Life as…a Custom-Made Person
Editor’s Note: The following interview is the first installment of the Beacon Bolt’s new series, “Life As”, a series documenting the unique lives and perspectives of NCU students, faculty, staff, and alumni. This week we talked to Kelsey Chaloupka, a senior English major from Canyonville, OR. Here, Kelsey shares her experience and identity with us.
What words do you use to describe your physical identity?
I firmly believe that God created everybody; male and female He created us all. There was no differentiation or specification to that. He did, in fact, make custom-made people also. The reason I prefer “custom-made” is because “disabled”/”handicapped”/”special needs” implies a taking-away of something. And if we, as Christians, take the Bible as literally and seriously as we should, we should trust the Bible when it says that God is perfect. Therefore, we cannot say that He would take something away from His own creation, and turn them into mistakes. Because they’re not mistakes. God is perfect and He cannot make a mistake. Therefore, custom-made people are not mistakes, but they are enabled by God in a unique way to fulfill the purpose that He has for them, instead.
Is the term “custom-made” something you came up with?
I came up with it…. “I’m not disabled, I’m custom-made” has been a quote I’ve said since I was a child.
What is your custom-madeness?
Specifically, I have Spastic Cerebral Palsy, and something else which the doctors have yet to identify, despite many tests and procedures.
And you’ve had that your whole life?
Yes, I was born this way.
What are some unique challenges that make your life different than a person without custom-madeness?
You hurt every day. For me, in particular, I waddle when I walk. I bump into anything without trying; I have no balance whatsoever. I have no leg control. That hinders things like driving and makes basic human activity difficult. I’m not necessarily the best at carrying liquids [laughs]. That can be frustrating.
I guess another thing would be that isn’t exactly fun is getting stared at a lot. That happens rather frequently. People don’t want to approach you, or are hesitant to ask about the problem. People are afraid of the unknown. People aren’t educated on custom-madeness, so they generally don’t know what to do when custom-made people are in trouble or simply how to interact with them.
What are some of the joys that you experience in your life?
My father and I say that I’m a bridge between two worlds. Because, put bluntly, there are many people in this world that are a whole lot more custom-made than me. I’m very blessed to be where I am. So I’d say, one of my joys is that I can understand, to a certain extent, “normal people.” But I can also understand custom-made people. That allows me, by relating to both sides, to share the Gospel with them and minister to them, by encouraging them and reflecting Christ. In my own way, I can “get it” because I’m a very empathetic person, even if I don’t necessarily fully understand.
That’s a joy. It makes me happy, especially when people are like “oh man, I thought nobody was going to understand!”
But just to temper that, it doesn’t make things any less lonely. Lots of people will say, “Let’s go on a hike!” However, most people don’t think about how limited I am in that regard. Most people don’t want to tailor their plans for one person, they want go with the majority.
How does your custom-madeness affect being a college student?
Getting to class on time is big factor. If it wasn’t for my automatic chair, I would be late to every single class. Even this [NCU] campus, which I’m told is small, to me, is huge. If it wasn’t for my chair, my feet would kill me.
In high school I didn’t have a chair, there was a lot of walking and lot of blisters. I’d be out of commission for two weeks at a time. Most of the time I made it, because teachers were understanding.
Accessibility is another huge thing. It’s a really big factor because most places have stairs, no automatic doors, and no flat surfaces. It’s all hills. I’m not made for that. Being able to go to NCU was definitely an improvement in that regard. It’s flat! I can move here, and I don’t have to worry about tripping on every little thing because my lack of balance. They have automatic doors, it’s so nice!
Another thing this school does really well are the notices of accommodation. I’m sure it’s saved me and others many a time. We appreciate that NCU has an elevator so we can get to chapel, and that the teachers are understanding when we come to class later, and that NCU has the [accommodation] policy. We don’t always use it, though, because pulling “that card” and being made an exception is not something we always like. We like to earn things. We don’t like to feel like we get to “cut in line.” So we don’t always exercise the NOA.
Another big issue is bullying. It’s huge and it’s not fun. People being uncertain of others who are different from them, and lack of education [cause this].
It’s interesting how polarized the world is. It’s either, custom-made can do nothing, or they can do everything the rest of the world can. We do want to be treated the way everyone else is, but it’s also nice to have someone ask, “Do you need to sit down?” It’s great to be treated with respect…because not everything has to so polarized.
How does your custom-madeness affect your perspective as a Christian?
I often come back to Psalms 139:14… “I praise you, oh Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. My soul knows that full well.”
Even if someone is not a Christian, I think it’s important that the word “soul” is in this scripture, not “I,” because if the person is not a Christian and is custom-made, that worldview isn’t so hot.
Even if a person doesn’t recognize their inherent value, the soul does. If the soul knows that, the person will forever have the chance to come to Christ. When you have the mindset and mentality, and the Christ-like perspective, you will also have the value.
As a Christian, I see the inherent value in everybody. As a Christian, you really understand what Jesus meant when he said “kindness.” Have that compassion and that empathy. It’s easier when you’ve been put down by people, to readily recognize the goodness in everybody. You know what it’s like to not feel that positivity and you can recognize the good in everybody. I don’t look at somebody and judge. I just see the little things…I see the positive in everybody.
From a Christian custom-made perspective, when you get a lot a negativity, it is refreshing when somebody comes along and says, “I like you just the way you are!”
You can laugh at yourself. Unfortunately, there are custom-made people who wallow in themselves. However, one thing that I’ve noticed about custom-made people, Christian or no, is that we can laugh at ourselves, even if some people think it’s kind of morbid. I’ve always said that I waddle with the best of the penguins [laughs]!
Humor is also very important.
We’ve been talking a lot about your identity as a custom-made person. That seems like a big part of your identity, but you’re not just custom-made. What are you besides a custom-made person?
I like tea! I enjoy Irish Breakfast, English Breakfast and chai; I really like my black tea, as well as jasmine, but I’m open to trying anything.
I have a sword collection.
I like to write books, because I believe there needs to be more Christian fantasy in the world. Not something that slams the Bible in people’s faces, but something more subtle.
I am an English major and I’ve wanted to be an author since 3rd grade. I’ve never changed my mind; I’ve wanted to be a writer since day one.
Hobby-wise, I’m just a geek. I have a massive anime and manga collection at home. I have comic books, too. I really like Celtic music. I listen to a lot of Celtic folk, Latin chanting, and classical music. And worship music! Everything ranging from Skillet to Casting Crowns. I will try any music if we avoid profanity and subjects that don’t need to grace my ears.
I make dried fruit and beef jerky. I make kombucha. I like making drinks like frappes, mochas, and chai. It’s something I enjoy doing.