Mijn allerliefste en oh zo getalenteerde vriendin Michelle heeft laatst een stukje over mij geschreven. Het heeft mij zo ontroerd en ik vond het zo mooi dat ik het niet kan laten om het met jullie te delen. In deze blog lees je hoe mijn beste vriendin mij ziet door haar ogen (door de jaren heen). Het stukje is geschreven door Michelle van der Zweep.
We were only four and five when we met in the small schoolyard of our elementary school. I was there for a test day and after sitting still in a classroom for hours, it was finally time for an outdoor play break. In the middle of the yard stood a tiny walker. I looked at it with curiosity. It’s not a toy you see every day. I remember thinking: “How cool! I want and need to play with that thing.” So, I ran up to it in all my excitement, curious to find out what it was exactly. Before I could get my hands on it, another girl grabbed it and walked away with it like it was nothing. Her walk was more like a waddle though, kind of like an adorable little penguin. I didn’t care who she was or why she walked that way, because I already hated her for stealing the thing I wanted to play with. That’s how Suus and I met and that was the beginning of our big elementary school rivalry. No, I am kidding. It wasn’t that deep, we were just kids after all. But when you’re a kid, everything feels like it’s the end of the world. At the same time, we only care about ourselves and don’t care that much about other children. We just want to be treated as equals. Funny, because we still want that as adults. The big difference is that children don’t think about it, they just play with everyone. As adults we suddenly see the differences and think they’re weird. A shame.
When Suus and I were both a little older (not really wiser), around ten and nine, I remembered why I didn’t like her in the first place. Whenever she wasn’t feeling so well, she was allowed to go out of the classroom with a friend of hers (I was never that friend), to do fun things like drawing in the auditorium. Whereas I, and all the other kids in our class, had to do math. I HATED math and therefore I hated Suus. She didn’t have to do math, she could get out of it with just a simple excuse. At least, that’s what it was like in the eyes of nine-year-old me. To make it even worse, she got the lead in our school musical in the last class of elementary school and we both were in love with the same guy. At this point, we had already known each other for several years. We never really liked one another and I thought she was privileged and favored by our teachers. In all these years of knowing her, I never saw her physical disability. Of course, I knew she has one, but I didn’t care about that. I was just a kid and I wanted to be treated the same way as all the others.
Now, we have been best friends for almost six years. Never in a million years I would have thought that I would be 21 and sitting on the coach of this girl I met so many years ago. Suus tells me the same almost every other week when we are laughing hysterically together. “Who could have thought that we would be best friends right now? I certainly didn’t. I mean, we didn’t even like each other back then. We barely spoke, how bizarre,” she said. I asked her how she experienced elementary school and how people viewed her and if her thoughts on that changed throughout the years, like mine did. “My self-image differed a lot throughout the years,“ she explained. “In elementary school for example, I didn’t give it a lot of thought that I was and looked a little different from the other kids in our class. I always had the feeling that our classmates didn’t really care either. They knew that I wasn’t exactly like them, but they grew up with me. It was normal to them to have someone in their midst that had a strange way of walking and that couldn’t do everything they could do. I remember them being defensive when other people would comment on it. They protected me.” I nodded at that. “I remember that too. You were just one of us. We looked at you and we saw Suus, a normal kid in our class. We didn’t see your disability.” “Exactly. These people grew up with me, so both parties didn’t look at it like it was something unusual or weird. That protected environment changed when we went to high school. There were so many new people who would stare at me and even make fun of me. It was something weird to them. My self-image changed a lot because of that. That was the first time I really realized that I was different, which was a difficult thing to deal with.”
This is something that makes me angry, to know how poorly these people are treated by our society. That they get mocked for being different. “I get so angry when people stare at you for too long, it’s so rude,” I tell her. I’ve told her a million times. “I know, but I’m so used to it. People will always stare at me, they just aren’t used to seeing someone like me. It doesn’t bother me when they do. It’s the same as you guys not seeing my disability anymore. I’m so used to people staring that I don’t even notice.” “So, what do you think about us, your best friends, forgetting you have a disability sometimes?” I asked her. “I mean, sometimes I just walk up the stairs without realizing you cannot do that.” This makes her laugh, because she knows how often this happens. “Well, it’s actually a relief and something I love. It means that you see me as the person that I am instead of my disability.”
Exactly right. I still don’t see her physical disability when I look at her. I see Suus. Just Suus. It’s different from when we were kids though, because now I know that she’s anything but privileged. As a kid I saw a girl who was favored in my eyes, everything was so easy for her. Bullshit. Now I know and see a strong woman and I am so proud of her. Being best friends with her made me so much more aware of people with a disability. And dear Suus, I’m so thankful for that, you make me a better person every day.