Life as a Rite of Passage

There are many different types of rites of passages. Here in America, when you turn 16 getting your license is a rite of passage. When you turn 21, you can have your first legal drink as an adult. But have you ever considered the possibility of having a personal rite of passage?

What would you consider being a rite of passage for you personally? I believe my personal rite of passage began with my premature birth. I was born prematurely. I was considered a micro-preemie weighing only one lb, and 6 oz’s before my first of 20 surgeries related to my Spastic Hemiplegia Cerebral Palsy. Being born prematurely, dying 3 times, and being brought back each time definitely qualifies as a rite of passage.

But believe or not, that is just the start of my rite of passage. I can’t speak for others who happen to have challenges and obstacles they continually have to deal with on a daily basis. But for me just being on this planet for the past 35 (almost 36 years) has been a well fought for the rite of passage I do not take for granted.

For me, I have had to fight to be heard and seen as an equal. To become noticed as a person first rather than someone bound to a chair That fight became a battle for quite a while. After I graduated high school in 2001, I was faced with the harsh reality that the real world does necessarily know how to fully accept someone with a disability.

All the laws and rights in the world do not assure that society will pay attention to someone with a disability, much less fully accept them and integrate them into their circle so that they’re given an equal shot to grow and learn like others.

In fact, tt has been my experience that if you are considered an outcast by society, that you quickly find yourself stuck in the realization that the path you’re now on will have to be traveled alone. That you are now both the student and teacher. And the limited resources you do have on the outside aren’t enough. You have to use them to the best of your ability anyway because barely adequate is what the real world feels is acceptable for you. Because after all, how far can a person with a disability get anyway?

You see, when you are someone with a set of unique circumstances like having a complex, and ever-changing physical disability like Spastic Hemiplegia Cerebral Palsy. Your rights of passage will most likely be different from the typical kind society is used to. So the typical things such as equal opportunity among the workforce, being able to marry without being penalized for it and unlimited access to housing, transportation, livable and manageable income. Are usually things the average person may not have to choose between on a daily basis.

My rite of passage should not have to include these basic necessities to live a fully functional and worthwhile life. But unfortunately, we in the disability community continually do. It has always occurred to me, that when people talk about rites of passage, that was something when you came to age you earned. Well, in a way when you’re a person with unique abilities you’re given the chance to challenge whoever and whatever is in the way of your own rite of passage.

For the simple that the average able-bodied person doesn’t have as many limitations someone in the disability community will most likely have. This is in part why I don’t take anything I have been given by God or what I have earned on my own. So what is that I consider being my own rite of passage? My life is number one. Two would be my passion for my writing, Three my desire and passion to help those in need. And finally four: combing the last two to create change, and to create a place for the voiceless to find their voice.

All the while finding, and shaping my own voice. Creating what I hope to be the beginning of a much-needed change in society. Because your voice is what the world needs to hear. That is what I believe to be the essence of my very own rite of passage.


Jessica Niziolek

Jessica is the founder of and writes for The Abler - a blog that deals with topics with far too much stigma, and not enough education or knowledge. She is an advocate for the disability community. Jessica is also a contributing writer for MEDIUM.COM. Lastly, she is a coffee and chocolate junkie who loves heavy metal and rock music.

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