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Everyone is Way Different- Paige Gray

Sally: Hi Paige! Thanks so much for being here with us. We’ll start with an easy question: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Paige: My name is Paige Gray, and I am a Senior college student at UNC (University of Northern Colorado). I love horses and I’m taking childcare classes here. I love to hang out with friends and do a lot of fun things on the weekends.

Sally: Very cool. Let’s dive right in. Can you tell us what it is like to be in college and have a disability?

Paige: Sure. Everybody is way different in college, and I don’t concentrate a lot on my disability, because everybody in college will support you whether you have a disability or not. They will treat you like other students, like normal students, and won’t realize that you have a disability. On campus you have a lot of people around you and they don’t notice you have a disability. I personally don’t bring my disability up because I don’t need to. It’s cool, a lot of people are different than we are. And it’s cool that they treat you like a normal student.

Sally: Absolutely! That’s awesome. I loved college for just that reason. So, what would somebody not know about you, in regards to living with a disability?

Paige: Hmm, that’s a good one. Probably it would surprise them, if you go up to them and tell them you have a disability, they would be a bit in shock. Then they will think about it- do I still want to be with this person, or not?

Sally: Totally. You can’t know much about someone just by looking at them.

Paige: Yup- you really can’t know when you look at them. They don’t know you and you don’t know them. It’s a surprise.

Sally: And who doesn’t love surprises? Next question: What do you like about having a disability?

Paige: It’s cool that I have one. I actually did not know that I had a disability or not when I was growing up. And then I was like, oh this is cool, this is awesome, I didn’t know I had a disability. It’s really cool!

Sally: It makes you unique!

Paige: Yes, I do feel unique.

Sally: Okay, let’s finish off with some bonus questions. Who is your favorite TTR staff? I won’t be offended if it isn’t me. It’s Jonah, isn’t it?

Paige: It is hard to choose. I think I would pick Jonah. He is so cool and so fun to be around, and is so funny, too. He is an awesome person.

Sally: I knew it! He is pretty awesome, isn’t he? Almost done. If you could be any animal, what would you be?

Paige: I probably would pick a horse. I love horses.

Sally: For our last and most important question…What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Paige: I think I’ll go with cookie dough. It’s so good.


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Silver Linings and Fried Oreos-Jonah Berger

TTR: Jonah, will you tell us something about yourself and your disability?

Jonah: My name is Jonah and I am 48 years old. I live in DeWitt, Michigan with my sweet wife Megan and my unbelievably wonderful baby girl Amelia. I have devoted my career to the Disability Community, mostly because I have always found people who face challenges to be more interesting. I have a disability called Charcot Marie Tooth and am currently serving as the National Youth Programs Manager for the CMTA. CMT is a neuromuscular condition that affects the extremities of my body. From my elbows to my fingers and from my knees to my toes. Due to nerve damage caused by CMT, I have muscle weakness in my hands and feet. I wear leg braces to help me with balance and stability. And I ask my wife and friends to button my shirts for me as well. 🙂

TTR: What would someone not know, or assume, about you with regard to living with a disability?

Jonah: This is a really good question. I think because of my outgoing personality and because I mostly accept my disability well, people might assume that I am not emotionally affected by it. But I am. Dealing with weakness every day takes a toll. I have a spirit that is strong and fast but my body does not consistently keep up with it. And that is a source of frustration for me.

TTR: The TTR staff misses you since your move across the country. One in particular wants to know: who is your favorite TTR Team member, whose name rhymes with “cat”?
Jonah: I had to think about this, but no question, it’s Pat!
TTR: We’re about to get real here. If you could change an incident from the past, would you not:

a. fart in front of your sister’s beautiful college roommate when you lifted
something heavy for her
b. have eaten that second fried Oreo in Vegas, that one (now infamous) time
c. have crashed the TTR Van
TTR: Last question. (We know you are hoping we don’t pull out another college reference.) What is the silver lining of living with a disability?

Jonah: I could write pages to answer this question. There are so many ways that my disability has brought good things to my life. I appreciate strength differently because I deal with weakness. I get the chance to see how caring and supportive people can be as a result of my disability. I get to know the amazing feeling of breaking through perceived barriers. I am physically and mentally tougher than I would be without this disability. I get the opportunity to teach others about what I have learned from this disability. I do appreciate the fact that this disability makes me unique. It’s funny to me how most people, myself included, spend the majority of their younger years trying to fit in and be like everyone else. And yet, as I have grown older and weaker, I have come to appreciate being different. I value the lessons I have learned from my difference. I teach others about those lessons and I am always quick to want to learn the lessons that others have to teach me from their differences. Most of the people I value in this world, especially the ambassadors at Tall Tales (and the staff for that matter), are completely unique. Weird and wonderful. That is a blessing. Normal, it turns out, is pretty boring. I always sum it up like this, If a genie came out of a bottle and gave me the chance to go back and take away my disability, I would say no. The lessons I have learned are too important. The gifts that I have received are too valuable. The benefits have outweighed the challenges a thousand times over. I wouldn’t trade my disability for the world.