The Autobiography Project

Your Autobiographies

Kimberly Rothwell's Autobiography (submitted 5/17/06)

Whether by chance or by choice, I have spent a large chunk of my life in the presence of developmentally-disabled individuals. Yet for some reason I struggle to take to heart the lessons (sometimes wordless) they try to teach me.

Every day I have a new quarter-life crisis: frustrated living at home, no life direction, missing college, no money, nothing good to wear. Basically, the only positive thing going on right now is that the Phillies are playing well. But let's be honest--this is Philadelphia--it won't last forever.

I am not used to being pessimistic, but lately my attitude has been less than upbeat.

So these days, there is one lesson by one handicapped girl that I am really trying to embrace.

Not too long ago, I spent a day babysitting a group of handicapped teenagers. One of my charges, Jessica, came into the room, tote bag in hand, eager to show me what was inside. Jessica took out two ratty-looking dolls and thrust them in my face. I asked her what the dolls were named. With impaired speech, she told me "Hayride" and "Chinese Buffet." (Now fast forward through a day of punching and hair-pulling, bloody noses, escapees, accidents, faked sickness, real sickness, and a traumatic turtle experience.) Jessica's mom came to pick her up, and I asked her the significance of the names. Her mother told me that she named her beloved baby dolls Hayride and Chinese Buffet because "those are her two favorite things."

Maybe if I spend a little less time stressing about my five-year plan and a little more time pinpointing my favorite things, the road to my inevitable midlife crisis will be more bearable.

Today, I name my metaphorical dolls "Crossword Puzzle" and "Soft Pretzel."

Feeling better already.

Questions?  Contact Nicola Twilley at 215.545.3870.  Media contact: Kim Rothwell, 215.790.7837.
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