by Rob Targos
If You Could See Me, 2019
Rob is a digital marketing professional, disability advocate, and podcaster.
Listen to Rob’s show, The Cerebral Podcast https://thecerebralpodcast.podbean.com
As I reflected on the video of a rubber band man, I realized that my mind, my thoughts, and my pop-culture references from Lynda Carter to Batman to Lou Ferrigno had a pliable quality. Now it's referred to as neural plasticity or brain plasticity where the brain can change and reorganize itself based on environmental influences and psychological stress.
In the video, I talked about the ability to get knocked down but get up again. The song was done by Chumbawamba in 1997. The refrain of the song helped me to verbalize the importance of my crutches as disability devices and literary devices as I dealt with the oxymoron of cerebral palsy. My mind was flexible because my body was rigid or tight. But the rigidity and tightness also existed in my parents' limited understanding of disabilities. Their limited understanding went beyond the physical.
Like a Miley Cyrus wrecking ball, my disability and my crutches also represented threats to the family structure. Because of conservative political, religious, and financial beliefs, my disability was thought of as my problem. Since doing the If You Could See Me project, I have learned about the importance of the dignity of risk and the importance of sharing my lived experience. I grew up like a fish out of water in a mainstream environment. I needed to conform to societal rules that I didn't understand. Advocating for myself often was perceived as anger. My crutches, therefore, became the tools that I used to navigate the world. They became not only tools, but also extensions and appendages that I deeply depended on to be by my side. They became part of my identity because I lost track of when I was carrying my crutches and when my crutches were carrying me.
Years later, I came across the agile mindset of project management. One of the core concepts of project management is acknowledging mistakes and vulnerabilities while maintaining a strong sense of psychological safety. The reason my crutches, disability devices, and support sticks were crucial to my crucible was because the crutches gave me a strong sense of psychological safety. The ability to know that I could get up again and my stiff sticks would always stick by me because of the strength and belief I imbued in them. My crutches gave that back to me, that psychological safety in the form of reciprocity.