This is my first blog post in English, which is about my first trip to a foreign country without any member of my family. Wait! Actually, this was the longest duration I spent away from them – and I have experienced it only twice, yet! So, yes, two weeks ago, I was in Strasbourg, France for 8 days with my best friend, and it was amazing!
Let me start from the beginning.
I am from Turkey, and I have muscular dystrophy. In my case, this resulted in full-body muscle weakness. Therefore, I am a wheelchair user, and I need assistance for my daily routines. However, Turkey really sucks in disability support systems – which can be a topic of another loooong post, and that is why it was really hard for me to even imagine that I could have an independent life. Everyone is surprised when I say this, because I always seem very “grown up” while studying, working, meeting with my friends, engaging in romantic relationships, and overcoming barriers… but obviously, I was feeling like a “child”, and I was safe with my family (interesting to note here that although I was with my close friends having great fun, my first night away from my family ended up with a bad dream, which probably shows how I was threatened by this idea: My head was cut off from my body!), or that was what I believed for a very long time.
After all this time, I realize that my conceptualization of “safety” has changed a lot. At the beginning, I could feel safe only if I knew that someone would be there for me all the time no matter how they were busy, how they were feeling, or what they were thinking. I was expecting from people around me to be aware of my needs, and fulfill them even if I didn’t ask directly – and my world was full of similar unrealistic expectations. Then, I understood that this world of mine was doomed to make me feel unsafe because people had things to do, places to go, and their own lives to live (and yes, without ponies flying around rainbows ☺), which came along with the realization that I had my own life too, except that I wasn’t living it for the sake of being unrealistically safe. Also, I was missing out the possibility to discover myself, and the rest of the world!
I have to admit that change was not sudden. However, I believe that once the smallest idea appears in our minds, it grows little by little on a dark corner, and we don’t even know it until we are ready. Of course, this process gets faster sometimes, with the help of supportive others. At least, that is what happened to me with my decision to go to Strasbourg. I honestly don’t know where I’ve found the courage to apply for ENIL’s study session on sexuality, and to accept my best friend’s offer to go there together. During preparations, I was excited, happy, anxious, and stressful at the same time, and I was worried (and maybe secretly hoping – not a secret anymore, haha) that something would go wrong and we wouldn’t make there. However, on the night we had the flight, we checked ourselves in the airport, took some photos, and shared them on our social media accounts with this note: “Tonight is the night!”.
To be more precise, that night is the night where I’ve begun to grow up a little more. I’ve learned that things usually go better than I imagine with my anxious side, and I am stronger than I think in the face of obstacles. Mainly, this thought was the fuel for the rest of the week. Moreover, I’ve realized that I have many things to say, and many stories to tell (Thank you, if you are still reading ♥). I’ve also met wonderful people giving me support, courage, and inspiration to continue with my “independent” journey. I know that I have a long way to go, but I am not alone at all – which makes me feel safe, realistically safe! Now, I see clearer that I have to take risks, get challenged, and work hard to be a “grown up” and I don’t expect, or at least try not to expect, that things don’t go wrong because they do, and in a way you never imagine – but I also have the confidence and really strong relationships to get over them, knowing that these unexpected negative experiences are also parts of the whole.
It was really hard to conclude the week in Strasbourg, and similarly, it is hard to conclude this post. I just want to say that I’ve written it because I wanted to go through the most important journey of my life, to always remember how I felt before and after, and maybe to reach for others who have similar experiences. I also wanted to thank once more first to my best friend for giving me confidence that we could manage all, and for staying together in whatever we lived throughout this adventure; and second to the wonderful people I’ve met in Strasbourg for touching my life deeply. I will miss every second of this week – and I will close this file before I get too emotional.