As someone with POTS, I struggle with mobility. Standing and walking are a great difficulty, and as a result I don’t get to go out much. I read all the time about people who are treated as second class citizens and have these absolute horror stories about their wheelchair escapades, but friends, that is not what this will be. Maybe my location had something to do with it, maybe it’s just something about me, I don’t know. This was my first outing that I planned to use a wheelchair for, and while my previous ones went well, I feel this was especially noteworthy.
I went with my family to the Baltimore Aquarium, somewhere I had not been in years. I have always loved the aquarium and seeing all of the fish and sharks, but I knew that this adventure would not be possible if I were to be depending on my own two legs for support. When we arrived, we went in through the workers’ entrance, as we were with my aunt who works there and she was bringing us in before opening time. We stopped to get a wheelchair, which was complimentary, and off we went. No one stared, no one asked why I was in a wheelchair, and the people who talked to me looked at me, not the chair, and spoke to me as they would’ve if I were standing. My friend wheeled me around, and one of the coolest things about the whole experience was getting to be on the level as the younger kids. I got to see the aquarium from a different point of view, and see little things that the rest of my family didn’t. One little girl looked at me with big eyes and said “I’m as big as you!” and seemed giddy with excitement as we watched an octopus glide around it’s tank. It was like I was one of them, and it was nice to feel like a little kid for a bit, naive and innocent and boundlessly curious.
There was only one area that I couldn’t fully access, and I was too tired by the time we got there to be bothered. It was a wooden lookout on top of the building that only has stairs to get to it. I didn’t have it in me to leave the chair. I also ended up running into a friend from middle school who I haven’t spoken to in years, and we talked briefly. She didn’t ask about the wheelchair and I didn’t volunteer anything, we just exchanged pleasantries and made a bit of small talk, before moving in our different directions. My mom said that she looked slightly unsure of herself, but if I were in her shoes I think I would probably seem a little unsure at first too when coming across an old friend suddenly in a wheelchair, without a cast or any visual cues as an explanation.
Is being in a wheelchair ideal? Of course not! I would love to not worry about how far I’m going to have to walk, or what the terrain is like, or if I have enough spoons for an outing. However, I don’t view being in a wheelchair as a bad thing. I see it as something that can give me opportunities to go on adventures I would otherwise have to miss out on, and no one wants to miss out on life.