This afternoon, I had the honour of meeting Khaled Hosseini. The most wonderful thing about the experience was his gracious unpretentiousness. He is a very humble man. It’s a very inspiring quality to see in a person, especially someone who is so stupendously talented and successful. He hasn’t let it go to his head and he isn’t egotistical.
I grew up a very selfish and self-centred person. I won’t say I wasn’t humble – because the opposite of humility is arrogance and I wasn’t and still am not arrogant – but I was very selfish. In addition to working on my physical rehabilitation therapy, I consciously and consistently work on social maturity and appropriateness, part of which involves accepting my place in the world among billions of people and not expecting the world – or anyone – to bend to my whim. Shortly after I met Hosseini, one of the girls with whom I work offered to collect the mail for me (which is a job delegated to interns). I appreciated the offer – and I knew she made it out of kindness because she was unsure that I could carry all of the packages up the stairs – and I told her that I wanted to try carrying all of the mail on my own and would ask for help if I needed it. I didn’t want her to do a job she normally wouldn’t do just because she thought that I couldn’t.
For the first time since I started that internship, I brought up my impairment directly. I told her that I was impaired but didn’t want to be treated specially (and that people often baby me when they find out I have a disability). I told her that I didn’t mind doing things with which I was uncomfortable and that I would ask for help if I needed it. I don’t feel that I am ‘above’ collecting the mail – even if it will be challenging to navigate the stairs with my arms full of books and envelopes – especially since I have spent the past week doing a lot of other forms of grunt work: scanning, binding manuscripts, transcribing reviews, mailing packages, and inputting data. I think the ‘old’ me – the more selfish and spoiled girl I was when I was younger – would have expressed discomfort with such tasks (or made it obvious in other ways). Part of my growing up and maturing and humbling has been to dedicate myself to any work I am assigned, even if I don’t like it or don’t want to do it. Though I transformed myself into an ISFJ, the ENFP in me (the person I used to be) detests repetitive boring tasks (which are jobs at which ISFJs excel). I think this is just a case of ‘growing up’ and ‘being an adult’ rather than anything related to my disability. Though other people are willing to excuse me – and I could let them – I have chosen to commit to what has been asked of me. I think this is part of being a humble person. I’ve also realized that this is just ‘part of the job’; even if I move from editorial intern to editorial assistant, my job will still involve a lot of administration.
Moving to London has also helped me become more humble. I am alone among so many people and – though I enjoy the anonymity and independence – I feel very small. I realize that I am very small. It’s easier for me to accept that I am one person in the world rather than a special or important person. I won’t say that I am entirely unselfish and always humble – because everyone has times when they are selfish, rude, undiplomatic, and inconsiderate – but I am a lot more unselfish than I was. It has taken a lot of work, partially because people are still willing to excuse me or ‘understand’ me when I am immature, irresponsible, or don’t meet expectations, but I am willing to keep working on it just as I remain willing to work on my rehabilitative therapy.
A few months ago, a publisher told me he wasn’t as interested in my physical journey to cure myself as he was in learning how this process has changed my perspective on life. He is less intrigued with the idea of ‘complete cure’ and would rather read about how I look at life differently as a result of both the news that I could get better and the conscious decision to alter my social maturity and personality. In listening to him and considering my journey from this angle, I realize that I don’t just look at life differently, but have an entirely different life. A lot of that is my social maturity and my awareness of humility.
There are still times when I can be stroppy, uncooperative, and nitpicky. Everyone has weaknesses and failings and no one is ever really ‘finished’ working on themselves, improving themselves, and learning. It’s when we feel we know everything or that we have ‘done enough’ that we fall into complacency and ultimately fall behind. I will never be entirely ‘finished’ with my therapy and rehabilitative process, and I will never come to a point where I can say I am ‘mature enough’ but this is purely human experience and not something specific or exclusive to those with disabilities or in rehabilitative therapy processes. It’s just life.