Discrimination. This is something I talk about a lot. It’s not about just shouting that I am being treated differently or that life is harder. Discrimination can be more subtle. It’s hard for me to get travel insurance (pre-existing condition). It is harder for me to get groceries that weigh more than I can carry because there is not a bus near my pharmacy/grocery store (so move! Move your apartment! Get a new pharmacy! … seriously). There are little things that add up that suddenly make a much different life experience.
There are also bigger things. I have fallen during a race and when I was taken to a hospital, it was decided (not by me) that I had experienced a seizure. Me arguing with it was clearly just the side effect of the “seizure”. My memory of the fall is unclear because of the “seizure”. I am not believed because I have epilepsy, as if I don’t know the difference between when I have had a seizure or not. There is also the blame. I “should not” have been running. I “should not” have been climbing. Point = Why did I make those decisions when they could put me at risk? It’s dangerous for me. How very close this is to the experiences many women have had (What was she wearing? Why was she out at night? Why didn’t she fight back? Point = Why did she make a decision that put herself at risk and since she did, the results are her fault). As if me tripping myself is synonymous with an epileptic seizure. As if I don’t know my own body.
Determination. This is also something that I talk about a lot. It is the knowledge that we can do the things that we want to. That we CAN do. That we don’t have to limit ourselves because of what we are told that we should not do. That even when I am told of what I can or cannot do (or more specifically, “should not” do), that I will do them. I will find a way.
Determination also has its dark side. Sometimes, in order to prove that we can do the things, we have to work extra hard. Suddenly, we have to justify that a sick day is just that, a sick day. It’s not a seizure day, it’s a cold or nausea or taking care of someone else in our home who is not well. It might be the mental health day that others are entitled to, just to enjoy a break from the stress of university, training, work. We can be determined to show that we are just as equal and just as capable as every other person in the office/on the team/in the group but it might take us more time and energy. Where does that time and energy come from?
Drive. Drive fuels us. Drive is what makes us get out of bed and lace up out sneakers. Drive is what makes us look forward to a race and then simultaneously get excited for the next challenge. I feel like drive is very separate from determination. Drive is the passion and the excitement and the fears and the goals. Drive is what makes me look at a race, register, and while still training, start looking for the next adventure. Drive is my passion and my desire and my need to express myself, whether through running or art, music, dance, writing, cross-stitching, all the possible things people could look forward to do.
Drive is different from the discrimination, because it does not have to justify why we made a choice for something we love. Drive is different from determination because it does not have to work harder just to prove ourselves in something we love. Drive is the thing that we love and the reasons why. Drive is not something that we have to justify. Drive is not something we have to prove. Drive is simply and passionately engaging in that thing we love for no other reason than that we want to.
I try not to give direct advice because I don’t have professional training for these things, but here are a couple things. People might tell you what you should or should not do. The decision is always yours. People (including yourself) might expect more because you want to be seen as equal. You are equal, just as you are. Don’t burn yourself out. Finally, find that passion and let it drive you where you want to go. For the reasons you want, in the way you want. Find that fuel.