Marco Orlando

We all want friends. It’s one of those universal basic human needs. It should make us all feel good to have friends. Having friends and spending time with them regularly is important to our wellbeing. It should feel good to have friends who make us feel wanted and appreciated. It should help us feel connected with the rest of the world around us.

But for many of us with a disability, good friends can be hard to come by. Sometimes we need a little extra help deciding what kind of friends we want to make and keep in our lives. In my personal experience, I have not always had the best luck making and keeping friends. I didn’t have very many friends growing up. And there have been times where I didn’t always choose my friends as well as I could have. Some friends I used to have didn’t always treat me the way I should have been treated. Some of these supposed “friends” would joke around with me in ways that I didn’t particularly enjoy being joked around with. Other so-called “friends” found ways to manipulate me or take advantage of me or otherwise put me in compromising positions.

I would like to think at this stage in my life that I should know by now what a friend who doesn’t suck looks like and the kind of things that a friend who doesn’t suck does for their friends. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by one such friend who I’ve known since the seventh grade. Torrey came to Maine about a month after the Ice Storm of 1998 from Palatka, Florida. I knew of him and I’d seen him around, but I didn’t really know him well enough to form an opinion at the time. It wasn’t until we were fully grown and out of school that we started getting to know each other on a personal level and we realized how much we both had in common. It amazes me sometimes what a good friend Torrey turned out to be.

Of course, I can never give enough thanks to DJ Kat. It can feel strange having a friend like her in my life sometimes. There’s a part of me that’s still not quite used to it, like it’s too good to be true. But I like it. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop like it has so many other times before when I got to be too much to handle for other friends I used to have. But after a while, I began to realize that Kat wasn’t like that at all. Kat was different. She wasn’t going to give up on me. On the contrary, she pushes me to be a better person. She makes me want to improve myself. She inspires me to reach my full potential. In many ways, Kat has been the kind of friend I’ve waited my whole life to find.

It should not be so hard for anyone with a disability to make and keep friends who don’t suck. I sympathize with the frustration that many of our members feel when it seems like nobody likes us or wants to be our friend. I know how tough it can be to navigate our perilous society and find the friends we’re so desperately looking for and deserve to have. I’ve had to learn to put myself out there in this world and not be afraid to take chances. Sometimes we may need help figuring out where to look for them. But I promise that there are friends who don’t suck out there in the world waiting for us to seek them out and find them. Making and keeping friends who don’t suck can truly make us feel human, and that should make us all feel good about ourselves.

If you are self advocate and would like to share a blog post with us please email Laurie Coldwell at lcoldwell@sufumaine.org   


The Speaking Up For Us (SUFU) blog contains views and opinions of each individual writer. The views and opinions expressed through these channels are purely the bloggers’ own and does not reflect the opinion of SUFU as an organization or any SUFU staff member.

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