By Guest Blogger Mariah Kilbourne, Ms. Wheelchair America 2013
Freedom! Independence! As an eighteen-year-old college freshman, I was bound and determined for those things to become mine. As I crossed the threshold of my college dorm the first day of the semester in 2007, I was beginning a new journey. For the first time in my life, I was on my own. It was thrilling, yet terrifying – I felt joy, excitement and a little trepidation all rolled into one. I was on my way to become all that I was meant to be. Many steps led up to that moment, to making that life-changing leap of independence possible – including going to college, driving my accessible van and living on my own.
I have been a mover and shaker since the day I was born – three months early. I just could not wait to get my start in the world! Due to my premature birth, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. My cerebral palsy affects the way my muscles move, so I rely on a wheelchair – a.k.a. “The Beast” – for mobility.
For a long time, the thought of living on my own made me anxious. I was the kid who called my mom at 3 a.m. during sleepovers because I wanted to come home. I had never been to sleepover camp without my mom as a chaperone. When the time came to consider living on my own in a college dorm, I adamantly told everyone it would not be happening. I was 110 percent convinced I would be a commuter student, and I would not consider otherwise.