Mike ErvinThere are many developmental phases cripples go through in our desperate attempt to survive criippledom. You can’t always tell that you’re in one of these phases when you’re actually in it. Sometimes it is only clear in retrospect. Some cripples find a comfortable niche in one of these phases and never come out of it. But I can see where I’ve been through a few of them myself, such as:

The Basketball Phase: This is where cripples immerse themselves in cripple basketball. I entered this phase as a kid but didn’t last very long in this phase because I sucked at playing basketball. It was crushing at the time, but I now consider that to be a blessing because if I had been even remotely good at playing basketball, I’m sure I would have dedicated myself to cripple basketball forever, dribbling my blues away. But instead I entered:

The Bootstraps Phase: I entered this phase when I was a teenager. Like all teenagers, I dreamed of the day when I would get the hell out of my parents’ house and move into my own sweet swingin’ playboy bachelor pad! And that day was coming soon, baby! But eventually I slammed head-on into the sobering reality that because I was crippled, being a swingin’ playboy bachelor was going to be super expensive. Motorized wheelchairs and lift-equipped cripple vans didn’t grow on trees, you know. And I no longer would have mom’s free butt wiping services. I’d have to pay for all that stuff myself. There was only one solution. I had to dedicate myself to making a boatload of money.

It’s a cold world out there for a cripple trying to make it on your own, but it’s a whole lot warmer when you’re insulated by several layers of cash. But there was a big whopping flaw in this plan. My one and only vocational goal was to be a poet. Yes sir, I was going to be the greatest poet in the history of poetry. I was going to win the Nobel Poetry Prize in a landslide! But there was no such thing as a rich poet. So I had a tough choice to make. I either had to give up on one of my aspirations — either making a boatload of money or being a poet. I ended up giving up on both. So around the time I went to college, I entered:

The Self-Advocate Phase:  If I wasn’t going to pay for all the extracurricular stuff cripples need with my own money, then I’d have to convince agencies and charities to pay for it for me. So I had to get my hustle on. Here’s what that phase was like, metaphorically. Suppose being a cripple trying to make it on your own was like being on a sinking ship, and the agencies and charities were the lifeboats that could hold only about one tenth of the cripples on board. I had to dedicate myself to figuring out how to negotiate my own space on the lifeboat. Sorry, all you cripples left behind. I truly feel sorry for you, but a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do. But the self-advocate phase is a game of settling for what you’re given. Like for instance, all the public buses and train stations at the time were inaccessible. All the solitary hustling in the world couldn’t get my wheelchair up and down those steps. So after college, I found myself ready to enter:

The Activist Phase: I dedicated myself to joining up with the hell-raising cripples who blocked public buses in the street and disrupted meetings of the transit board until the transit board agreed to make stuff accessible. It’s big fun irritating smug people in power, especially when you beat them. But it’s stressful, too. The thrill of victory is short-lived because there are always a thousand more battles ahead and it’s time to move on to the next. So sometimes I’m tempted to say screw it and move on to the next phase. But I don’t know what that would be. It’s too late to go back to trying to make a boatload of money. So I’m afraid that all that’s left at this point is:

The Lottery Ticket Phase: I’ll dedicate myself to taking a nickel and scratching away, every day, every day.