Independence does not mean having to do everything on your own. I used to think that. Independence means doing the things you want with whatever help is available to you. It takes a braver, stronger and more independent person to acknowledge and seek help.
|Shaniqua poses at the National Mall in Washington DC with the Washington Monument in the background.|
Independence means living my life as I choose to live it. The operative word here being I! No amount of independence would exist for me if it weren't for my personal care attendants. They give me the ability to live in the community. Without them, I would have to live in an institutional setting, like a nursing home, where my life would cease to feel worthwhile. Independence to me is being a full member of my community and being recognized and appreciated as such. Independence ultimately means that I, as an American citizen, have the unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. Nothing else matters to me more than that.
|Renee poses before Austin's skyline at sunset.|
In my honest opinion independence is where we are free to be ourselves. Think about it – this great nation was founded 241 years ago. We as a country need to understand that there are people that are different or unique from others in so many ways. Independence is where we can be free to be ourselves, and be united, with no hatred towards others. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a frequent quote that I like. Remember that everyone is equal in their own way.
I always feel independent when I am involved with Special Olympics. Let me win, but if I don't, then let me be brave in the attempt.
|Kamand stands beside her Special Olympics swim teammates. Everyone holds their fists in the air proudly.|
I feel independent when I take care of my horse. My horse cannot tell me when he is not feeling well or when his shoes are uncomfortable, so I needed to learn how his mood changes when he is sick in order to take care of him. If I couldn't recognize the signs of a problem, I could have lost my horse. Keeping a close eye on him makes me feel independent. Here we are with the farrier, the man who cares for my horse's feet and changes his shoes every six weeks:
I experience my independence when I choose to rely on my inner Knowing, instead of the opinions of others. By focusing on my Truth I can live my life in a way that is best for me. When I give my gut instincts more consideration than professional opinions I find myself to be healthier and happier, as I do not function like the textbook says I should. I can experience my own acceptance when others are disapproving or critical, and speak my truth even if it is unique. Reliance on my inner Truth sets me free.
|Kaye wearing a business suit|
In the contentious world of politics, our compassion for our fellow countryman and woman may begin to erode with the thought of supporting people we don't even know. In actuality, supporting programs that keep people with disabilities and seniors healthy and active in the community is supporting yourself when you get old or find yourself stricken by an unfortunate accident or injury, it's supporting your parents or your children, it's an investment in an entire country where disability is a normal and natural part of life. To me, independence is the freedom to pursue the life I want within the same opportunities and limitations as my fellow citizens without disabilities.
|Living independently in the community gives me the opportunity to express myself creatively and develop new hobbies, like painting. This is "Tree at Sunset."|
What does independence mean to you? Please tell us in the comments: