Episode 41: Lucy Trieshmann

Chris and Jill were joined by law student and fierce Disability advocate Lucy Trieshmann for this episode of My Dearest Friends Project podcast.

Interview Date | April 22, 2020

JILL: Welcome to the DisTopia podcast, where we look at disability from the inside out. [peaceful music fades in] My name is Jill Vyn, and I’m the cohost of this podcast with my friend and colleague, Chris Smit. 

What you are listening to now is the first of two interrelated components of our My Dearest Friends project, both of which have been generously underwritten by the Ford Foundation. The My Dearest Friends podcast, which is produced by DisTopia, is a series of recorded conversations with disabled people about their individual experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the personal, cultural, and political alterations it has triggered. These informal conversations give our guests the opportunity to share personal experiences of sheltering in place and to engage in conversations around deeper questions raised about the value of disabled people, the core values of the disability culture, as well as our hopes, fears, and strategies for living an authentic and pride-filled disabled life.

The second component of the My Dearest Friends project is created in partnership with disabled artist Oaklee Thiele, who is creating black and white illustrations that represent our collective response to our new and uncertain realities as a disabled community. Designed as an open invitation to the disabled community around the world, we invite all of you to participate. More information can be found on Instagram @MyDearestFriendsProject, Facebook, and on our website, DisArtNow.org.

As is true for many of you, our desire for this project is to share our experiences as a disabled community, to disrupt ableist beliefs, to celebrate a culture whose lived experience of disability necessitates flexibility and creativity, and to validate disabled voices and perspectives in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[peaceful music slowly fades into sweeping, melodic music that plays for the first few sentences]

LUCY: My dearest friends, 

I’m terrified.

That I’ve lost access to assets of my medical care. That my community is suffering around me. That I’m once again homebound, reminding me of a darker time I thought I’d left behind. That the national response to this emergency demonstrates a continued devaluation of disabled lives, an undercurrent now risen to the surface in horrifying ways.

I’m angry.

That people aren’t taking isolation seriously, and putting lives at risk as a result. That institutions continue to ignore disabled voices. That once abled people assert expectation of the resources we’ve begged for, they’re listened to. That the disability community has so much wisdom to offer, but we will not be heard.

But also, I’m glad.

That disabled people are meeting this challenge with grace and empathy. That we’ve come together in unprecedented ways to be there for one another. That a new precedent has been set for what institutions are capable of achieving. That hopefully, we come out of this with a greater empathy for one another and respect for the people for whom this isolation and fear is the norm. Lucy.

So, I guess that kind of came out of my background, my experience with chronic illness and disability. So, I acquired my disability pretty suddenly almost four years ago now, during my final year of undergrad. All of a sudden, I was forced into this entirely new world that was very unwelcome in the larger sphere of society. And seeing that juxtaposed, once again, on a much larger scale, seeing how disabled people are treated compared with how abled people are treated and expect to be treated, has been very challenging for me personally to meet with empathy. But I think that the only way for us to all get through this is to meet it with empathy. So, it’s something that I’ve been trying very hard to continue cultivating. But seeing how difficult people find it to stay at home without realizing that that’s the norm for so many people. Or seeing people be upset that they can’t go out and see their friends, that’s also the norm for a lot of people. And we would be more than happy to share our experiences, our tips, our survival tactics for those kinds of situations, but nobody’s interested in listening. Nobody’s asking. When our voices are made loud, they’re not heard. So, that has been particularly challenging through all of this.

But I also think that some really beautiful advocacy has come from this weird world that we’re living in right now. I think that more than ever, disabled people themselves are learning to value the experiences that they’ve had. They’re realizing that everything that we have been through has prepared us for something like this. That it has, in fact, had a reason that it’s made us stronger, if that’s a way of processing things that’s helpful. It’s all good in this weird tension between encouraging and discouraging and uplifting and emotionally destructive. [chuckles] So, that’s kind of where that stream of thought came from, I guess.

JILL: I’m very interested in how your disability has guided your career. 

LUCY: Entirely. [chuckles] 100 percent! So, I went into undergrad thinking I wanted to do Anthropology. I double majored in Anthropology and Global Development Studies at the University of Virginia and loved it, had a wonderful time. I was doing research that I started my second year and kept doing throughout my time at UVA on the intersection of the biggest irony of my life. It was on the intersection of social interaction and chronic disease management and how [chuckles] the social factors of health from a public health standpoint. And then here we are. So, that was pretty funny. And then I had been doing research for that project in South Africa with my team for two months. And several weeks after I got back, I very suddenly got sick. I started passing out for what seemed like no reason. I was training for a 10K at the time. I was in the marching band. I played tuba. And so, I was doing that all week. And to suddenly, out of the blue, not be able to tolerate nearly any physical exercise was very odd. So, going through the diagnostic process, going through the accommodation process for school, coming to terms with my disabled identity, I had some really wonderful mentorship through that, thankfully, with someone I’m still very close to: my mentor from then and now.

Through that whole experience, I realized that there was very few people fighting on our behalf. I was trying to go through the proper channels at school to effectuate change. I was having trouble attending class because I was no longer able to walk very far at all. And I wasn’t able to walk to the bus stop to take the bus to class, or I wasn’t able to walk from the bus stop into the classroom. And so, I was using the paratransit services, but there were a lot of problems with that. I was missing class regularly. I was not being picked up on time. There were issues with the vehicles themselves and care of my mobility devices, smoking, things like that. So, all of that made me realize that I had to do something. And my whole life, my mom had told me that I should be a lawyer. And I always told her I didn’t want to be a lawyer. And now she gets to hold that over me for the rest of my life. But! [laughs] She was right. That year, I stopped applying to PhD programs, rescinded all my applications, and decided to take two years off to figure out my health and figure out what I was doing with my life. Because I felt this very strong pull to do something, and I wasn’t sure that the proper avenue for me in particular was to do that through something like a PhD in Anthropology.

I took some time off. I worked for a really wonderful nonprofit called the Blue Trunk Foundation that works on the intersection of disability and travel. And I was a tutor, an academic tutor, for a lot of students with disabilities, which that just happened serendipitously. It wasn’t intentional. But I learned a lot through both of those experiences. And realized that the way I wanted to make change was to fundamentally change the systems through which laws are made. So, here we are. I applied to law schools. I took the LSAT, all that. Faced a lot of problems with accommodations on the LSAT, faced issues with accommodations for interviewing for the scholarship that I have to law school, and have faced issue after issue in terms of having equal access to the classroom and resources. I go to the New York University School of Law. So, we’ve been working very closely with the administration there to get things going in the right direction. So far, so good. They’ve been receptive. It’s just a challenge that so few students with disabilities are going to law school. And so, these kinds of issues aren’t necessarily being raised proactively. And so, we’re having to act retroactively, which has been difficult for me because it means there’s a lag in my access to certain resources and parts of my education. So, that’s how I ended up where I am.

I am finishing my first year of law school right now. I started in August. And since then, I have become very involved with the disability Allied Law Students Association at NYU. I’m the co-chair for next year. Through that, we’ve done a lot of the advocacy that I was talking about in terms of the facility itself and access to different classroom resources. We’re currently working on some issues with the accessibility of Zoom and captioning with the university. And I also started a project to help individuals applying for Social Security Disability Income. The denial rates for first-time applicants for SSDI are very, very high. And we’re hoping that advocacy at the application level will bring that really far down. Because every time you get denied at a certain level, the time gets longer and longer and longer before you start receiving the benefits you need to survive. So, people are dying while waiting for their disability benefits to come through. So, that was a project that we got off the ground this year that was unfortunately interrupted due to the virus, because a lot of those kinds of proceedings have been put on hold, but that we will be certainly picking back up in the fall when things are hopefully a little bit more back to normal. Unsure. I’m also volunteering with the Southern Poverty Law Center right now on researching access to educational resources during distance learning in public schools. Right this moment, we’re looking at Florida with a focus on access to Special Education and English Language Learners, things like that.

So, pretty much all of the work I do is centered around disability. If you had asked me four and a half years ago, even, if that’s what I thought I’d be doing with my life, I would’ve said no. I thought I would be, you know, halfway through a PhD program right now, doing fieldwork somewhere. I had been planning on looking into transportation, sort of like a social look at transportation and how race, class, and ability, things like that, impact transportation and are impacted by transportation. So, this is not where Lucy of 2015-16 thought she would be. But overall, I’m very happy to be where I am. I wish that I did not have to be doing the work that I’m doing, but I’m glad that I’ve been given the opportunity to do so and that I have been given the resources to do so. So, as exhausting as it is, I’m ultimately very fortunate to be in the position that I am.

[sweeping, melodic music break]

CHRIS: I’m wondering if that exhaustion comes from being a trailblazer. In other words, it’s a common feeling among our community: if you have to educate all the time, even in an institution of higher learning, that can be really frustrating. So, are you cool to talk a little bit more about that?

LUCY: During my process of applying and getting into NYU, [chuckles] at one point, I had an interview. And the individual interviewing me had to ask me to define ableism ‘cause he had never heard the word before. So, that was a shock going into what I thought was a very public interest-friendly space, and I assumed that that meant disability was being considered as well, as part of the public interest sphere. I was incorrect. But we are working to change that. DALSA, the disability Allied Law Student Association, has had to have a lot of conversations with the administration and faculty about how to talk about issues of disability, how to talk about—

I mean, the stereotypical thing a lot of people think about when they think about law school is personal injury. And so, if we’re talking about cases of personal injury, disability is inherently part of that, and people don’t necessarily realize it. And so, they don’t realize that the way they’re talking about these cases is framing disability in a really demonizing way. So, if we’re talking about somebody was in a horrible accident because of a car manufacturing defect or something, and they become a quadriplegic. The problem is not that they are now a quadriplegic. The problem is that something happened, that they were in an accident, and that that accident should not have happened. So, the core issue is not the fact that they’re now disabled. And I think that that’s a conversation that we’ve had to have and we’re continuing to have in terms of education. But it is exhausting to be the educator all the time. People will say, “Oh, but, you know, you don’t always have to be the educator. You can choose not to be. You can take a break.” But I think for a lot of us, thinking of it like that hurts ‘cause you don’t want to pass up an opportunity to make something better for the people who come after you.

A challenge that I’ve had being a student and being a student with a disability and being a student activist with a disability is balancing all of those things and trying to figure out how I preserve my personal energy in a way that allows me to be all of those things at the same time. Sometimes that means not being the educator, and it means letting things…not slide but perhaps not addressing a small thing that I would’ve addressed otherwise some days. So, you know, when somebody in elevator asks me what happened to me or asks me— I’ve been asked a lotta things. [chuckles] You know, “What happened? Why are you in a wheelchair? Is that thing on your chest a heart monitor?” You know, the whole gamut. “What’s wrong with you?” Sometimes you just ignore it. My favorite response now, though, if someone is like, “Oh, what happened?” I like to look around me. I’ll be like, “What are you, what are you talking about? Did something happen?” And I’ll look over my shoulder. And then they look at me, and then they have this moment. You can see it that their brain like breaks a little bit, and they’re [laughs], they’re trying to think like, why did I just ask that question? So, that’s my current favorite way to handle those. But it varies depending on how I’m feeling. Like, how many people I’ve had to educate that day, how many experiences like those I’ve had. I find myself wearing headphones a lot of time so that I don’t have to talk to people, in the subway in particular.

That part is challenging; being the educator is challenging. And you don’t wanna have to do that. But thankfully, through the advocacy that our student group has done, we’ve gained a lot of really wonderful allies. And so, they have begun to do a lot of the lifting in terms of education at that level, which has been really wonderful. All of my friends that I have at school now are very on top of ableism and disability issues. Like if they see something, they’re like, “No way,” and they go after it. So, that’s been really wonderful to cultivate that kind of community. But it is exhausting. I don’t know if there’s a point at which we’re able to stop doing that because the work is never done.

But I did have a conversation with a professor earlier this semester, when we were still on campus, before all of this happened, about how tired I was. I was exhausted. Like thing after thing after thing kept happening, and I felt very overwhelmed. And she was like, “Well, why are you trying to do everything?” And I was like, “I feel like I have to do everything. Because I can’t imagine leaving this place and having someone like me come into it the way that I did.” She and I had a really productive conversation about respecting your personal resources and respecting your own boundaries and how that was just as important to the work as doing the work was. So, I’ve been trying to do that. I’m very bad at the whole pacing thing and the like not doing things part. Any of my friends would corroborate that and yell at me.

CHRIS: Does that ring a bell, Jill?

LUCY: [laughs]

CHRIS: I don’t know. [laughs] We were just having that conversation this morning about working hard and feeling the urgency to work hard and not wanting to let it slip by and having to figure out the balance between physical and mental health and the advocacy work that it seems like the three of us really share. And so, I really appreciate hearing that. Yeah, really appreciate it.

[sweeping, melodic music break]

JILL: I’m curious to hear how your experiences have changed with the school and the interactions now that everybody is remote. There’s a lot of people who’ve been asking for remote and creative ways to engage, both in the academic and the corporate world, and they never were acknowledged. But now here we are.

LUCY: Yeah! Mmhmm. I was one of those people. NYU Law was able to move us completely remote within 48 hours, which is very impressive. We only had one day where we missed classes. I know a lot of other institutions missed a week or two. So, that was very impressive. And it begged the question, why was this not something we were able to do for disabled students when they were asking for it so that they could have equal access to the classroom? As of right now, we’re kind of in crisis management mode in terms of handling all of the little fires that keep happening. But I will say that come fall, when students begin asking for remote learning as an accommodation, we won’t forget how easy it was to transition. And I don’t think that lacking resources will be an acceptable excuse anymore.

CHRIS: It’s frustrating because you would hope that there would be a social change, right, alongside the sort of economic decision that NYU and other schools are making, that it wasn’t just an economic decision, right? Are you optimistic that it will become a sort of internal culture decision to try and reach out that way to different learners and different folks who need distance? I mean, are you feeling optimistic from conversations you’re having with your colleagues at NYU?

LUCY: Yeah, I’m…I’m not sure. I was asked this a couple months ago in a job interview if I was optimistic about the disability rights movement, particularly at school and things like that. And my answer changes. Sometimes I’m very optimistic, and sometimes I’m not. And I think that’s part of being human, and it’s part of doing this work and being also someone affected by the work. It’s different doing advocacy when you’re not personally impacted by it, doing it as an ally. So, I try to be optimistic. I try really hard. But it’s a work in progress. I think the student body attitude is slowly changing. I think we’re trying really hard to push for that. And I think we have some really wonderful connections throughout the student body now to make disability rights and disability access as important as other minorities in the front of people’s minds when they’re planning events, things like that. It’s hard to be optimistic when the world’s ending around you in a pandemic. But I think I am. [laughs] And I know that we’ve created a really great network of administrators and students who care and want to see this change happen. So, overall, I would say I am.

JILL: That’s good to hear. Thinking about the world around us and what’s happening, what are you reading? What are you seeing or paying attention to into the news or social media? What are you reading, and what’s maybe missing that you wish you were?

LUCY: So, I’ve actually had to stop reading the news because it stresses me out. I’ve turned off all news notifications except the CNN breaking news things, which still happen like 10 times a day! I have actually been doing a lot of the disability rights theoretical reading that I love and I don’t get any access to through law school. So, like Eli Claire’s Brilliant Imperfections I read. I read his Exile and Pride. I’m about to start reading Care Work. Things like that, I’ve been trying to consume a lot of as a way of helping frame what’s going on, continue my own education on the disability rights movement, and also give me kind of an anchoring point through all of this. Crip Camp, wonderful. Watched that a few times with people. And then recently, the Disability Allied Law Student Association put together a response to an article published in the Yale Law Journal, or that will soon be published in the Yale Law Journal, on care rationing essentially in the time of COVID and its impact on disability. And the article argues that a triage-based care rationing system would not be out of line with disability law and the goals of disability rights activists. Which is something that we disagree with quite strongly. So, we wrote a letter in response and are circulating that currently to a lot of different law schools and lawyers and different activist organizations for community signatures before sending it to them towards the end of the week, in hopes that they will pull publication of the article.

I have been trying to read mostly positive things. I’m kind of staying off social media more than I normally would and trying to be with my family. I have a younger, my brother is nine, and so getting to be home with him right now is really special and not something that I usually get to do. So, I’ve been trying to spend more time with family and ground myself in that and not be overwhelmed by everything that’s going on, but while still being a responsible well, I guess what I would define for myself as being responsible, activist and a responsible citizen by staying informed. I also read for law school like a lot! So, I’ve been doing a lot of that [laughs], and that eats up most of my free time.

CHRIS: You know, around the country, we are beginning to see governors and mayors opening up cities. And in our state here in Michigan, there’s been protests, and down in the South, there’s been protests, too, about some of the lockdown rules. Do you have reactions to that sort of public outcry and the complicated nature of that stuff?

LUCY: Yeah, I think that if someone is valuing their ability to go out and have their roots redone over the lives of so many of us—their grandparents, their friends, their coworkers—I think that’s a moral question that they need to reckon with personally. I think that that’s one of the most selfish things that someone could possibly fight for right now. I don’t believe that we should be reopening the country. I don’t think we should stop social distancing. I think that all of the public health research right now that’s coming out points towards we need to keep doing what we’re doing to keep numbers low. And we already have the highest number of cases. So…I am very disappointed, but unfortunately not surprised to see people wanting to get out of their houses and to stop social distancing in favor of having access to the world as they thought it was before, because the world isn’t like it was before. It’s never going to be.

It’s also fascinating to me to see that people lasted, what, five, five weeks? Five weeks in isolation and then they’re done with it. I was mostly homebound for about a year, six months, you know, and then intermittently since then. So, it’s really interesting to see what people think they’re, what they’re obligated to receive. And it’s fascinating to see where that comes from as it’s rooted in ableism and also classism and racism and things like that. Because it’s not possible to think about this virus and the national response to it without also thinking about its roots in racism, ableism, classism, and all of the different minority intersections with it. So, I think that the people who are saying they want to reopen the country and start living life as normal again because we have to at some point aren’t considering the implications of that to the fullest extent. And if they are, and they’re still making that choice, then that is something that they and I will fundamentally disagree on, and I will fight them on it.

JILL: Earlier on, you mentioned how you have empathy for people.

LUCY: [laughs silently]

JILL: And how do you find a place of empathy and understanding in this?

LUCY: Am I empathetic to the people who are struggling with this? Yes, ‘cause it is difficult. It’s difficult to be homebound. But I’m not empathetic to the people who are valuing their own comfort over the lives of others. I think that there’s a moral line to be drawn. But it is challenging. Especially seeing, oh, the photos of the hospital workers stopping the protests. And those are the people whose lives are most directly on the line right now, and they’re begging people to please stay home so that they don’t, you know, die and see people die in front of them every day. And yet people are still prioritizing their own ability to go out in public and get their hair done, go to the nail salon, things like that. It’s just, it’s baffling to me. So, that, I don’t have empathy for. That, I don’t understand.

JILL: We were talking about the people who are protesting may, in a certain number of days, end up being people who now need to go into the hospital.

LUCY: Yep. And I very much wish that were not the case. I wish that there were no new cases of this virus. I wish that everything could go back to normal like we want it to. But that’s just not the way the world is presently. And that’s what we’re hearing from all of the public health experts that are tracking this and monitoring it and all of the medical professionals that are actually on the front lines. And I think that those are the important sources of information, not necessarily our politicians.

[sweeping, melodic music break]

JILL: What strikes me so strongly is your disability identity and how quickly you came, or appears that you came, to understand yourself as a disabled individual and part of a disability community. I’m really curious how that happened for you, why you think that happened quicker than a lot of people that we know. What I hear from you is that you accept who you are and where you are in your life and you’ve moved on, and now, you’re impacting other people’s life for the better because of it.

LUCY: I have a lot of thoughts about this. Honestly, the biggest thing that helped me was having the mentor that I mentioned earlier, one of my research advisers in undergrad for the project that I did. And I spent a lot of my time working on this research project. It was very involved. We did a lot of data collection, a lot of interviewing, a lot of data analysis. I spent a ton of time with my research team and our advisors. So, she and I were very close. And she’s disabled and was when I met her. And she watched things happen as they were happening. She watched me start not making it to a couple meetings and then start using a walker and then start having to lay down in the middle of meetings. And she watched this whole thing happen. And she saw me kind of, the like light inside me going out, to a certain extent. And one day, I remember this very distinctly, after one of our research meetings, she was like, “Lucy can you come to my office for a minute?” We would have individual conversations pretty regular. And I was like, “OK.” And so, I went to her office. And she’s very straightforward, as am I, which is why we get along very well, and we work very well together. She is the founder of the non-profit that I ran between undergrad and law school. And she sat me down. She was like, “You know you’re disabled, right?” And [laughs] I was like, “What are you talking about?” And [laughs] she was just like, “You are disabled. This is what it means to be disabled and,” you know, blah, blah, blah. I just started sobbing on her couch in her office because I finally felt the piece of everything that had been missing.

So, instead of just being sick, I was part of this much larger community of people that I could lean on and draw strength from, as opposed to it just being me against my body and me against the system that I was a part of. So, I attribute that 100% to her for sitting me down and having that conversation with me. And then for continuing to have those conversations with me as I had my periodic existential crises over the last however many years it’s been. I’ve cried on the couch in her office many times. Her name’s Rupa Valdez. She is a professor at the University of Virginia. She’s in Biomedical Sciences. She’s very cool. She’s a systems engineer, but most of her work is on like the intersection of disability and technology.

JILL: Oh, fantastic.

CHRIS: Mmhmm. Awesome.

LUCY: But also the work that we were doing introduced me to disability to a certain extent. And so, I think that it wasn’t an entirely new thing as it is to a lot of people. When it happens. It’s like, wow, I’ve never met a disabled person, or I have no idea about disability theory. I’d already been elbow deep in a lot of disability theory and things like that, so I had that kind of starting point, which helped me. Reading what other people think and then having the internal dialogue in my head about like, “Oh, do I agree with that? No, I don’t.” Or, “Oh, yeah. I definitely do agree with that,” helps me figure out where I stand on things. So, I think I was very, you know, serendipitously set up in such a way that things panned out. But also, I didn’t see disability as a bad thing. I didn’t go into it thinking, “Oh, wow. Like I’m disabled. That sucks.” I was like, “Oh, OK, I’m disabled,” you know/ like also like, “Oh, I’m a woman, you know. I’m queer. I’m disabled. Cool.”

And does it come with its own set of difficulties and challenges? Absolutely. Every day of my life since then has been an example of that. But it also means that I have a bunch of disabled friends, and I have this whole community of people to draw strength from and people who understand. I can text, you know, one of my friends and be like, “Hey, someone tried to sit on me in the subway again.” Or like, “Oh, hey, guess what happened again. This lady asked me if I was in a car accident.” [chuckles] And they’ll just laugh and be like, “Oh, yeah. That happened to me yesterday,” you know? So, it’s uplifting. It’s been wonderful. The factors of coming into it from a place that wasn’t framing disability as a negative was really important. But then also having that exposure to my incredibly successful mentor, who’s one of the smartest people I know, and she has this wonderful job. She’s a great mentor. She’s a wonderful friend. And seeing the really rich life that she lives with her disability, not in spite of it and not, you know, outside of it, but because of her disability, the wonderful life that she lives, that’s really helped me come to terms with things.

Do I still get mad at my body? Absolutely. But becoming more involved in the disability rights movement as opposed to just an individual standing alone has helped me realize that it’s not my body that’s the problem. It’s the world. And framing my body as the issue will only foment hatred and really negative feelings inside myself that aren’t productive and just aren’t true. There’s nothing wrong with my body. There’s nothing wrong with the fact that I use a wheelchair. There’s nothing wrong with the fact that I have a port in my chest. Like, that’s not my problem. It’s the world’s problem that they have trouble accepting that and that they’ve not considered the fact that we exist in building the world that is around us, and that they haven’t consulted us in the construction about world.

I’m the kind of person that wants to do something, and I always knew that I wanted to go into activism and some kind of work like that. And so, I think I already had that mindset as well, coming into it about rather than being weighed down by things that are wrong in the world, I see that as an opportunity for change. So, I think that all of that has helped me kind of come to the place I am now, which is still a place of learning and talking to other people and learning from them and learning from people with other types of disabilities and figuring out my own gaps in knowledge, particularly about the intersection of disability and race, disability and poverty, disability and class, disability and gender, sexuality, things like that. And so, I think it’s all still a learning process, for sure.

As of right now, I am doing a lot of writing work both through my Instagram and my website, through different opportunities I have at the law school. So, any kind of work like that is always welcome. I love the opportunity to discuss things that are going on and how that intersects with my experience as a disabled person. And also, public speaking panels, things like that, I really enjoy doing. I love engaging with people. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to both educate and for me to learn. So, any kinds of opportunities like that, I am very open to. But I can’t give legal advice because I’m not a lawyer. [chuckles]

CHRIS: Yeah! [chuckles] I guess that’s always really good to clarify. Yeah.

[sweeping, melodic music break]

CHRIS: What else do you want people to know in this time of crisis?

LUCY: Yeah, I guess one thing that I have been thinking a lot about lately is that this really is a time for people to realize that codependency isn’t a bad thing, or interdependency is probably a better word. That needing to lean on others doesn’t make you weak. That the connections that we build with people make us stronger and not weaker. And that our ability to interact with people and our ability to lean on our community for support and resources and things like that is incredibly important and not something that we should be taking for granted when this is over and not now.

I’m very hopeful that people will come out of this with a greater appreciation for the relationships that they have with others and how they serve them and how they serve others as well. And I also think it’s a challenging time to be thinking about people outside of ourselves, but I also think that’s the point. That we have to be thinking about people outside of ourselves right now, because, sure, you might be entirely healthy with a fully functioning immune system. And if you were to get sick and go to the hospital, they’d 100% give you a ventilator if you needed one ‘cause you have a great chance of survival. But the rest of us, that’s not necessarily the case. And I think people are starting to realize that in terms of their own personal connection. So, like, oh, wow. Like my sister has an auto immune disease. I didn’t think about how other people’s actions can impact that. Or, wow, like my grandparents are in a residential facility. I didn’t think about the importance of them having visitors and how difficult it is to get to them now, things like that. So, I’m hopeful that we will all have a better appreciation for each other and the connections that we can make with each other and come out of this with a greater sense of empathy and a better appreciation for what it means to really be a society and all of the different components that it takes to make something like that function.

JILL: Yeah, you have you have so much to offer. I’m excited that you are studying law.

LUCY: Yeah, I’m interning at the American Civil Liberties Union Human Rights Project this summer with the national office in New York. It’ll be remote because of everything that’s going on, but I’ll be working on the intersection of disability in the criminal justice system.

CHRIS: That is really important work. Oh, that’s great.

JILL: I just am so, I feel honored to meet you at this stage in your career—

LUCY: Oh my gosh. [sighs]

JILL: Because I know you’re probably humble, but you’ve got a lot going for you and a lot of passion.

[mellow music fades in and plays for next few lines]

JILL: And it just sounds like that potential of impact and change that you’re gonna make is, it’s gonna be profound in your life.

LUCY: Thank you. I appreciate that.

CHRIS: Just keep kicking ass, man.

LUCY: [chuckles] That’s the goal.

CHRIS: Yeah, yeah. We’ll kick ass with you.

Thanks for listening. Be well, keep your distance, send us your comments, questions, and your submissions for Oaklee Thiele to hello@DisArtNow.org. Please make sure to follow the My Dearest Friends project on Instagram, Facebook, and DisArtNow.org. And thanks again to the Ford Foundation for their support of this work and to cat enthusiast Cheryl Green for the transcription of this podcast episode.

Music: “Celestial Navigation” by Blue Dot Sessions. (Source: freemusicarchive.org. Licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial License.)