I did have one best friend I was very close with until the 7th grade, when she and her family moved to Israel. But I was always cautious. I did all the things my friends did and I went to the parties and there were times that I was certainly more popular than others, but I never developed those really close life-long friendships that my siblings had from their grammar school and high school days.
I was different and my experiences were different and I wanted so much not to be different that I think I held back.
I can remember being very envious of the close friendships - and boyfriends - my siblings had. I did have friends and there were even times I was in the "A'' crowd. But I was always vigilant to when I would be excluded, so I think I may not have been the most open to real friendships. I felt a little like I had a target on my back and who wants to put themselves intentionally in harm's way?
The upside that now, as an adult, I am someone who is very comfortable with who she is. I have developed a network of very close wonderful friends whose friendship I cherish. They know absolutely everything about me - I am an open book. I'm so open, the words practically fall off the page!
JB: What did it take to make that crucial transition from that more cautious and withholding kid to the open and loving adult you are now?
MF: I had to think about this question for a while.
I think it was actually a process. As I said, I didn't like was being different. I also hated needing help and having to ask for help because it highlighted my differences and in some ways made me feel inferior - my own perception, not necessarily based in reality.
I think the progress started when I graduated college and moved into my own apartment and started my career. I began to feel more independent and self-sufficient and like other 20 something year olds. Then, I got a job at an independent living center in Chicago as an independent living counselor for the disabled. Almost 100% of the staff were young, "cool' disabled people who were working, living on their own, having relationships, involved in disability rights. And for the first time, I was amongst people I wasn't different from, in a world where I wasn't different. My concern at first was that maybe I wasn't disabled enough!