Letters to Me & You
(listen to “Reading Loop,” read by the author)
If only you knew how life would play out.
If only you could understand its intricacies and its complexities.
If only I could turn back time– these are some of the things I would tell you:
You’ll spend your early life being mainstreamed and being told by the adults around you that you are an inspiration. You’ll learn that these same ‘very important’ adults told your parents that you will have to sacrifice your culture for their comfort.
You’ll grow up and feel a sense of loss–
of languages unlearned because some doctors thought that a deaf, Mexican child couldn’t succeed with either her mothers’ tongues or hands.
You will be their poster child, shouting “disability has the word ability in it”!
But you’ll also grow up.
You’ll break free of the narratives you were conditioned to believe about who you are to the world.
Choice is a word you will think about a lot. It will impact everything you do. It will show up when you find yourself asking:
-Am I disabled enough?
-Am I Latina enough?
-As someone living with a scary genetic mutation, but lucky enough to avoid cancer, am I worthy of my own emotions, fears, and vulnerabilities?
Choice is the daily lesson you’ll learn when you actively choose to fall in love with someone else who is navigating their own chronic illness.
And choice is the conscious, active love they give back to you through surgeries, health scares, caretaking and conversations you never thought you’d have at 25 years old.
Choice is the ability to reject a culture that conditioned you to believe in single truths.
Choice is reclaiming your culture. It is the opportunity to learn as much as you want and can about your disability identity, about your Latina identity.
Choice is picking your battles. Or prioritizing your health instead.
Choice is defining home for yourself–
It is finding family not connected by blood, but bonded deeper than you’ll ever know.
You’ll learn that choice is the ability to define, own, and mold who you are and who you want to be. And choice is something you may not ever perfect.
But the beauty in all of this is, you know these things now.
I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.
Yet, I find myself wondering, am I really?
And what about you? What will my dreams be for you?
How have dreams changed as a result of the things it feels like we alone can no longer change?
Because of the merging of our worlds, which was not our choice to make.
Because of the rise of money, fortune, and fame that they never needed.
Because of the control that we’ve lost. Or perhaps, never had.
And then I wonder, is power naturally part of all of our dreams for the future?
And what about you?
What will I teach you?
About the Author
Kennedy Patlan is a Syracuse University Alumna (’18) and currently resides in Northern, VA. In her early career, Kennedy has worked with several nonprofits on social impact communications and philanthropy-based efforts. She identifies as a deaf, brown woman and holds those identities with pride, even as she continues to navigate the “in-between” of also being a Cochlear Implant user and a third-generation Mexican-American. Kennedy would like to dedicate this piece to all of the other twenty-somethings who may also be grappling with identity, intersections, and generational gravities.