In a recent social media post, I editorialized the smile on my face as meaning that I was “back in action.” This was a subtle acknowledgement that my public visibility has been less consistent than has been my norm.
After a bit more thought on the matter, I realized that maybe I should pull back the curtain a little more.
I do not hide the fact that I have a disability. Instead, I try to serve as an example of what a disabled person can accomplish. But to accomplish that there is still a fine line to walk.
To succeed in a world that often labels disabled people as damaged or lesser than, we have to shine a bit brighter than the competition. And that means not always being public with some elements of the things we struggle with.
PULL BACK THE CURTAIN
Like anyone else, we have good days and bad days. So just like anyone else, we have to select just how much we show of what happens behind the curtain.
Because of my background as an entertainer, as a spokesperson, and in the field of public relations, I understand image control. And whether you are a genius, a movie star, a politician, a teacher, a businessperson, a car salesman or even a kid trying to fit in at school – it’s all about image.
We want to be liked and accepted. So, we try to show the parts of us that are likable the most.
My mind works different than “normal” people. That’s not to say it doesn’t work – or doesn’t work as effectively. It means simply that it works differently. So, there are certain things I am better at than others.
There are ways in which my mind works at a more rapid pace and in more creative detail than some. Thanks to this I was able to earn my BA in three years instead of the customary four. I’ve also been able to translate racing thoughts and insomnia into published books and award-winning screenplays. As a PR guy, my ability to look at things from unconventional angles has led to millions of dollars in profits for some of the country’s most prestigious brands.
And those are definitely things to be proud of. Those are things that make me likable or admirable. Being a notable figure in entertainment is also a good part of my image, as are some of my physical attributes like the twinkle in my eyes and the sincerity of my smile.
But just because the PR guy in me can supply the smoke and mirrors necessary to put the focus on my accomplishments, it doesn’t mean there aren’t secrets hiding in the shadows. It’s just a matter of controlling the narrative.
However, because I have made the conscious choice to be open about being disabled so that I can serve as a role model to others, sometimes I have to show a little more of what’s in the shadows. Or, at least, I publicly acknowledge that the shadows exist. Such is the case now.
There is no need to go into the specifics of what windmills I’m jousting with, but I will acknowledge that this Don Quixote has been out on his trusty steed fighting the good fight for the past few months.
But put a camera in front of me and I can muster a smile and make a happy-looking social media post. And even when I don’t feel like smiling for a picture, there’s a reason I do it.
We all have good days and bad days. But when you’re disabled, sometimes you are judged harsher for your bad days. So, we learn to put the focus on the good ones.
When it comes to living with a disability, sometimes the key to success is to fake it until you make it. That’s not an invitation to lie. Liars and lying are things I vehemently oppose. But, doing the dance steps to the best of your ability on the fly is something we can all try to do.
In fact, the real proof that disabled people aren’t all that different is that in truth, everyone can benefit from that philosophy of putting the focus on your best attributes. We can all benefit from being conscious of the image we convey.
But there is a lesson as well for those in the mainstream. You can’t always tell just from looking at a person what challenges they are in the process of championing unbeknownst to you. I encourage everyone to look at others with grace and kindness in your heart. Recognize the good in people, rather than focusing on their imperfections.
You see, everyone is perfect in their own way. And I love each and every one of you for being exactly who you are. But not everyone loves that way, so when you need to – fake it until you make it.
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
If you appreciate the nature of my words here, I ask that you take just a moment to share this article with your social media of choice. Please help spread the word about The Life and Times of Rikki Lee Travolta to family and friends.