What Freedom Means to Me

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Art for Liel - Aliza Abusch Magder

Freedom does not only have meaning in the context of slavery. Freedom can be many other things, and I’m not saying any of those things are better or worse than the others. To me, though, freedom means being able to go out and be accepted for who you are. Since I am a special-needs person, I wasn’t always accepted everywhere I went, and sometimes I’m still not. I have autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and bipolar 2 disorder. At my old school, no one really had patience or understood me. I got bullied for things I couldn’t control. I used to rock back and forth so much that people kept looking at me weirdly. All the time, I didn’t understand things that other people normally would, so I asked a lot of questions. You can probably guess that my favorite question was the one that everyone loves, “Why?”

I don’t understand why it’s so hard for people to accept others and to understand that not everyone is the same. I used to think my special needs were a setback, but oh was I so wrong. It may have taken me a little bit longer to grow up and understand, but now I understand things in a way that I never thought I could achieve. I think so outside the box that there is no box. I can decipher metaphors, and I can understand people’s behavior to the point where I have patience for almost anyone. It used to be that I wasn’t the best about understanding social cues, and they are still hard for me, but I am so in tune with others’ emotions that their facial expressions are all I need. I’m what people call an empath.

I wouldn’t trade my special needs for anything. I’m proud of them. Not all people are perfect. Heck, no one’s perfect! It breaks my heart when I see people bullying others just because they talk weirdly, or walk funny, or look funny. It’s just not right. When that happens, it’s as if that bullied person has become a slave to the hate and heartache that they have to go through every day—whether it is during school, or work, or a different environment altogether. When I went through that hate and heartache myself, I felt like I was in shackles. I would have to deal with all the hurtful words every day; it was like I was in a dodgeball game, and every ball that hit me was a hurtful message, but I couldn’t do anything about it. No one really ever believed me, so it was like my hands were tied behind my back. We shouldn’t have to be embarrassed because of who we are; we should embrace it!

I want to be in a world where everyone can be who they are. I want to see a world where smiles replace frowns, where light replaces darkness, where kindness replaces hate, and where love replaces pain.

Accompanying Photo: “Untitled” by Aliza Abusch-Magder