Hello and happy new year! DPSN is back online and we thought we’d kick off February with a few of our favourite blogs from last year. We’ll start off with Barbara’s favourite blog post – this one by Nikki for ‘Change’ month.
Nikki Frittmann is a notetaker and reader/writer for students with disabilities at AUT University. She has Spina Bifida and lives in Auckland with her husband and two cats. Every second month she shares her musings with DPSN.
My birthday’s coming up soon. Looking in the mirror, I seem to notice a new wrinkle on my face almost every day, lately, although that might be just the thought of getting another year older making my imagination work overtime!
It’s strange how when we’re young, some of us can’t wait to be grown up. But when we become adults, people often talk about birthdays as if they are something to be afraid of. I heard someone the other day say, “I’ll be ‘the big 3-0’ soon!”, with a frightened look on her face. It made me take notice of her words, because when this birthday has passed, I’ll be ‘the big a-lot-more-than-that’.
When I was born, children like me who had Spina Bifida and other disabilities often didn’t live to be old. Many didn’t live to be adults, or even teenagers. Some didn’t even survive the baby stage. I was one of the lucky ones. That’s why I always think of getting older as a great gift to me. Yes, it has it’s downside: such as the wrinkles, the aches and pains I didn’t used to get when I was younger. But overall, the changes that have come with age have been positive.
I don’t worry about things as much as I once did. I remember as a young person, I was always stressing out about why the people in my life acted the way they did, if the way they acted didn’t please me. “Why is this one so stubborn?” or “Why does that person ignore me?” “Why doesn’t that person see my point of view on things?” One of the lessons growing older has taught me is that people are who they are. Even if who they are is someone you don’t like very much, you still can’t change them, you can only change yourself.
I find there’s an amazing amount of freedom in knowing that. You can’t change that person, but you can think or react in a different way to their behaviour.
I also find I experience a lot more respect from other people as I get older. Not that people didn’t respect me when I was younger too, but in some ways respect should be earned. But now when I hear, “Mrs. Frittmann”, instead of “Nikki”, from people I don’t know very well, I appreciate it. (Of course I usually say, “Call me Nikki”, but it’s nice to be called by my married title to begin with).
And yes, there’s even positivity in wrinkles! They’re signs that I’ve lived a life, “been there, done that”. That I’ve experienced things in life, some good, some bad, and come out the other side. I don’t know why cosmetics companies push wrinkle creams so much. While some people like to put a bit of makeup on or make themselves look nice, it’s also inevitable that as we get older, our skin dries out a bit. That’s okay by me. I used to have terrible acne when I was young and in those days, I would have given anything to have dry skin! So those wrinkles are an answer to my wish, I guess!
So my message to you is not to fear those changes that come with aging – instead, try to embrace them. You can’t after all change the inevitable!