Although my externship was miserable, I can't honestly say I would take it back. Out of my entire externship experience, I can see one positive thing to come out of it. I met CIA Professor Irena Chalmers, and she was opened me up to writing. I had always loved to write, finding it the most effective way to express what I had to say, but I don't think I had considered it as a serious career opportunity. Learning about food writing and other parts of a food magazine gave me something to work towards. Discovering something I felt I could attain with hard work gave me something to look forward to when I returned to school. If it weren't for Professor Chalmers I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am today, or be pursuing food writing as much as I am, or even writing this independent study. I can't honestly say I would take back my externship because so much good has come out of it.
Upon returning to school I completed my Associate's degree and went onto the Bachelor's degree program. I used the Learning Strategies Center when necessary for extra time on tests, but didn't require anything more than that from the center. Some are surprised by this, but don't seem to understand there is only so much they could do for me that I actually needed. I've always been stubborn about my “disability” and never wanted attention for it. It was good to know there was help when I need it, however, I didn't require sessions to discuss where I am in my education.
I have NF1, but it doesn't mean I need to be treated like someone incapable of handling her life and being dependent on so many people all the time. The purpose of this paper is to show my perspective on how others tend to treat people with “disabilities”. In my case, people don't understand or can relate, so they don't know how to react and treat me. More often than not, I'm misunderstood or underestimated. It's bad enough to be stereotyped for something few people have ever heard about, let alone be judged for needing extra help. I'm perpetually insulted when people are surprised when they see what people with disabilities can accomplish, and there's such a need to prove ourselves the way we do. I dislike being seen and labeled as someone with disabilities, I've accepted the fact that I need a little help and understanding sometimes, but to be seen only for what I have is infuriating as well as offensive.
Disclosing information about what I have has always been a challenge for me. I never knew what to disclose, or how much. NF1 is a relatively unknown disorder, even though the birthrate for it is very high. I wasn't comfortable explaining it to other people, because when I did they acted like it was this enormous struggle and that so many things were accomplishments in life. The paperwork for my learning disabilities and the help I required were submitted to the relevant places, so up to college I had an assumption that all teachers had access to it, and therefore I had no need or desire to explain it to them.
Growing up, I wanted to be treated like everyone else But it's hard to find a balance. A part of me wants to be treated normally, while the other wants my differences and my different qualities to be seen and understood. I like being a little different and going to a different drum, but sometimes I wish it weren't so difficult. When it comes right down to it, I always want to be known as who I am, and not as a disability on paperwork.