On being a disabled Christmas Day baby
It’s the festive season and for once I’m not having an existential crisis.
It’s one of the perils of being born on the 25 December, alongside the logistical nightmare of trying to organise a party in the busiest month of the year and trying to find birthday cake amongst the mince pies. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. But sometimes the combination of Christmas and my birthday, closely followed by New Year, is a bit much. Everyone starts reflecting on their lives and all of a sudden I’m a year older and the last bit of the date has changed and and and.
I usually spend a lot of the day hoping people remember it’s my birthday while also desperately trying not to think about the fact it is my birthday. It’s a high-wire act, and it is borne from a discomfort about getting older that I think a lot of disabled people could probably relate to.
It has a lot to do with feeling left behind. Ever since my peers started dating when we were in our mid-teens, the passing of another year has led to… panic. It only intensified as I got older; at uni when my friends had serious relationships and after when they started moving in with their partners. Recent years have seen some get married and start creating their own Christmas traditions, while our Christmas/birthday shenanigans haven’t really changed since I was a child (they’ve just got boozier). Every birthday I felt further detached, further left behind, more alone. After a few glorious years in my early twenties where the trend seemed to be going the other way, it felt like my disability was becoming more and more important to the shape of my life, no matter how hard I tried to keep it in check. The life I wanted for myself seemed to be slipping further away with each set of blown out birthday candles. And no doubt, the heightened emotional resonance of Christmas made the whole thing worse. I started resenting the festive period for the annual reminder to feel like crap.
So how come this year is different? In some ways, I was expecting it to be worse. This is, after all, a dating agency told me I was too disabled to love. The conditions for Lucy’s Tenth Existential Crisis were set. And yet it never came.
I think it’s because, as I’ve said before, I’ve finally let go of the fallacy that I could lead some idealised conventional life. And it turned out that unconventionality is so much more fun. Ask me about work at the moment and I can barely keep the grin off my face. I’m writing all the time; I’m free to say what I like. I’ve ticked off some big life goals this year: writing for The Times, writing a big feature for The Guardian, getting myself an actual honest-to-god agent. It’s much harder to be sad about what you don’t have, aren’t doing, when you’re giddily pleased with what you are getting done.
Even beyond work, I’ve thrown conventionality out the window. Rather than spending depressing hours on Hinge, I have decided I’ll get much more satisfaction out of turning the flat into a veritable library. I asked myself what I wanted in life, and it turns out the answer was books. Instead of forcing myself out to pub trips I didn’t want to go on in the hope of meeting a handsome friend of a friend (eyeroll), I have become the kind of person who lights candles and drinks hot chocolate and watches re-runs of Sex and the City. And you know what? It’s bloody great.
And that pesky problem of the future? I’m trying to accept that I don’t have a clue. But I’m also reworking my idea of what a life well lived would look like. Family is what you say it is, or something. So maybe it’s not a regulation husband and 2.5 kids. Maybe it’s the best friend who asked me to be her bridesmaid. Maybe it’s last Sunday, when the girls piled into the flat for an early birthday/Christmas lunch (we called it Lucymas). Maybe it’s the best mates coming round on Friday to get tipsy and laugh at ourselves. Maybe it’s my uni pals trekking across the country to meet up on Saturday.
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It’s definitely carers, present and past, getting together next week for our annual Christmas bash (I think this might be the twentieth one!). It’s definitely my friend’s brand new baby boy, who’s going to get sick of aunty Lucy taking him to the park and the cinema but probably won’t get sick of me always buying ice cream. It’s definitely Stan and Boo, who are somehow teenagers while I still think they’re both four years old, and whom I am so proud of I could burst. It’s definitely the baby cousin I’m hanging out with on Christmas Day. And it’s definitely Mum and Dad. I will secretly be very glad if I never have to spend Christmas at the in-laws. It wouldn’t do; they would never buy the right cheese.
Writing this list, it’s hard to understand how I ever felt alone. No doubt I will again. For now, though, I am turning 27 surrounded by the growing, hilarious, loud, kind, brilliant, slightly bonkers family I have built myself. Life might not look how I used to hope it would, but that’s ok. Generations of people from minority communities have shown that alternative paths can be full of joy and companionship. Knowing that, how could I not feel festive?
Merry Lucymas, you filthy animals,
This is the last 2021 issue of The View From Down Here. Thanks for joining me at the start of this newsletter’s life on the internet. Have a merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and join me for more word fun in 2022!
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Links of the week
I was in The Times’ Red Box morning email yesterday warning that disabled people will be the ones to pay the price for the No 10 Christmas party fiasco
In a more festive spirit, this is a lovely Christmassy piece from Ian Hislop
And the best thing on the internet this week: a Boris Johnson remix of Last Christmas