Regretting Leaving Philadelphia

My two favorite thing at once (coffee in Philadelphia

18 years ago I attended my freshman orientation at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. I was thrilled to be starting the new chapter of my life, in what has been my favorite city since a family vacation there when I was 12. Simultaneously, as this major transition in my life, I was told that, among other side effects, I was losing my ability to walk. Just when I was at the age of some independence, it was already being cut short and taken away from me.

Needless to say, I cut my own time there very short. I spent only one brief semester in my beloved city. I will never forget those few short months, not only were my plans for the future crumbling around me but so was America as we knew it. 9/11 happened at the same time as my own personal disaster. I remember the fear I had personally and also everywhere I looked.

Unknowns are very scary, and yes everyone does face many unknowns in life. There is a large difference between “you have a chance to be hit by a bus as you cross the street” and being diagnosed with a genetic disease that will put you in a wheelchair within 10yrs.

As the time came for me to start classes I found myself literally counting the number of steps to each class, down the 9 flights of stairs in the middle of the night for yet another fire alarm, or to the English as a Second Language I taught once a week in North Philly. 138, 139, 140…. I was becoming so focused on what was coming that I stopped paying attention to anything else. I was all of a sudden forced to race into two new worlds at the same time. One as young adult fighting to find her place in the world, and the other a disabled women trying to navigate life in an abled man’s world.

This week I was given the chance to revisit the place where both of these journeys began. Now though I am older, a wheelchair user, wife, and mother. Guess what? I still have a crush on Temple, Philly and the people who live there. As I sat in the student union and drank coffee, I watched the co-eds talk and laugh amongst themselves, and felt a pang of regret that I opted out of my chance for that comraderie. As we navigated the accessible stops of the subway (septa) I was struck by how accessible the city could have been for me.

Then I would facetime my family ( my husband and 2 sons ) at the end of each day, and I knew I did not Opt-out but in. The path I chose to get where I am is not traditional. Not without setbacks and tears, but that path has helped to make me the person I am today.

2 thoughts on “Regretting Leaving Philadelphia

  1. Bittersweet to wonder how things could have been different while still being grateful for the good that is. Your honest searching reflections always touch my 💜 heart. Thankful we have u in Worcester and u visit philly xo. Missed u.


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