Put An End To The "R" Word

Put An End To The "R" Word

These are my reasons why saying "retard" makes you an "A" word.

It is easy to spot the table at lunch occupied with the students who need aides to help them out with their classwork.

There are always the students that spend their school days in another classroom to learn daily activities such as tying their shoes or signing their names. You may walk by them in the halls and watch as they look down at the ground away from you.

They are the very few students who have access to the elevator key because the school isn’t wheelchair accessible. They leave class occasionally to take medications or deal with bodily functions.

You call them the “R” word.

They seem foreign to some. At universities, exposure is limited. When they are spotted being helped by workers in our facilities with jobs that are considered undesirable, it’s hard not to stare. At this age, transitional care is limited, and it’s difficult for parents to let them go into society. There are agencies that match them with staff to bring them to and from places and care for them throughout the day when their parents can no longer do so.

You call them the “R” word.

They greet you with a big smile on their face as they hand you the movie ticket you purchased. They optimistically clean up after you make a mess because they are proud of the job they have and the hard work they put into it. Some may live on their own, others still need daily supervision to help them achieve tasks that we take for granted. They have lived their entire lives knowing they are different.

You call them the “R” word.

Temple Grandin raised awareness of animal cruelty and used her own experience to alleviate anxiety for animals in slaughterhouses. She is the creator of multiple animal handling inventions that allow animals, especially cattle, to be treated as humanely as possible. There have been documentaries made about her and her research that is still in use today. She is a Professor of Animal Science, an author, and an advocate for people with disabilities similar to her own.

You call her the “R” word.

Frank Stephens testified on Capitol Hill about the importance of research on disabilities, especially Down Syndrome, and the recording of his opening statement went viral. He takes a stance on the beautiful capabilities that those with Down Syndrome have and argues how great his life is, regardless of the beliefs of others around him. He exaggerates the beauty of inclusion in society, and values the incredible source of happiness that comes from him and others with his disability.

I call them “R” words, too. Radiant. Refreshing. Remarkable. Real.

Every day, someone with a disability is chastised for being different, but they are crucial to our society at every stage in life. Without them, many of the revolutionary changes in our world similar to those made by Temple Grandin or Frank Stephens would have never happened. Contrary to common belief, they are capable of making our world a better place and they are driven to make an impact on society.

Hearing the “R” word thrown around breaks my heart, and knowing that so many people have become numb to the hurtful and degrading impact that it has is unacceptable. With the exception of one of my sorority sisters who inspired me to write this article, I have found that very few people even acknowledge the word's inappropriate usage. My mother has always taught me that people don’t choose to be that way, and that they have their own struggles every day without the judgement of others. It is our job to be kind and tolerant. Who are we to put down people who had no choice in the life they were given?

If you use the “R” word, however, you chose to be an asshole, so I use the “A” word.

Cover Image Credit: Sophie Rudloff

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A Different Kind Of Normal

Should you try to fit in if you're eccentric? What about the other way around?

Any of my friends who know me on an intimate personal level will understand that I have made choices in the past and attempted to comport myself in a manner that would suggest a normal personality and temperament. Not necessarily an attempt to be one of the beautiful people, but, I would exert an unreasonable amount of effort into conveying a person that can be singularized to a particular identity, whether that be goth, nerd, Southern (which absolutely no one took seriously), grungy, and, even preppy.

One day, I would make the decision to wear khaki pants, a button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and a pair of Sperry’s. Then, I’d suddenly want to wear brown cargo pants, converse with Harley Quinn and the Joker, a black shirt and a grungy-looking coat. One can’t forget my brief and comedic attempt at wearing a synthetic muscle shirt, tight jeans, black cowboy boots, and, shamelessly try-hard sunglasses. I refused to be who I am, which is a genuine eccentric. Even when I attempted to wear one of these costumes that I designed with the attempt at portraying a typical role, I’d still meet new people, and, once they somewhat knew me after hanging out a single time, they’d refer to me as “strange,” and, whether they use that term in a positive or disrespectful manner (more often than not, it was in a positive manner), it caused me to feel very insecure and uncomfortable.

The classic “cognitive dissonance” theory states that cognitive dissonance occurs when you realize, either by your own recognition of a actions and characteristics or other people’s reactions and judgments, that the self-image you’ve programmed yourself to be pleased with contradicts your personality, social role, character, or, even morals, and you suddenly feel uniquely uncomfortable.

I remember my uncle, a person that I share generally eccentric quirks with, would sometimes remark, “Strange boy,” when I would state or do something strange or uncharacteristic of a normal person with a familiar personality. I can remember my professor telling me that I’d love her class because all of the movies are weird like me. I remember classmates in high school who desperately wanted to fit in with a clique would dislike me because of my eccentric nature. And, I would see my peers try so desperately to be unique or strange by awkwardly conveying a fake nature just as I did. I would think to myself that I was well-aware of my own eccentric nature, and, I didn’t understand why a normal person would want to be that way.

Being eccentric is why I say the things I say, do the things I do, and think the things that I think. It’s why I’m walking through campus, look at my watch which doesn’t tell the date, and wonder whether it could be two days too fast since it doesn’t tell me the date. It’s why I express random colloquialisms or use strange wording that I’ve never heard anyone use as if they’re typical phrases, like, “That is immensely exciting” or, “This is a very abstruse conversation.” Or I’ll restructure obscure quotes and say things like, “Hey, if you’re the chaos, then I’m the dancing star!” Or, maybe, “I wouldn’t stare into that abyss for too long!” Of course, both of these examples are Nietzsche quotes, but, it’s the only ones I could recall.

Being eccentric is why I sometimes walk without swaying my arms, and, it’s why I like music like Marilyn Manson and PJ Harvey. It’s why I sometimes wear black button-up shirts with black jogging pants and a pair of converse for the sake of feeling comfortable and slick. It’s why I sometimes initiate conversations with people asking them about their favorite movies or school subjects, or, maybe just asking, “Do you like anime?” And, it’s why, in an informal conversation, if you ask me a simple question, I’ll go on a long tangent that may or may not arrive at a point that relates to what you just asked me.

Being an eccentric isn’t an attempt at being “special” or “precious.” There are eccentrics the whole world ‘round. The importance of recognizing that you’re a genuine eccentric is not only recognizing that you’re different from the majority of people but, also, that we’re all the same. After beginning the process of coming to terms with my eccentric nature, I found myself becoming friends with people from drastically different backgrounds. Conservative and liberal. Straight and gay. Preppy and alternative. Warm and cold. Religious and non-religious.

Once again quoting my uncle, everyone’s unique like everyone else. Many fit in with the typical crowd, and many don’t. There are those that fit in that don’t mind, and there are those that fit in and thrive on it, but, there are also those who naturally fit in but wish they could be different or unique. Then, there are those who don’t fit in. There are those that are fine with that, there are those that thrive on it, and there are those, like I have been in the past, that desperately want to fit in.

I’ll spare myself the cliche of saying, “Be yourself.” I think it’s fairly clear that someone like me encourages staunch individuality. But, all I’ll suggest is that the only people who are truly unique are the people who desperately try to be anyone that they aren’t. Reconciling my eccentric nature and accepting my awkward social role is how I make friends, meet new people, constantly evaluate my principles and concepts, and slowly make progress towards a fulfilling life.

I’m eccentric. Maybe, you’re normal, or, maybe you’re not. We’re all alternative. And, that’s an eccentric way of conveying that thought.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Why you should speak your mind when nobody's listening

If you’re reading this, I probably know your name.

We’ve probably met in person anywhere from a few to a thousand times, and I would consider you a friend. You’ll likely continue to read the rest of this article out of either curiosity or an uncomfortable sense of obligation.

And if not, you’re probably an Odyssey editor who’s checking this article over to make sure that I’m not corrupting the public with Satanist propaganda or posting 46 pages of biology notes online because I think it’s funny.

The reason I feel so comfortable making all these claims is because I think most people are pretty lazy, and it goes without saying that I am no exception.

That’s why I’m writing this article about something so abstract and vague, simply because it’s easy to ramble about. Anyway, my idea here is this: because the general public is lazy (allow me this assumption for the sake of discussion), a vast majority of possible viewers of this article, or any other one, can’t be bothered to read it. Why should they be? To them, I’m an irrelevant name attached to another Odyssey article, which are generally pretty annoying to scroll through on Facebook, so most people opt out of it altogether.

What the hell is the point then? Even if you are a total stranger who’s legitimately interested in my opinion on opinions, I’m apparently so convinced that you aren’t that I’ve already dedicated half the article to explaining why I think you aren’t. So why didn’t I delete this article halfway through and quit the Odyssey? I considered it, but the answer is because I like talking to myself. And I think you should too.

The worst possible quality a human being can have is a lack of conviction. Personally, I find it to be a colossal turn-off. If you don’t think and believe of your own accord, you truly have nothing. In the face of the most severe misfortune and tragedy, all that remains is what exists within our minds, which can never be taken away.

Our opinions drive the way we live: the way we act, speak, treat others, and are perceived by others is dictated by our views. Without them, is not an individual, but a drifting sack of water and blood that can be swept up in the turmoil of the outside world without resistance.

Thusly, the constant formation and presence of opinions in our thoughts is an essential part of being alive. One of the best ways to foster this development is writing.

Because you’re my friend, a well-meaning editor, or a stranger who’s heard me out for this long already, I know you’ll believe me when I say that I honestly had no earthly idea what this article was going to be about until I started writing it.

To be frank, I wasn’t entirely aware that I had such strong opinions about opinions until the moment I wrote this sentence.

We assume that we know the ins and outs of our brains without question. This idea makes sense, but I don’t believe it to be true whatsoever. Scouring through one’s own mind through the act of writing, forces deeper, substantive thought to occur. Addressing a hypothetical audience makes the author work to fully expound upon his own ideas. The rationale behind this process is that the reader has to be able to understand the author’s writing- but doing so allows the author to get an even clearer perception of their own thoughts.

This is not to say that we need to write in order to “really” access the cryptic, foggy clutter of the mind. However, articulating your own thoughts, be it through text, speech, or any other medium, is an excellent way to flesh out concepts in an effective and fairly easy way.

Because you’re my dear friend/editor/unlikely reader, I want to tell you this: I don’t care if you write, I just want you to think. Writing helps me think, but it doesn’t help everybody- nothing helps everybody do anything.

Read a book, listen to a song, take 82,000 micrograms of pure LSD (maybe not). Whatever gives you the fullest command over your own thoughts, do that. I’m of the opinion that you should want to do it.

Because if you don’t think for yourself, what makes you “yourself?” Award-winning author Flannery O’Connor once said, “I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.” So if you think I’m a pretentious jerk, maybe you should write about it.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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