A couple of weeks ago, I found an e-mail in my inbox. When I opened it, I read the following line: "Congrats, you've been selected to join the Creatives with Unseen Disabilities group project!" At first, I was a bit confused. I did not remember signing up for anything - which happens to me more often. I once received a lilac iPod shuffle in the mail after filling out a form and forgetting about it. Just like the iPod back then, this e-mail was a good surprise. As I kept reading, I started to remember that I in fact had signed up for this. And now I get to be a part of this group.
This project brings together a group of creatives with (partially) unseen disabilities, chronic illnesses, and people who are neurodiverse. We will meet once a month to discuss intersectionality, the balance between health and work, and our experience of disability in the cultural sector.
Between that surprising e-mail and the moment I write this, we already had our first meeting. And it was incredible. Being disabled (or whatever you prefer to call it) is a lonely experience. Not just because you spend most of your time at home by yourself (or accompanied by your pets), or because you miss out on so many social experiences, but mostly because this life is something you can't understand if you haven't lived it. So being in a room filled with people who know what it's like, filled my heart. It's so easy to be yourself and communicate what you need when you know the other will understand. In my everyday life, I always think about what I'm going to say or do next because I have to take into account that someone might not understand. And even if I have carefully thought out my actions, I get a lot of confused responses. But in this first meeting, I asked for what I needed, said whatever came to mind, and nothing awkward happened. Or if it did, it was so minor that I already forgot - which never happens. I still remember awkward moments from when I was nine years old.
In this first session, we spend quite some time getting to know each other. We were split up into smaller groups and had to find three things we had in common. My group found eight or nine things. The first one on the list: having ADhD. During one of the breaks I spoke to someone from another group, and she remarked that this overachieving checked out with this particular point. I smile every time I think of this comment. This is precisely why the word unseen is in the name of the project. Most people see ADhD as something difficult and annoying to deal with. But when you see it for what it actually is, you find many beautiful aspects as well. For example, being a bit of an oversharer with people you just met so in ten minutes you find eight things you have in common instead of three.
The second half of the afternoon was filled with a workshop on the disabled experience in the creative industry. We talked about disabled identity, pride, and community. Some of the terms were completely new to me, while others I knew from feminist theology. And the interesting thing is, that when I first learned about them in my studies, I didn't understand their importance, but now I heard them in a context I can relate to, it clicked. Finally.
So, long story short: I'm so excited to be part of this collective. And I love that we all have a completely different creative practice. So I can't wait to see what kind of collaborations come from this. And - of course - I'm curious to see what topics we will discuss next.