – and that I actually faced consequences for irresponsibility – that I made the decision to change my behavior and to work on my maturity.
The work I have done with Karen – and the work I do for myself – doesn’t just benefit me physically. It benefits me as a whole person. It has completely shifted the way I function in the world and how I view myself in the world. I’m not sure I would have really ‘grown up’ if I hadn’t started this work because people would still use the fact that I have a disability to ‘explain’ or ‘understand’ my immaturity, disrespect or irresponsibility. I don’t want to be seen in that light or thought of in that way, so I do everything I can to be the most mature person I can be and to stay committed to improving everything about myself that I can. This process is a holistic journey that has forced me to confront my immature self and work to create a better self and a better life.