Today is 9/11 and for the past twelve years this has been both a sad day and a joyous day for me. It’s been sad because of the tragedy that took place on this date and the many people who lost their lives. But, however, I’ve always seen this day as a joyous one because this was the day I got my manual wheelchair for the very first time. It’s one of those days I still remember and won’t forget.
On that day in 2001, I was a student at Senn High School on the north side of Chicago and I didn’t want to be there in class at all. I was taking a science class that morning and one of the teachers who taught a class next door would always come in after class to talk and joke around with some of the students. Well on that day he comes into class and starts talking about a plane went into the towers (World Trade Center) and blew it up. The remaining students including myself just dismissed it because he was always joking around and we thought he was plain crazy and I left to head to my next class which was on the other side of the building.
When I got to my next class, I found out that what that teacher was talking about wasn’t a joke and I witness it live on television what was transpiring and everything just stopped. As I’m sitting there in the class with the other students watching this horrific attack, I realized that I made an appointment at Children’s Memorial Hospital to pick up my wheelchair and with all the stuff that was going on I wasn’t gonna be able to leave the school because it was on lockdown.
As I sit in the classroom, I’m worried because I know I can’t leave the school but yet my mom is coming back to get me and has a ride to take me to the hospital. Well the security at Senn found me in class and escorted me towards one of the many exits the school has and my mom is waiting for me and we headed to the hospital. I think I was the only CPS (Chicago Public Schools) student in the city that had permission to leave school while it was on lockdown to get to my appointment.
I arrive at Children’s and the mood is very somber at that time because it still a very chaotic time across the country and you didn’t know what might happen next but the staff at the hospital had to keep working like it nothing was happening. I met up with a guy named Rick who worked at the hospital and who I had gotten know months earlier before getting my chair (He always said I look like a young Muhammad Ali). I was so excited that I was getting a wheelchair that would belong to me and no one else. I was using a borrowed wheelchair at the time that wasn’t comfortable for me at all because I was a tall guy and so getting this wheelchair that would be made to my body’s specifications was a joy for me.
Twelve years later and I still have that manual wheelchair that has definitely seen better days but it still works for me and I’m able to do a lot of things at home thanks to that wheelchair. 9/11 will always have a place in my heart not only because of the lives that were lost on that day but it will have a place in my heart because it gave me a wheelchair I could call my own.
What is a wheelchair? I know that’s a silly question to ask, but it’s an important question to ask and give a legitimate answer to. I spent some time looking up the definition of a wheelchair and I saw few definitions that didn’t give me the answer I was looking for but then I came across the Oxford dictionary online and gave me an answer I could work with.
According to the Oxford dictionary a wheelchair is “a chair fitted with wheels for use as a means of transport by a person who is unable to walk as a result of illness, injury or disability.” Okay, so that’s the dictionary version of what a wheelchair is but I would like to add-on to that definition because I feel that’s just a basic, straight to the point definition. But I don’t feel and I know many others who use wheelchairs don’t feel that way either.
I want to define what a wheelchair is to me; I can’t speak for anyone else in a wheelchair because our experiences are completely different from each other so I can only speak on how I define it.
To me my wheelchair is an extension of myself as a person. I use it to get around Chicago whether riding through the various neighborhoods of the city or using it on public transportation. It helps me to go places around the city that would’ve been impossible for me if I didn’t have it.
My wheelchair is the first thing people see when they meet me for the first time and it’s understandable. What I don’t like are people who pretend they don’t see my chair. You know the ones I’m talking about, “oh when I met you I didn’t see your wheelchair, I only see you as a person.” That’s bullshit! People can clearly see I’m in a wheelchair.
My wheelchair has given me a chance to do things in my life I never thought were possible. If it wasn’t for my chair I wouldn’t be a film director and that means The Wheelchair Chronicles would not exist today. If it wasn’t for my wheelchair I wouldn’t have met all the great people who have made an impact on my life and I wouldn’t have developed relationships with these people.
I’ve been in a wheelchair for 12 years now and I’ve finally gotten to understand more about myself sexually and as a man. I’m 31 and I’m comfortable with being in a wheelchair. Now I do want to eventually want to walk again but as of right now I’m in my chair and it will continue to be an extension of what I can do and who I am as a person.
Over the weekend I was talking to a friend of mine and she asked me an interesting question. “What’s the first thing you do when you come outside?” I told her that when I go outside, the first thing I do is look up at the sky.
Why is that the first thing I do? Well I spend most of my time indoors and while I’m indoors I feel closed in, like I’m suffocating. I feel that I have no space to be free and move around the way I want to. When I’m in my house I have to navigate through tight spaces just to get around and is frustrating (at times).
When I roll outside for the first time I pause and I look up at the sky no matter if it’s sunny or dark and gloomy. I take that pause for a few seconds to take in my surrounds, to get fresh air in my lungs and prepare myself for whatever comes my way.
Let me tell you, when I step outside I feel liberated, I feel like I’m free. Being able to go outside means that I can have fun and be adventurous and experience life. That’s one of the reasons why I put together The Wheelchair Chronicles so that the world can see what I see when I ride outside. I want people to see the total freedom I have when I’m riding in my wheelchair. I want people to see the joy I have being able to ride around the streets of Chicago.
When I look to the sky, I’m grateful that I get to see another day and to get a chance to do something new. When I look to the sky it gives me hope.
Normally on the weekends I like to get early in the morning, get in my wheelchair and just ride around the city. I hate being lonely but when I travel around the city, I like the solitude, I love being by myself just me and my music. I don’t know why I do this but there’s something interesting about riding in Chicago when no one is around with the exception of a few people and cars. You can’t get this during the weekdays when people are going to work early in the morning. I like getting a different perspective of the city when no one is around. I know this seems weird but it sort of puts me at peace with myself. It gives me a chance to clear my head and figure out what I want out of life.
Earlier this afternoon I had a doctor’s appointment with a neurologist at Northwestern to figure out what’s going on with my legs and it was a rough experience. I’m not saying the doctor and his assistant were bad (they were actually great), it was just the test I had to go through to determine if there was a weakness in my arms and legs. My case is so weird to begin with because when they were doing the test, I have some weakness in my arms but have some strength as well and the same goes for my legs. I’m guessing that my strengths in those areas are compensating for my weaknesses.
While I did these test, the neurologist couldn’t figure out why I was sent to him because the reason I came to him was my primary doctor referred me to this guy because of the three muscle enzymes tests I’ve taken since May have been extremely high and it was a cause for concern. Well the neurologist suggest I see another doctor who works with muscular dystrophy that could give me answers.
So I have to see another doctor and it’s beginning to be really frustrating for me because I’m just tired of seeing doctor after doctor to determine what the hell is going on with me. This day has just been tiring and I’m so glad to be home so I can rest and relax.
This will be the most important aspect of my film and that is putting my film team together. Ever since I started this film, I’ve worked by myself (with help from my film advisor, Camille DeBose) on this project, but now that I preparing to finish The Wheelchair Chronicles, putting the crew together is gonna be tough. Now don’t get me wrong I got plenty of people who are willing to help me with my film but I want to make sure I’m putting together a crew that will help make this film a success.
Trying to set up a crew is like putting together a puzzle. You have to make sure all the right pieces fit to complete the who puzzle. So as I sit here typing, I have to figure out what I need exactly and what direction I want the film to go. It’s nice that I’m editing but that’s not gonna get the film moving. I need to set up my crew so I can get this film moving and finally finished by the end of the year.
So I have to figure out if I want to add producers, if I need a cinematographer (which I’ll probably need), if I need art, etc. I know I’ll need an editor, sound, music, and I gotta do some voice over work so these choices are very important in finishing the film. I want this to be a great finished product. I want everyone to be proud of what they see from me.
First off let me apologize for the lack posts the last few months. I’ve been busy trying to finish school and everything and now that I’ve graduated from DePaul (Woo Hoo!!) I can fully focus on finishing The Wheelchair Chronicles. It feels so damn good to be working on my film again. It’s time to focus on funding, editing, and finding music for my film. I’ve got the footage I need and now it’s time to finish my first film ever.
In regards to the blog, I’ll be posting a lot more than just once a month. I’ll restart my What A Film Should Be Like series and I’ll also be reconstructing my blog to make it look more professional so be on the lookout for that. Once again I want to thank everyone for supporting my film and supporting this blog.
Well not really a rant, it just my thoughts, just what I’m feeling at this time. I’m two weeks away from my graduation and I’ve never been as happy as I am now. I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders, a heavy five-year college weight I’ve been carrying around. I should say an eight year weight if you combine my time at Truman college before I came to DePaul. I’m happy that it will be over, even though I might want to do graduate school in the future but now I’m done with all this.
With my graduation looming it also means that I’m back to working on my film and finishing up one of the biggest projects that I’ve put together in my life. I miss filming, I miss the feel of a camera in my hands. I’ll will admit, I haven’t checked out my footage since October of 2012 so it will be interesting to go back and look at all my footage. Who knows maybe I seen something brand new that I didn’t see before and come up with a new idea and direction for my film. I’m excited to get back into the thick of things.
While I’m dealing with graduation and my post-graduation future, I’m also dealing with my love life. I don’t have a significant other in my life but I know that she’s out there. A few years ago I wasn’t thinking about falling in love and being in a relationship but now I want that. I also wasn’t thinking about it because in all honesty I didn’t have confidence in myself and I didn’t love myself as a person. Now I do have that confidence thanks to the women who had an influence in my life to let me be myself and now I’m ready to open my heart to that special woman.
These are just my thoughts ladies and gentleman, just what I was feeling at this time.
*I originally posted this on my blog close to a week ago on tumblr and I thought I should share with everyone.
Well I woke up this morning looking out my window and seeing rain. Normally when it rains or raining, I know that I’m in for a rough day because my body becomes stiff, in pain and it makes it hard for me to move all day. Now it’s already difficult for me to move around as it is so when the weather is wet it’s twice as hard to move. But when I woke up I wasn’t in pain and it felt great. I know I’m gonna have difficulties today and I expect that being in a wheelchair but today is gonna be a great day. I was preparing for this day to be the worst but now I know it’s not and that makes me happy.
No I’m not talking about the return of Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose (who I told people that he wasn’t coming back at all this season but I’m getting off topic), I’m talking about the return of me working on my film again. It’s been a few months since I took a hiatus from working on the Wheelchair Chronicles to focus on finishing school (one more month til graduation…WOOOO!!!) and now I’m preparing to finally finish the film that I’ve been working on now for close to 4 years.
One of the great things about taking a hiatus is that it gave me a chance to clear my head. I was focusing on my film 24/7 with one idea for how I wanted to present this film and it was driving me insane and it felt like my head was going to explode. The time away from the film has help big time because it’s given me an opportunity to view other documentaries and get ideas on how to present my film. I so many ideas floating my head and I get a rush of excitement when I come with a new idea and so I’m itching to start working again.
I’m excited for the finish of The Wheelchair Chronicles and I can’t wait to update you all as I take the final steps in completing this film. While I love chronicling my life in a wheelchair through words (I have another idea about further chronicling my life in a wheelchair after my film but I’ll talk about that in a future post), I want people to see me and to watch me explain the trails and tribulations that have happened in my life.