General Non-Fiction posted February 1, 2021

This work has reached the exceptional level
He refused to quit.

Never Say Can't

by Tpa

I ascended the stairs of Cook County School of Medicine. My legs wobbled, a condition I had since birth. 
As I stepped through the glass doors of the main entrance, my stomach muscles twisted into one giant pretzel.. Four schools had rejected me, but I refused to quit after reading the words of Helen Keller, “You will succeed if you persevere; and you will find joy in overcoming obstacles.” 

 My parents insisted I quit.

 “You can’t do it,” my father said.

 “People might laugh at you,” mother added. “You should try another career.”

 They didn’t want me hurt as I began my adventure into a world that I had never known. Until then, I spent my life in private schools for the disabled. 
The words of Ms. Helen Keller, however, lingered in my mind at each hurdle I challenged since youth, and today was no exception.

  I walked up to the receptionist. “Hello,” I said. “I have an appointment with Mrs. Carter.” I gave the young lady my name.

She gave me an application and a pen. “Fill this out, please.”

The pen dropped from my hand as my hand shook. Another defect I had acquired on the day of my birth.

“May I get that for you?” She got up from her chair while watching the pen roll on the floor.

“I got it,” I blurted, proving I can be independent, regardless of my affliction.

 The reception’s eyes stared at me while I stooped to pick up my pen. I became accustomed to people gaping at my abnormalities. Whenever I walked or held cups with both hands, people gawked at me like I appeared as an anomaly who escaped from the circus.
I sat on a leather armchair in the waiting room and completed my course’s registration. 

Radiological Technology kindled my interest while in high school when a teacher’s husband spoke on the subject to the class. He then took us to the hospital to show us the various tasks of an x-ray technician. I knew I could perform those duties, even though some people disagreed. I still had the desire of reaching that goal.
I returned the application to the receptionist.

She took the form, giving a puzzled look while examining the document.

I wrote my letters in wavy lines, a common occurrence because of the spasticity in my hands. Some words were almost impossible to read.

 I knew many people found it difficult reading my texts. Therefore, before our meeting, I accomplished my handwriting problem with Mrs. Carter, the instructor of the course, by mailing her my personal information, typed and double space.

“She will be right with you,” the receptionist said.

Minutes later, a middle-aged woman approached me, wearing a white uniform.

“I’m Mrs. Carter.” She smiled, shaking my hand.

I stood up and introduced myself. We then walked to the receptionist’s desk where Mrs. Carter took my application.

 Her hazel eyes blinked twice upon looking at the paper. I didn’t mention in my letter to her of my handicap. In the past, I wrote to others, writing about my disability. A few days later, I would receive a letter of rejection. 

Mrs. Carter looked dubiously at my application.

“Did you get my letter?” I asked.

“Yes, yes, I did.” Her eyes squinted as she observed my application more thoroughly.

 “I have Cerebral Palsy,” I said. “I must have forgotten to mention it in the letter.” I gave a little chuckle..

  “I see.” She forced a smile. “Let’s have a chat.”

 I walked into her office. My chest feeling like it’s being crushed in a vice. I knew I was about to get a long lecture, ending my admission interview to the course with another rejection. 

“Why do you want to be a technician?” she asked.

 “I want to be part of the medical field. I enjoy helping people, and I could do the work, scholastically and physically.” 

 “Will your disability give you a problem?” She looked concerned.

 “No, I always find resolutions when I meet my challenges.” I could almost visualize her shredding my application once I exited the room.

  As our meeting continued, Mrs. Carter asked me several times to repeat myself. Another characteristic of my affliction was my speech impediment, hardly a major obstacle but a hurdle that I often tripped over.

 “It has been nice to meet you.” She gently shook my hand. “I will review your applicant with the doctors and let you know.” 

 We made our farewells, and I walked out of her office. 

 I stepped onto the bus and sat next to the window. I saw crowds of people strolling along the sidewalk. My eyes settled on an elderly man, confined to a wheelchair. His frail hands gripped the brim of the large wheels and slowly turning them until they moved a short distance. He repeated the process as his lips tightened with each effort he made until he crossed the street.

 We are all the same. Our afflictions are different, but to reach our achievements, we need to battle with the barriers before they take control of us.

 I stepped off the bus and walked a couple blocks to my house. As I opened the front door, my mother shouted from the kitchen.

“Mrs. Carter wants you to call her.” 

I clapped my hands with excitement as I ran towards the phone. My fingers fumbled, dialing her number. I tried being calm, but the adrenalin rushed through my veins. For that moment, I felt like a little boy on Christmas morning.  

I waited a few minutes before Mrs. Carter came to the phone.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “The doctors have rejected your application.”

The joys no longer warmed the beats of my heart as a chill slithered down my spine. I realized others who only judge a person’s appearance rather than their contents destroyed my goal once again.

“Thank you,” I said, taking a deep swallow, escaping the crackling of my voice, and feeling the tears nesting in my eyes.

After hanging up the phone, I sat on my bed.

 Maybe my parents are right and so are the schools and doctors. Patients might laugh at me or even refuse being touched by me.  

The image of the man in that wheelchair then came in my head, his hardship more difficult than mine, and still he continued until he accomplished his goal.

I went to the telephone directory and flipped through the pages of x-ray schools. Like Helen Keller wrote of the joys of overcoming obstacles, I will not rest until I find a school that accepts me.

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After being rejected by 7 schools, I was finally accepted. I became an x-ray technician and employed at one hospital for 40 years, which I became manager for the last eight years. I still continue to live by Helen Keller's words.
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