When I was in 5th grade, one of our assignments was to write a memoir. A memoir is a piece that showcases a significant moment or memory that occurred in your life. I chose to write about a day where I felt excluded, stressed, upset, and countless other emotions. Lunch.
Lunch time can be one of the hardest times of the school day for me, and heres why. Lunch tables. Lunch tables are a big barrier for me in my every day life (except for the current situation, considering we are quarantined). Some tables are too low or have benches, not allowing me to pull up to the table. A big challenge for me is sometimes not being able to sit with certain people because of these lunch tables. Don’t get me wrong, when this is the case, I do ask people to come sit at a table where I can sit at, but sometimes they can’t or choose not to. It is possible that there aren’t any tables left that I can sit at; they might be all taken. It is also possible that they just might not want to, for reasons like “that table can’t fit all of us” or “I am already eating and have unpacked all of my lunch”.
As you can probably imagine, this leaves me stressed and upset, as I don’t know where to sit. In some situations, I decide that I will just park my chair and have my nurse feed me, which you can imagine is not very fun. I just want to be able to sit down at the table with my friends without a nurse hovering over me. In this particular situation, I try to forget about it and just have lunch with my friends. However, its not always like this. In other situations, I get really upset and anxious, and can’t forget about it. In those situations, it is hard to stay calm.
In elementary school, my previous school, lunch time was a lot harder then it is now at my middle school. While there are definitely still challenges at my school now, they aren’t as bad as what I experienced at my elementary school. Now, at my middle school, I have a specific reserved table that I can sit at with my friends. While this might seem like the perfect solution, it’s not. Let’s say that the people I normally sit with are not at lunch that day. Because of this, I decide that I will go find some other friends to sit with. Now lets say that the friends that I want to sit with are eating at a table that I can’t eat at. I decide to politely ask them to move to the table that I can sit at, and they agree to move over to my reserved table. But wait, it’s not always that easy. You see, when I am in this situation, sometimes I have to negotiate with these people, and it just get’s very awkward and uncomfortable. While having a reserved table is very helpful and does allow me to always have somewhere to sit, it doesn’t solve the whole problem.
Below is a copy of the memoir I wrote in 5th grade. This memoir tells the story of a time in 5th grade where I had a bad experience in the lunch room, all because of a lunch table.
THE LUNCH TABLE
What they don’t understand is that I can feel really excluded. The things that they
do are things that I sometimes can’t participate in. Some days I feel like they
don’t even care. One day they are BEST friends with you and the next day, they
are completely oblivious to the things you can’t do. I think everyone in this world
has been left out. Like the times when my friends will go upstairs and climb the monkey bars during recess, while I just sit there watching them.
Have you ever wished that you could be a unicorn, mermaid, dragon, etc.? I wish
I could walk, but I can’t. Do you ever take walking for granted? If you are abled,
have you ever thought about what it would be like to not be able to walk?
Would my life be different if I didn’t have a disability? I mean, yeah, it would. I
would be able to climb stairs, and overall, just be able to do whatever with
my friends. If you don’t have a physical disability, you probably know what this
feels like. Not having a disability, being able to do things on your own. Well guess
what, I don’t. Have you ever broken a leg or an arm? Well, you can get your cast
off by a month. But for me it’s like I am stuck in a cast/crutches every single day
of my life.
It was especially today when I wish I didn’t have a disability. When I wished that I
could just be free and not have to worry about anything related to not being able
to do different things. Or being excluded. Me and my nurse were taking
the elevator down to the basement to the cafeteria. Lunch is my time for
freedom, to hang out with my friends, eat my lunch, talk, play games, etc. We
normally sit to the right of the cafeteria at the brown tables, which are round
shaped. Once me and my nurse got off the elevator, we turned the corner into the
hallway of the cafeteria. Even though we were pretty far away from the cafeteria, we could still hear all the loudness and chaos going on into the lunch room. I “ran”
to the double doors, with a smile on my face as big as a watermelon
As I started to reach the double doors, my nurse far behind me since I ran ahead,
my heart almost fell to my chest, while little anxiety balls swum throughout my
whole entire body, like these little anxiety balls were trying to destroy me. My
friends weren’t sitting at the round tables, the one and ONLY table my wheelchair
can fit under, let alone the only table I can feed myself at. I wished that my
anxiety balls would escape, but no, that’s not how it works in the real world. As I
was still completely still and frozen in the double doors, my nurse had just caught
up to the doors and took me out of my zone. “You ready,” she asked. “Yep,” I
replied, even though I really wasn’t. I wasn’t ready to go into the lunch room
acting like I wasn’t bothered by a single thing. I wasn’t ready to confront my
friends. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be home. The
place where I really can express my feelings. Or just lie in bed. But I wasn’t home.
I was here, at school, starting to walk into the lunch room.
Through my eyes, everything was going in slow motion. I could feel my heart
beating out of my chest, and let me tell you, it was beating pretty fast. Why did
this have to happen to me? Why weren’t they sitting at our regular table? Why
did it have to change? Thoughts were racing through my head like a roller
coaster. As I got closer and closer to my friends, inch by inch, my nurse went to
sit down in her normal spot at the round tables, with the other adults in our
classroom. If only that could’ve been me right now, sitting at the round tables,
with my friends, like my average day. But that wasn’t me.
As I started to get closer and closer to my friends, I stopped. I couldn’t do it.
What would they say? My two friends were sitting at the long white cafeteria
tables, with dirty food stains all over them. They were talking and eating their
lunch while I stood there, waiting to get the courage to go up to them and talk to
them. And then before I knew it, I was moving forward, just getting closer and
closer to my friends, gaining more anxiety balls the closer I got. And then it hit
me. There I was, standing right in front of my friend’s lunch table. At first, they didn’t notice I was there, and when they did, you probably guessed it, my anxiety
balls were squished, and some squeezing to get into my body.
I could feel the tension between us. I didn’t know what to say. I was as silent as a
newborn baby, who knew absolutely no words. They were giving me that fake
kind of smile and then I could tell that they knew what was wrong. I felt like I was
being put on the spot, my face turning red as a tomato. I could feel my body
heating up like a flaming fire. “Hey…” I said. “Hi,” one of my friends replied back.
The awkwardness between us made me flinch. My friend stood up from her seat
while the other one was still sitting there just watching the tension between us.
“I know,” my friend said. What did she know? Did she know how big of a deal
this was for me? Did she know what I was going through right now? I bet she
didn’t. I can guarantee you that she didn’t understand. Most people will think
that it’s just a lunch table. But it’s not. How would you feel if you didn’t get to eat
your lunch because of a lunch table? And even if I did get to eat at this table, the
only reasoning would be because my nurse had to stand there feeding me, which
as you might be able to imagine, is very embarrassing. And if my friend did
understand, the end of lunch wouldn’t have been how it turned out, as you will
“Um, will you come and sit with me at the round tables,” I asked. “Well it’s just
that, at the round tables- well- we always end up having some sort of fight,” she
replied, in that “oh I feel so sorry for you” voice. What? I thought. When has this
ever happened? Well don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a few fights here and there
but WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE ROUND TABLE AND THE
RECTANGULAR TABLES! “Oh,” I replied to her, all 800 of those emotions being
kept inside my body. I felt my voice start to crack, like an egg when a chick is
about to hatch, while my breathing starting to get 2x as fast as the second hand
on a clock. Looking back now I should have confronted them in a stronger way
and not had been so quiet. I felt like I was holding Niagara Falls behind my eyes.
You might’ve guessed it. All of a sudden Niagara Falls poured out of my eyes, in
front of the whole cafeteria.
Why did it have to change? Why did I have to spend my lunch crying in front of
everyone humiliating myself? I felt like I was a dinosaur in a fish tank, and
everyone was looking at me. Staring with their own little eyes, probably
completely oblivious to the fact that I was having a hard time in that moment and
didn’t want 800 eyes staring at me. I didn’t have to explain myself to my friend,
and I wouldn’t. They knew what the problem was, and were they going to try and
fix it, no. Of course not, cause apparently, we had a lot of “fights” at that table. (I
don’t know either, trust me.)
My friend called my other friend over to help her out. What did she need help
with? More witnesses as to why they can’t sit at the round tables? I didn’t want
to be there right now. Niagara Falls was making me breath faster than I ever
have, and I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t control my breathing, or my tears. My
friends were silent. We all were. As not one of us had any idea what to say. We
stood there. Awkwardly. Like our mouths were zipped together. I never thought
that this would happen.
Before I knew it, I was walking away from them. Far, far away. I hadn’t said
anything to my friends before I left. I just couldn’t even get a single word out. I
speeded to the other side of the lunch room, where my nurse sat, going as fast as
I could, because the faster I went, the faster I could get away from the
humiliation, and those 800 sets of eyes staring at me. I went to my nurse
and told her how my friends weren’t sitting with me. “I’m trying to get them to sit
with me and they won’t! They don’t even care!” I was screaming as loud as a fire
alarm. As I started telling my nurse, my friends had caught up to me, and they
saw how I was struggling to get my words out, with my breathing at a VERY fast
rate. I felt like I was hyperventilating myself.
“What happened girls,” my nurse asked, after I had told her the story. “Well we
just feel like we don’t always want to sit at that table.” “Ok well, we can try to
figure a plan out tomorrow, we have to go to recess soon,” my nurse replied in a
very calming voice. I understood their side of it, but I wasn’t sure if they
understood mine. How I didn’t get my lunch period that day because of my anxiety balls, and my disability. And then the bell for recess rang. I didn’t get one
bite of food. One minute without my anxiety balls filling up my body.
But not everybody understands, and I don’t expect some people too. Because it
can be a hard thing to understand. If you don’t have a physical disability, you
probably don’t actually understand. You might get the fact that there are some
things that I can’t do, and that it upsets me, but you will never understand the
feelings that come with this and the effect that this can bring into my life.
Friends are not always easy. Some days feel like they really aren’t your friends,
and some days you feel the complete opposite. But they’re my friends, and they
have been for a long time. I will sometimes have so much fun with them, and
others not so much. I can understand why they sometimes want to do what I
can’t do because it can be more fun, but other times I wonder if they even realize
that they are excluding me. When I am alone with one of my friends, I don’t feel
excluded because they want to be with me and they will do whatever I can do,
but when I am with a big group of friends, sometimes they will want to do what
everyone else is doing, which can sometimes be things I can’t participate in.
Having a disability can be very challenging and can seriously change one’s life.
Now I understand that sometimes you can’t always have things your way when
you have a disability, and you might have to make several life decisions that will
benefit you. If you and your friends were planning to go to a park, you might not
go, because you know that there will be several things you can’t do at the park,
and you don’t want to have to go through the stress that I went through this day.
From now on, I make decisions to the best of my ability to try to avoid what I
went through today.