All know the legend of Helen Keller. Deaf and blind, yet still breaking through and finding a way to read, write, understand and acknowledge everything, as if she did not lack any normalcy of human physical development.
Let’s never negatively use the term ‘normal’ because Helen never got to know what it felt like to be someone else who had all five senses it wouldn’t be fair to her. She never chose to have these disabilities, nor did her parents. She was just born like this.
You can’t call anybody ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal.’ There can never and will never be specific rules about who qualifies to be so-called ‘normal.’ The reason for this is that every human being on the planet is unique. You know this by looking at the faces of the people around you.
Although you may look alike, you can’t be the same as anybody. Your physical appearance, the way you think, your preferences, your habits. These are all attributes of a person that everybody has, and no two peoples’ characteristics can perfectly mirror each other. No one can negatively impact another person for being different, and doing so is unethical.
Think about it – the reason people get bullied is that the bullies dislike them for being different. Residential schools are real because people wanted everyone to be the same and did not tolerate ‘differentness.’
The reason racism, sexism and all the other -isms exist is because people dislike others for being different. Here in this article, I will depict the life of an imaginary but very realistic person who was merely the opposite of the many meanings and understandings of the abnormal term “normal.”
Real Story Starts Here
Once upon a time, there lived, well, me in a land not so far away.
Hi, I’m Simon Potri and welcome to my journal. To be honest, this isn’t even a journal but rather a brain printer. Here I spill out my mind, so please stay tuned while I have breakdowns and everything starts to get wacky.
If you ever get a look at me, you will see that I only have one leg. There is a prosthetic leg below, but my challenging situation barely allowed us to afford a replacement.
How did this happen? I don’t want to recall, but I hope you readers can support me to don’t begin to. Let’s not trail off, but instead, let’s get to the point.
I was born to an abusive family without any siblings, and both of my parents were always caught up in things like addiction, work and conflicts in and out of the house. We lived in a crowded tiny apartment with the air filled with smoke and carpets stained with alcohol. Whatever anger they had, they released it on me.
Yes, I put lots of stress on their shoulders as a child, but every parent goes through that. There was no reason for them to release their inner beasts on me and pull out a belt each time they lost in poker.
Anyways, the time that hit me hard was when they left 6-year-old me home alone in a poorly air-conditioned 2nd-floor apartment room, located in a crime-ridden area, and decided to go out together.
Though I’ll never know for sure, they were most likely at a bar, getting drunk and starting fights, or at a casino, gambling the last of their money only to end up higher in debt. I do know, though, that when they returned home early the following day, they were not in a good mood. They were arguing and yelling, and as my dad slammed the door shut, my mom lost it. She hit my dad across the face, and my dad hit her back. All of a sudden, they had engaged in a full-on fistfight, gang vs. gang style. As my dad was attempting to pin my mom to the wall, he tripped over me, a helpless child frozen in shock from the show put on by his parents, and that seemed to make him even angrier.
My mom wasn’t any less aggravated. She trampled me and kicked me like a ball towards my dad, who wrestled out of my mother’s grip and picked me up.
Now I know what you are thinking: “Oh, finally, little Simon has been rescued!” And don’t get me wrong, that’s exactly what I thought as well until he opened the door to the balcony and tossed me off.
As I was in descent, I rotated my field of vision just enough to get what could be the last glimpse I will ever have of my family and savor it in. And what I savored in was not what I desired.
You want to know what I wished for, don’t you? Well, here it is: I hoped my parents would stare at me blankly, but at the same time in longing shock, thinking of all the wrong decisions they made that led them here: throwing their child off a balcony. But none of that occurred.
None of the ‘loving parent’ actions the way that would have happened only in a movie but in my life. None of the feelings that I underwent would have felt in any other real-life family.
Instead, they waited for me to plunge into a tiny concrete courtyard that was never maintained and smelled putrid. Not to mention the pile of shards of glass (also my family’s doings) that pierced through my skin and left me with bone fragments extruding from my skin and more bleeding than I’d ever imagined. I also blacked out moments after I touched down for a long time, which disables me from remembering how long I was clinging to life by a string. After what should be the most traumatic time of their lives, what did my parents do? They just walked inside as if nothing happened.
Although I didn’t die. I was rushed to a hospital as soon as somebody found me near-lifelessly lying on the hot and dry summer ground. I was also informed of the pleasant news that I had suffered a brain injury with a name too long to memorize. Fatal whiplash and concussion, and my leg had to be amputated. If I didn’t amputate it, it would cause me too much suffering because it had been badly infecting from the dirty glass I fell into, and that without multiple surgeries, I would only live about one week.
Very pleasant, considering the circumstances I was living in. There was a better chance my life would have been cut short right there on the spot than being adopted by an orphanage at an almost adult age.
Believe it or not, I am extremely fortunate. Despite the fact that the people who gifted me life almost returned that gift themselves, I wasn’t parentless for the rest of my life.
The beginning of this journey goes like this: I was sent to an orphanage when the hospital couldn’t keep me any longer. Those days might have been the best of my days. Before I walked through the heavy-weight stainless steel double doors, I thought that I was the only one who had to go through this.
I was confident that I would be neglected here because I saw myself versus the way others saw me were often similar to a shiny doorknob. You and a friend could be looking at the same spot on the same doorknob at the exact reflection, but the ways you see each other are drastically different. Everything around you seems warped, enlarged, shrunk, or twisted. And since my entire body is permanently scarred and partially deformed, I was the reflection in the doorknob.
The other orphans in this building had many different stories, and it fascinated me just listening to them. One of the orphans’ parents both wanted a divorce, and neither kept the children. Another was separated from them by force from terrorists, and there was never any news of them afterward.
One’s story, in particular, amazed me.
His name was Abdullah. He and his family were fleeing Afghanistan due to war and terrorism when a landmine went off right in front of them in the darkness of night, sending Abdullah’s little sister, four years old, flying into a tree and sending his elderly father to heaven.
Little did they know, a deadly terrorist group targeted their mother since she became famous and wealthy from her own business about two years ago.
She opened a medical clinic in a village with scarce medical supplies, and of course, terrorists went after that. They were very secretive, though, until now. They bombed the building when the parents were walking their children back from school, giving the traumatized, community-contributing citizens no choice but to find a better place to live. They weren’t looking to stay in the country, yet they had no relatively easy and accessible ways to leave. So, on foot, they went, dreaming of a peaceful place to settle down.
When Mr. Ali and little Larmina died, it only left Mrs. Ali and Abdullah to fend for themselves. Along the way, they tackled starvation, extreme dehydration, exhaustion, illness, and so on, fighting their hearts out for their cause. Nevertheless, only one made it through, and I’ll let you guess which one.
When I met him, Abdullah was 13. He reached the orphanage and was very thankful for the new life and new beginning of his world.
Although it wasn’t ideal, it’s a nice life-long break from the audacity of the terrorists’ minds. He always misses his family and wishes they were here to see him thrive in a new country, and he knew they would be so proud of him.
I grew close to Abdullah over the years, and for him, seeing me reminded him of Larmina. He cared for me like a sibling, and I clung to him at all times, although Abdullah had to leave the orphanage at the age of 18 and went on to be a successful professor at a nearby university.
I was adopted just two weeks following my 16th birthday. And yes, that means I stayed in this orphanage for more than a decade. In adoption centers and orphanages, if you get adopted as a teen, you are fortunate. Many adopters look for younger children to bond with them more manageable and watch them grow up, but teens are on the least-sought-after list.
I knew that I couldn’t take anything with my new family for granted, so at school, I gave it my all to receive good grades and not drag my foster parents into my problems. I held in all my emotions as hard as I could to not get in trouble, which was the last thing on my to-do list. I let the other students bully me and push me around. Being called names like “Fed-Ex” and “Robo-legs” were the least of my concerns.
Although it really crushed me from the inside, I stood firm. When the word of my life story went viral, people began to treat me more respectfully, but not all the actions subsided.
One day after school, I was walking home and a group of students from my high school teamed up on me and again, I ended up back in the hospital. But once I fully recovered, the school year had ended. And that meant I had the rest of my life in front of me, as I had just graduated high school.
With college and university, ‘to go or not to go’ was the question. My foster family was wealthy enough to afford more school, but I didn’t know if I wanted to risk another severe injury.
Nevertheless, I decided to test my luck one more time and went to college. There I studied Motivational Speaking (Oral Communication in general), and that’s how I made my living later on.
My life story had been told and understood by the entire world, and before I knew it, so many big organizations like UNICEF were calling me, begging me to give a speech in front of huge audiences. Once I even went on stage for a TED talk.
Although I am not proud of what I had to live through, I am very proud of where it got me.
Hello, my name is Simon Potri, and I am a human being.
Dear readers the story is over here. Let’s try living with the essence of ‘being’ a.k.a. love, care, support and peace.
The writer is an 8th-grade student and lives in Newmarket, Canada.