How to succeed in engineering as a disabled person (poem)

February 12, 2015 – 10:36 pm

I’ve been asked how to succeed in engineering as a disabled person. This answer — which is sarcasm, price by the way — came out during a recent long drive to Kentucky. It’s intended to be spoken-word poetry, and was inspired by an intersectionality conversation last month with Joi-Lynn Mondisa.

(Also, I want to point out that I had wonderful friends in engineering undergrad and grad school; I also wish I could have been in a state of less exhaustion and been able to better appreciate those friendships at that time.)

How to succeed in engineering as a disabled person

Work hard.
If something comes up, don’t get frustrated.
Be proactive.
Work the system.

Don’t get angry.
Don’t have feelings.
Don’t realize how tired you are.
Don’t realize that what you’re doing is extra labor.
Stay oblivious. Focus on your classwork.

Don’t ask for help.
Don’t look dumb.
And never show signs that you’re struggling.
That any of this is any harder for you.
That any of this ever hard for you.

Don’t socialize.
Don’t have friends.
Especially disabled friends. You might start comparing notes.
Besides, you’re too tired to hang out with them anyway.

Don’t try to find out what you don’t know.
There are a lot of things you don’t know that you don’t know.
That’s good. Keep it that way. That’ll let you keep working yourself to death.

Oh, and stay away from disability-related things.
Accessibility initiatives. Activism.
They might mess up that delicate balance of ignorance you’ve worked so hard to build.
You might get mad at how unfair it is.
Or how much life is stacked against you.
Or how much you have to fight.
And how little anybody recognizes it.
And that would be distracting from your work.

And besides, you don’t need any of that help, do you?
That’s just for people who aren’t good enough to make it on their own.
But you?
You’re good enough to do it, right?

Right?

You gotta prove that, you know.
You gotta prove you’re worth it.
Show you’re functional. Always. Constantly.

So don’t think too hard about it.
Just work. That’s what you’re worth as a human.
Work hard.

And that’s how you succeed in engineering as a disabled person.

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  1. 3 Responses to “How to succeed in engineering as a disabled person (poem)”

  2. It seems like you are processing some heavy things. Life is not fair, but you don’t have to struggle alone. Holding you in the light.

    Love ya!

    By Julia on Feb 12, 2015

  3. thanks. Seriously, thanks for giving voice to this. I know I only havea small sense of your experience, and truly appreciate learning more and have that become part of my view on the world

    By Robin on Feb 13, 2015

  4. On the nose.

    Especially disabled friends. You might start comparing notes.
    Besides, you’re too tired to hang out with them anyway.

    That is too damn true. It’s labor- and energy-saving advice, but it’s also a recipe for strangling oneself alone.

    /runs off to recommend everywhere

    By Jesse the K on Feb 15, 2015

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