What Can And Can’t Be Done

Saturday was a rather musical day for me. We got home late from Maine on Friday, accompanied by my new friend, Ivan (Romanian violin). I didn’t have much time to play with him that night, so after lunch on Saturday I spent a while experimenting with different ways of holding the instrument and fingering the neck. As I’ve mentioned before, I can  play it sort of like one would play a cello. I hold the neck of the instrument up near my neck and reach down with the bow to play the strings. I was having to worry too much about it sliding, so yesterday my dad built me a little metal brace that holds it steady. As it is, I can almost kinda sorta play a major scale. I initially thought the lack of frets was going to be more of an issue, but my ear is good enough by now that it doesn’t seem like it’s going to matter that much. Yesterday I played for several hours because I can’t really even go outside at the moment. I’m allergic to something that’s in bloom right now, and it’s killing me. I figured out how to play a very squeaky version of Ode To Joy, as well as some improvised melodies. I quite glad with the progress I’ve made so far.

Nobody thought this was going to be a good idea. A lot of people thought I was going to waste a bunch of money on an instrument I wasn’t going to be able to play. I will most definitely be able to play it and make pretty things happen, so eat it, doubters! I love proving people wrong. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I’ve been able to figure out how to do just about everything I’ve wanted to–with the exception of skateboarding. That one would probably be a little tricky.

The guy who made my violin was super helpful and encouraging. He had a whole bunch of suggestions and was completely open to me finding an alternative way of playing. We need more people like him in the world. Picking out a violin and doing some experimenting at the shop reminded me of my first guitar lesson almost eight years ago. In short my teacher’s approach was: Well, this is how you’re supposed to do it, but it looks like we’re gonna have to do things your way, so let’s get down to business.

That’s the point. I don’t do things “the normal way.” I do things Katie style, but the fact of the matter is, I do things. There isn’t just one way of doing anything. I open doors with my feet more than half the time. My bird has learned to climb up my wheelchair to get off the floor. The more people are convinced that I won’t be able to do something, the harder I will try to get it done.

I find that people, especially people in the school system, are way too quick to assume that people are incapable. The special education department at my school practically controlled my life until I went to high school when, in fact, they simply wouldn’t listen to me. They thought I was incapable of focusing or getting anything done, so they assigned me an aid and hovered over me for eight years when the truth was I was bored. I was a normal kid who would have figured it out eventually. I would have got some bad grades, my parents would have nagged me, and that would have been the end of it. Instead I coasted and school took care of itself. For many years I didn’t care because I was a lazy kid who thought she was getting a free ride. You start to care about what other people think of you in middle school, though, and I realized that people were seeing me as broken. In my freshman year of high school, I wrote a strongly worded letter, using the best English I could possibly muster at age fourteen, and I fired them. After the first few weeks of my freshman year, I was free.

Don’t underestimate people, but more importantly, don’t crush their will. I’m a stubborn, outspoken person. My “issues” are only physical. Things can be harder and more intimidating when people have intellectual issues. This isn’t always the case, but it seems to be at least somewhat true from what I’ve seen as a mentor. Don’t tell anyone what they can and can’t do. Don’t talk to their parents about them while they’re standing right there. Don’t assume anyone can’t do something just because it looks difficult or even impossible. Especially don’t do things for people without even letting them try. Be encouraging. Be annoying even. Make people step outside their comfort zone. Make them try things. They’ll surprise themselves and they’ll surprise you.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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