Writer takes responsibility seriously

On any given Sunday, the sound of silverware scraping against almost empty plates fills the Kelly household.

I politely decline as my dad passes the bowl of mashed potatoes around for another helping. I count the seconds until my mom reminds my younger brother to get the garbage and recycling ready for the next day.

I chuckle to myself because I’ve never had that responsibility – not because I don’t want it – but because I physically can’t do it.

There’s a part of me that always feels inadequate – like I can never do enough to help out around the house or in society. At the same time, there’s also a part of me that knows better than to feel that way.

I think it has less to do with the fact I’m attaining success at a young age and much more to do with my disability.

I’ve never wanted to be pitied or pegged as “the girl in a wheelchair.” I took that to heart as my career really started to take shape two years ago. I knew it was up to me to try to open a few eyes because a lot of them were closed.

Some still are, but I’m one person. I can’t change everyone’s minds or open everyone’s eyes, but I’d only be doing half my job if I didn’t try.

My job gives me my own set of responsibilities. I often find myself being very protective of those responsibilities – and now that I’ve added The Huffington Post to my resume – I’m even more protective and aware of the pressure they bring.

Word by word, I’m making it to the top of the mountain for journalists and writers. That’s a huge feat in itself.

When you add the fact that my work is being recognized by organizations outside the disability arena, it completely changes the game.

It makes the playing field level in a way that hopefully benefits everyone. It influences my choices – not only as a writer, but also as a person.

Being in the position I’m in now is a constant reminder that there’s a huge responsibility in the way I present myself.

Not only that, but the world is watching me now. I want to represent the publications I work for in the best way possible.

With that comes what I’ll forever regard as the biggest responsibility and honor of all – being a voice for those who may not have one.

I used to think I was given a lot less responsibility than the rest of the world because no one thought I could handle it. I didn’t think I’d ever get to a point where I could have responsibility, much less a career that demands so much of it.

As I continue to climb, I take solace in the fact I’m still a hometown girl. This roller coaster started when all of you came onboard.

I’ll keep trying to repay you in words, but for now I hope you’re strapped in tight because this ride is only just beginning.

Erin Kelly, 28, was born with cerebral palsy in Korea, and lives in Altoona. She is a graduate of Penn State Altoona. In addition to this monthly column. She writes for three online publications, The?Huffington Post, The Good Men Project and The Mobility Resource. Email her at WriterWheels28@gmail.com.