I'm a hero. My quest has always been to figure out what makes me a unique and talented individual with a disability who grew up with an able-bodied twin. I’d say my first formative experience was learning about my disability and my mother told me not to focus on what I couldn’t do. Of course, back then I didn’t know my limits, and I remember trying to climb stairs and jump off chairs. I heard and saw great stories growing up, too. Which as you will read have led me to believe I am a hero.
Another formative experience for me was my trip to Disneyworld around 1991. Here, not only was I accepted for my disability, and moved to the front of the lines, but my favorite characters, including the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were “real.” Of course, they weren’t, but the lesson I learned was that you can create something out of your imagination and make it real.
In that way, I knew that if I couldn’t do something I would just draw it, and it would make me feel better. I would draw myself into videogames, or imagine the different adventures I’d have with movie characters like Indiana Jones, or comic book characters like Professor X, who was also disabled. My philosophy was that I would overcome my disability through my creativity. I made little comics from about age 7 up to 16, many of which were based on videogames or cartoons I watched, or media in general, or silly little characters, my favorite being Duckle, a T-Rex. Because I wanted him to be a T-Rex, and Duckle was…just a funny name!
Also, in school, I taught myself how to read because I wanted to make sure people were telling me stories “the right way.” People got bored of telling me the same story, but I’d make sure they told me good stories, and eventually I read by myself. When I was young, I read my older brothers comic books and also watched the X-men cartoon on Fox Kids. As well as other comics: Superman, Avengers, Batman, Spidey, etc. lots of Stan Lee. (DC is not Stan Lee, I know.)
Comics hold a special place in my heart because they follow a very (for lack of a better word.) picturesque philosophy; ex: You show what’s going on, and you can look at it and spark the imagination immediately; where maybe in a book, you have to re-read things that don’t “spark” right away. And it also follows the Disney philosophy that “If you can dream it, you can do it.” I also had stories read to me by my mom like King Arthur and Lord of the Rings. All these added to my creativity and taught me about what’s worth fighting for, and how to use your powers for good. From about age 7 to 12 I tried to figure out my mutant power!
So later, in my quest to make these things “real” with imagery and mythology became my focus, not just my minor. I was no longer AS optimistic as a kid (or naive.) throughout college, but perhaps because of that, a little wiser. My main influences of course, were Joseph Campbell, Nietzsche, and many modern philosophers on disability.
As you can see, my main influence is mythology and the Hero’s Quest. (The drive to find a Greater Good, as described by Joseph Campbell and myself.) I want to be able to do whatever I can dream, so to speak. So, I think the Disney philosophy says it best. I want to be able to create my own movies and art, and whatever is in my head; like artists do. I want to be able to make that real. I like how stories spark imaginations and inspire people. It’s very much about discovery for me; show the image; then discover the story…and explore it. I’d like to be able to discover who I am, and at the same time, to indulge in my dreams and make them real.
“…To seek out new life and new civilizations - To boldly go where no man has gone before!”
- James T. Kirk