Growing up with cerebral palsy, I always thought having my own apartment was an impossible dream.
Illustration by Deshi Deng
There comes a time where living with your parents just isn’t cool anymore. I'd never had too many problems with it, and my mom and dad certainly didn’t make me feel as though I was being kicked out, but at age 25, not only did they want to see me spread my wings, I did too. A lot has happened in the year since I started writing a column about living with cerebral palsy, but by far the biggest change is that I finally moved out.
Previously, I’d seen leaving as a problem. As independent as I am, I also need a lot of help with day-to-day things like driving, transferring from my bed to my wheelchair, food preparation, bathing, dressing, shaving, and oral hygiene. But when the opportunity arose in the form of an apartment subsidized through an agency that helps people like me find support, I realized it was the right time to just let 'er rip. These days, things that most people take for granted—like deciding when to go out, and being intimate in private—I get to take for granted too.
Take cooking, for instance. I’ve always been something of a foodie, but now that I can cook a classic bacon and eggs in the comfort of my own home. It’s something I can take pride in. My apartment has lowered countertops that are accessible to my height, and I try and cook as much as I can. There’s a small market nearby where I get most of my greens and other produce, and I've already gotten pretty good at barbecue. I’ve done ribs a couple times, I can make a mean pulled pork—and I can also just be lazy and order in.
People always ask if living alone can be isolating, like it isn’t just as isolating for them. But my apartment building has staff on-site during the night to help me with my routine, and I get to hire my own daytime care aids. I’m also about 15 minutes away from my parents, just far enough away that they can swing by if I need something. But I myself love the privacy.
I’m also pretty spontaneous. The entertainment district I live next to has a ton of cool bars and restaurants, and I’m usually out exploring, going for coffee with friends, or going out to lunch. I do a weekly to monthly show called All Access Pass for the radio station at the University of British Columbia, which gives me something to focus on, and I obviously like to watch TV. There are limitations, like not being able to leave at a moment’s notice, but I don’t let them affect me. If there’s something I want to do, I find a way.
One thing that’s improved since I started living alone is my ability to meet people. I used to get down on myself when I went out, disappointed for not being more of a Hank Moody or Vincent Chase, but after a conversation with a friend, I realized I’d rather let things happen organically, now that I finally have a space to call my own.
Sure, the other night I found myself swiping away—sometimes it’s next to impossible not to. So that night I decided to stay in and play a little Russian roulette with my heart. As I frantically swiped like a madman, hoping to be pleasantly surprised, I wondered if I would get back into my anti-social rut. Anyone who uses smartphone dating apps knows how that can be: tedious, boring, and a great way to procrastinate. But I look at it like the right kind of nail-biter. I’ve always been a bit nervous about what women think of my disability, but now that I’m alone, I just have fun with it.
Moving out immediately gave me a sense of freedom and accomplishment. It’s a huge milestone for anybody, but especially for a young dude with cerebral palsy. It meant I could finally stop feeling like a burden, grow a pair, and quite simply become a man. For the first time in my life, my worries and responsibilities are entirely my own. So tonight, do I want to go out and hit the town? Or would I rather stay in and swipe right? Either way, it’s up to me.
Follow Spencer Williams on Twitter.