How often do you bathe or shower?
::Laughter:: it varies! I can often get away with every other day. I’ve been more active lately, so I probably shouldn’t be doing that… but I usually bathe after doing something super active. In the winter I bathe like, twice a day because I get super cold.
If you were an underwater creature, which one would you be?
Oh, man… I would be an angler fish. They’re really scary-looking ::laughter:: which I vibe with. They have these huge lights on their heads and big teeth everywhere and the females are way bigger than the males. They also have this really weird, really intense mating mechanism where the males latch onto the females and become parasitic or something? Which is a scenario I relate to on a deep, personal level.
What are you passionate about?
I think my biggest passion is connecting with other people. I’m a huge people person, I love people and making new friends. I’m really big on fostering connections with others. I’m studying to be a social worker right now. I feel like it’s the right field to be in if you’re a very people-oriented person and love to make connections. I want to be a helper of some sort and it’s the right field for that. Also, I belong to a bunch of different communities in the city. I do a lot of networking. I could talk forever about the things I’m passionate about, but that’s a big one.
How do you engage with self-care while being extremely social?
Yeah, I don’t know… living alone helps a lot. I think that, if I had a roommate, I would have a lot less energy to socialize. I also go long stretches without socializing and stuff. I have a bunch of things that fill my time. Like I said, I’m in school, working on a Bachelor’s in Social Work. I sing in the May Festival Chorus, which is the official chorus of the Cincinnati Symphony, so that keeps me pretty busy 9 months out of the year. I climb once a week and do physical therapy 3x a week. Yeah. It’s a lot.
What do you mean by “climbing”?
I go to a climbing gym in Sharonville called Rock Quest and I have an instructor there who belays me, which means she’s the person who controls all the ropes and makes sure that I’m safe up there. It’s all indoor…if you’ve ever seen a rock wall with those funny looking, different colored shapes—it’s that kind of thing. But a whole room of it, with different levels of difficulty. You can do bouldering in the middle, which is climbing without any kind of equipment… there’s rocks on the celling, which I think is really insane… maybe someday ::laughter::.
How did you get into rock climbing?
I had done it a few times as a kid, at summer camp and stuff like that. I went a few times in high school and I tried once, shortly after high school and just could not do it. At all. And then, I lost a large portion of my mobility in my mid-20s and I have struggled with needing to feel strong. Climbing makes me feel really strong; it makes me feel, for the first time in my life, that I’m athletic. There’s finally something athletic that I’m capable of. Which is a really amazing feeling. I feel like it has bolstered my confidence a lot. I also struggle quite a bit with being in the moment—I have a lot of anxiety and am often dwelling on either the past or the future in some way—and climbing literally forces you to be in the here-and-now, and I really appreciate that about it.
What is something you feel accomplished with?
That’s a hard question for me to answer. I have a tendency to hold myself to able-bodied standards, which is a huge trap and something I should absolutely not be doing because I’m not able-bodied, never have been, never will be. So sometimes I have to sit down and remind myself: “HEY! You can drive a car. You live on your own. You have all these different groups of friends, you can take yourself to your appointments, and you take yourself to class. You’re doing it.” It’s a pretty cool feeling when I’m able to stop and recognize what an independent life I’ve created for myself. Independence is really important to me.
What is something you would like able-bodied people to know about you?
Oh Jesus, that is so hard to answer. There are so many things!! ::Laughter:: Ummm… It’s hard. It’s hard to know how to answer that because… I feel like people either constantly under-estimate what I’m able to do, or in a weird way, over-estimate me. I think a lot of people look at me and think “Oh, her legs don’t work. Whatever, that must be it”. But it’s a lot more complicated than that. I have spina bifida and hydrocephalus, which means I was born with my spine coming out of my body, and my cerebral spinal fluid—there’s a blockage in my brain, so it doesn’t circulate properly. I have a magnetized valve in my brain that keeps me alive. I’ve had roughly 30 hours of bladder work done, four brain surgeries and it’s so much deeper than people understand. But at the same time, I’m pretty “high-functioning” for someone who has been through all of that. So it’s tricky. I find myself wanting to tell my entire medical history to everyone I meet so that they’ll understand. I don’t know if people are afraid or don’t know what questions to ask, but I don’t feel like I get enough questions, and I LOVE getting questions. Questions, to me, show that people want to understand the way I work. Which is really import to me.
What is something you still struggle with?
Oh god. So many things! I have always really struggled to navigate academia. Which is why I’m still in it ::laughter::. I’ve dropped out twice and this is my third time, in undergrad. Third time’s a charm, I’m hoping. I have a lot of learning disabilities, but not ones that are super well known or clear-cut. I struggle a lot with motivation, planning, focus, processing. All that sort of nebulous stuff that is what it takes to be a successful person in the world ::laughter::. That’s all stuff I have a really hard time with. It’s been really difficult, knowing how to navigate that.
What are your thoughts on relationships? Platonic, sexual, familial, otherwise.
That’s a good question…I’ve been single for five and a half years, so my love for platonic love has strengthened more than I ever could have possibly imagined. I would love to be in a romantic relationship, but I could probably get by on platonic love for the rest of my life.
How has your understanding of platonic love changed?
I didn’t have friends for a really long time. Growing up, it was really challenging to form lasting connections with good people who had my best interest at heart, and weren’t going to fuck me over. I do have two really close friends, one from elementary school and one from middle school, but they’re major anomalies. Most of my current friends, I’ve met in my 20s. I always thought romantic love is what has been missing from my life, but then I made friends and it was like… “OH! This is what has been missing from my life, this is what I needed. Awesome.”