Double Blind Secret Date

"Meg..." Ally said as she rolled into my room. "So, I set us up on a blind date tonight..."

I could tell by the look on her face that there was more to the story. "Annnd?" I asked. Her smirk grew into the biggest smile and she almost shouted in excitement, "I didn't tell them we are in wheelchairs!" she said as she clapped her hands and laughed.

I couldn't help but laugh, too.

Ally and I had actually been talking about stuff like this the week before, about whether or not we should show pictures of ourselves in our wheelchairs on dating apps. We wondered how many people pass us by just because we use wheelchairs to get around. Is it fair to not tell them? Is that leading them on? Why is it such a big deal? Or is it even a big deal at all? Online dating can be a lot for anyone to navigate, and being in a wheelchair just brings it to an entirely different level.

I think that too often we let the misguided social stigma that, somehow being in a wheelchair makes us less human, less fun, less interesting, or less outgoing, cloud our own judgments about ourselves, and we suddenly think we are less deserving of love.

I used to say things like, "Well, I understand that being in a wheelchair changes things. What if he really likes hiking? I can't go with him." These types of thoughts used to make me really sad. I thought that I could never be enough. I worried that whoever I ended up with would always want someone else. Someone who could walk. And if they met someone who was just like me, but walked...they would leave me in an instant.

Let me tell you: that type of thinking causes some serious insecurity and gets you nowhere good.

My journey to get to where I am today has been a long one, full of heartache and self-doubt. But just within the last year, I have finally opened my eyes to realize that with dating, just like anything in life, you never know what you are going to get. A guy might date a girl who can walk, but founds out that she hates hiking. Just because I can't hike or do certain things doesn't mean I don't do and have a million other things to offer.

To answer the question as to whether or not you should show that you are in a wheelchair on your dating profile? I actually don't have an answer. It's whatever you want to do. Ally doesn't, and I go back and forth about it. At this point, I have pictures of my wheelchair on one of the dating apps I use and not on the other. My only reason for this is that I am too lazy to add or take down any pictures, because I really don't care anymore. Some guys are going to be attracted to me, and some guys aren't. Just as I am going to be attracted to some guys and not to others. Having a good connection with someone is hard to find... but you will never find it if you don't put yourself out there in one way or another.

Back to the blind date.

After all of these thoughts passed through my mind in less than a minute... I decided that the fear of rejection is something we should not let stop us from living our lives and having a good time doing it. It's just a wheelchair. Either they like us, or they don't. Either they can see past the wheelchairs, or they can't. How they react has nothing to do with who we are.

So I looked up at Ally and started laughing, too. We were both excited and so giddy about what we were about to do.

Megan and Ally

Having Ally as my roommate has been one of the best things for me during this chapter of my life. She and I both believe that everything happens for a reason. I feel like being around her — another girl my age, who also happens to be in a wheelchair, who was injured around the same age I was, who was also a soccer player, and who holds the same values I do — has helped me grow and heal in those last few ways I needed to heal after my accident 10 years ago... especially when it comes to dating.

Megan and Ally

Ally and I met out of the craziest of circumstances, which involved both of us following our dreams and taking chances. At the age of 25, Ally quit her dream job as an occupational therapist at a traumatic brain injury rehabilitation center and moved across the country — from Philadelphia to San Diego — because she always wanted to live here. I had just been laid off from a really good job, for which I had moved from Washington to California three months prior. I felt I was at a crossroads and needed to figure out my next steps sooner rather than later. All I knew was that I needed to move closer to San Diego, as that was where all of the opportunities seemed to be.

I actually met Ally the same weekend she arrived in San Diego, when I was volunteering as a wheelchair basketball coach at the San Diego Adaptive Sports Camp, where Ally also happened to be volunteering. I heard her mention she was staying in a hotel with her stuff in storage, and just like that, two weeks later we were roommates, going through the next chapter of our lives with the support, encouragement, and guidance of one another.

Back to the blind date.

Here is us committing to the plan and telling everyone what we were about to do.

This was exciting and fun, and we enjoyed every second of it. If you watch this video you will see just how much fun we were having.

It's all fun and games until you find out there is no elevator. And's all fun and games again, actually. This video shows Ally getting a text from the guys telling us they "would be upstairs waiting for us when we got there." We had never been to this bar before and did not know if there was an elevator. And so we began thinking of funny scenarios that we could do to get upstairs, if by chance stairs were the only option.

Trust me, the humor in all of this was so much easier to find because we had each other to experience it with. Otherwise, showing up to a place you have never been, meeting someone you have never met before and not only surprising them with your wheelchair, but then asking them to carry you up the stairs, could be pretty intimidating. I'm not saying that neither of us would do something like that on our own, but I just wanted to clarify that I know it is hard to put yourself out there and this was all made possible by pushing each other.

We had out own doubts, fears, and insecurities, but we reminded each other that it really wasn't all that serious. And we laughed. A lot.

This video shows us riding over in the Uber and waiting in line to find out if there was an elevator. You can see the nerves start to grow, especially with Ally. Honestly, Ally is the one who set this date up... and because of that, I think this was more personal for her. I, on the other hand, really didn't care all that much. I was just along for the fun ride and mind-expanding experience.

So, to our slight disappointment, it turned out that there was an elevator. And on that elevator ride up, Ally started to lose it. The reality of what we were about to do was setting in. Taking risks and putting yourself out there is not easy, but both are a must if you really want to have fun.

When the elevator door finally opened on the second floor, I rolled out of there ready and excited to find these guys and watch this all unfold. But as I was looking around for them I realized that Ally was no longer next to me. I turned around and saw her pushing fast towards the corner looking frantic, and I started laughing. I had been waiting for this to happen. This is the normal reaction I had expected from her, but hadn't yet seen. I was actually thinking it was very impressive how confident she was, and had been comparing my own self-confidence to hers. It is funny how we often do that — compare ourselves to others and think that somehow, we are less than — when the truth is, we all struggle with the same things, and no one is perfect.

I rolled over to Ally and, being the sentimental yet blunt person I am, I started encouraging her to work through her feelings, be straight up and then finish what we started!

We decided that I would be the one to up up to them first because, like I said, I didn't have a big stake in all of this and I was ready and willing to present the guys with the initial shock of finding out we were both in wheelchairs.

When I first went up to the guys, I was paying close attention to their facial expressions, their posture, their hands — I was on high alert for any and all judgments they might have of me.

And although I was aware that they may judge me, I was also prepared and aware that it really didn't matter what they thought about me. I didn't know them, and they didn't know me. So any judgment they might have would be their own and have nothing to do with who I am.

I rolled up to the guy closest to me and told him who I was and said, "Surprise! We are in wheelchairs!" and threw my hands up in the air. And I will give it to them, they did a good job of suppressing that initial shock that started to cross their faces. I shook their hands, they started blushing, and I started laughing as Ally rolled up behind me.

After getting past that initial fear, the night went on to be full of laughter, singing, dancing, and a lot of arm wrestling. Really though, I actually ended up arm wrestling guys who weren't even with us.

And here it is: the video after the date was done. You can see the happiness in our faces. You can hear the growth and confidence we just gained in our voices. None of which would have been possible without taking risks, facing our fears, and finding humor in all of it.

And then, the sentimental-me video telling Ally how much I love her.

Healing, learning, and growing are journeys we are all on, and they say no two are the same... but sometimes they are! And when you find that friend who just "gets" you... go do fun things with them!

We actually never saw those guys again after that night. Who knows why it didn't go any further. Who knows where they were in their lives and what they were even looking for. But we had fun. And the moral of the story is that life is full of surprises, and if you want the good surprises, you have to go get them. You have to be strong enough to know that you are just as deserving as anyone else, and that the right person may or may not be out there for you, but why spend your life worrying about that when there are already so many right people in your life right now. Surround yourself with good people who lift you up and push you to be better.

And, overall, just be who you are, do what you want, and have fun.

About the Author

Megan Blunk

Megan Blunk is 29 years old and has a T7 incomplete spinal cord injury from a motorcycle accident she was in at the age of 18. She is a gold medalist in Wheelchair Basketball from the 2016 Paralympic Games, a gold medalist from the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto, Ontario, and a silver medalist from the 2013 Paracanoe World Championships in Duisburg, Germany. Megan is also a former Fighting Illini, where she was awarded a full-ride wheelchair basketball scholarship and earned her master's degree in Social Work and her bachelor's degree in Psychology.

Some of her favorite things to do include playing catch, shooting hoops, listening to music & driving, and spending time with friends and family. She also loves being around animals and especially hanging out with man's best friend.

Megan also struggles with depression, which she has had since she was a child, and has a passion for speaking openly and honestly about it in hopes it will show others struggling in silence that they are not alone. Depression has made Megan's life harder, but she said that her strong belief that everything happens for a reason is what has always kept her going as she continuously tries to better herself and learn from each and every situation. She said that the accident helped her to recognize the things she had been taking for granted and to live a fuller life.

Megan is currently living in San Diego, playing wheelchair basketball for the Sand Diego Wolf Pack - and all-male, all-military team (Megan is neither male nor military), and has just recently made the first cut as she is trying out for the US National Team once again with hopes to compete at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

Megan's ride is a Quickie 7R

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Date: 2/12/2019 12:00:00 AM

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