‘All the hardest, coldest people you meet were once as soft as water. And that’s the tragedy of living.’ – Iain S. Thomas
I have lived in London for nearly a year and I have still not summoned the courage to get on the downward escalator by myself. It’s fear that holds me back: fear of falling and injuring myself, fear of hurting other people when I fall, fear of being laughed at, and fear of being helped or having people draw attention to my impairment. I understand that it will hugely boost my confidence if I am successful, but the likely outcome is that I will fall, and I am too afraid of falling to take the risk and get on the escalator.
My parents came to visit me a couple of months ago and my father made me get onto the escalator with his help. He shouted at me in order for me to step onto the escalator, and he held onto me so I wouldn’t fall. I was fine – with his help – and he told me that I am much more capable than I believe and allow myself to be. He said I have the physical ability to get on the escalator and use it without a problem. I still won’t do it because I am afraid.
I am a very stubborn person. I have always been ever since I was little. Many people have told me that I’m two different people: a mature, artistic, insightful, intelligent woman and an overly sensitive, stubborn, sad, wounded, angry, frustrated, foot-stomping three year old. The three year old girl in me comes out when I come up against challenges associated with my disability.
This afternoon, I decided to take the lift to the tube line instead of trying the escalator, and I realized that there might never be a time when I actually take the physical and metaphorical step and get on the escalator. I even feel uncomfortable on the escalator when another person fully supports me and completely eliminates any risk of falling. The same is true of driving a car and riding my own bike: I am physically capable of these things but scared to death of even trying, so I haven’t and won’t force myself to do it. I understand that staying within my comfort zone won’t push me to grow and that I won’t accomplish these things – or anything else I can’t do that I want to do – if I don’t push myself to do them. Truthfully, I don’t want to take the risk. I am too scared of hurting myself and other people and I am too scared of being ridiculed. I think that’s what this boils down to: embarrassing myself publicly. I am not willing to try this and practice it until I get it right; even if I do ‘get it right’ and master it fifteen times consecutively, there is still an inherent risk that I could fall (as anyone could) any time that I get on the escalator.
When I made the decision to move here, I didn’t expect transportation to have the effect on my life that it has. I didn’t expect to face so many disability-related challenges every day. A friend of mine said to me the other night, ‘No one tells you how hard London is.’ She is definitely right. It’s hard to have romanticized London and then to have been smacked in the face with the reality of actually living it. I love it. I’m not tired of London or life. It’s just more challenging than I ever thought it would be. In some ways – most ways – that’s a positive thing because it has toughened me up and made me more self-reliant and strong. It’s just hard – in other ways – to have any dreams and illusions destroyed. I am very glad I have had this experience. Otherwise, I would have always romanticized London and always believed that, by not living here, I was lacking as a human being and lacking in personal experience. I would have always dreamed of living in London. I would like to stay here as long as I can – and I will continue to visit if I ever move anywhere else – but I have accepted that life here will always be hard, and it’s not as beautiful as I believed it would be.