A day in the life of: normal



6:30a.m. Wake up

6:40-7:30a.m. Wash and get ready

7:35a.m. Starbucks stop

8:00-9:50a.m. Class

10:00-2:00p.m. Break

2:00-3:50 Class

4:00-11:00p.m. Homework and Extra curriculares

11:30 – 12:00p.m. Go to sleep

The schedule above is a typical schedule for my Thursdays. However, others may have vastly different daily or weekly routines. As I sit and sip my coffee, I watch students go about their lives. Some are off to work, while others trek to class. Some claim territory for meetings, while others make headway on assignments or jump-start their day with some exercise. I identify in many ways with my Spartan peers: the shared student experience, being active on and off-campus, and wanting to have some fun. However, it is important to remember that the way I carry out my day may be very different to the way someone else carries out theirs.

While the majority go about their day on foot, many students frequently zoom by in adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs or scooters. Students may also use crutches, hearing aids or notetakers, or may utilize special accommodations provided by our Disability Service Office located in Walker Hall. When I wake up, I wake up and step my feet off a modified bed. When I get dressed I use an adapter to close the buttons on my shirt and a step stool to reach the sink. I switch my feet for wheels when I travel long distances, and often ask for assistance if I can’t reach something.

I am cautious to describe the experience of college as anything but ordinary or as the popular term dictates: “normal.” There is absolutely nothing normal about coming to a novel place where you live with people you don’t know, your parents aren’t around the corner all the time, and now you’re responsible for “time management.” I am still trying to figure out what that means!

College has allowed me to explore the most beautiful of worlds, exposed me to different characters, and facilitated my growth in unpredictable ways. Again, that seems like a pretty typical set of circumstances, but for me, this growth was coupled with discovering and learning what mixed ability or disability is and how it fits into the time and space of being a college student in the 21st century.

Since this whole crazy ride is anything but ordinary, I urge us to revisit the idea of “normality.” In a society with as much technology at our fingertips as ours, we can often get lost into the rabbit hole known as the status quo. It’s hard not to admire beautiful pictures of food, people or places and believe that they’re normal.

The thing is, “normalcy” was created for humanity by humanity. It’s easy to categorize and compartmentalize things we understand, but what happens when you are not “easy?” As an individual with a disability, college is a time when I finally figured out that it’s alright to not be easy; that it’s okay to be multifaceted, and it’s encouraged to invite a deeper connection with whatever or whomever you wish.

Though many things may seem “normal,” “ordinary,” or “typical” at face value, I hope to embolden you, whether you identify as having a mixed ability/disability or not, to embrace a side of uncertainty. If we can take uncertainty head-on with full force then I think we can learn to live a life that could never be described as “normal.”

Cheers to your amazing self!

Ioana Zanchi can be reached at ioana.zanchi@spartans.ut.edu

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