You know what I hate more than anything? When someone says anyone with a disability or illness is an inspiration because they just happen to have a disability or an illness. To me, Erin Koecki Vest is not an inspiration because she is fighting a severe illness. I find her inspiring as a mother, as a passionate advocate for others, for her liberal views, and for her undying love and support for her husband and children. Whether she has Lupus or not is irrelevant. It is her passion for life and zest for equality that inspire me every day.
I met Erin on Twitter a few years ago. She is known as @QueenofSpain. I liked her name instantly. A little known fact about me is that at four years old, I apparently declared myself the reincarnation of the Queen of Spain in response to my parent asking “Who do you think you are, the queen?” I had no idea then where Spain was. It was one of those eerie little kid talking about places and people they have no knowledge of kind of moments as I knew names, places, and a wealth of information about a former Queen of Spain. Regardless, I felt an immediate kinship to Erin because of this, whether she knew it or not.
After meeting on Twitter we connected on Facebook. We chatted occasionally. I had no idea she had Lupus. I learned her husband worked on films and I am studying Motion Pictures. I learned she was a reporter and she had children, one who was struggling with a potential “invisible” disability. I have a son with Aspergers, Bi Polar, and ADHD, so I could relate. I saw her many, liberal rants about politics. We share many of the same views.
As I got to know Erin I realized we shared a lot of the same beliefs – about family, a love for Detroit sports, and a rich Polish heritage. We grew up only an hour apart with long Polish last names. I am a bit younger than her, but not by much. I also learned we shared many of the same struggles. I have watched as Erin has come to need a wheelchair and understood her as I had been there myself, a decade earlier. I have read about her struggles with healthcare and having to get assistance. I have felt the political struggles she has fought online personally as we have often come from the same place, both having “disabilities” if you will, which allow for insurance and governmental abuse.
Erin struggles every day because of Lupus. Her children have had to sit by and watch her go in and out of the hospital. They have experienced so much and yet they seem to be very well adjusted, happy, caring children. In spite of her struggles with Lupus, Erin and her husband, Aaron, have raised their kids to be unique individuals. They have raised them to care about their family, but also strangers on the street. Erin has raised these children not to see themselves as better than others, but as compassionate human beings. I am proud to know Erin because of this. There are not enough kids being raised to think for themselves, to be strong and independent, but also to love their fellow (wo)man. It makes me worried for our future, with so many self-serving children being raised to believe they are better and deserve better than others.
I commend Erin for resisting the status quo. It’s hard, in a world where conforming seems the easy route, to allow our kids the freedom to be as “weird” [sic] as our kids can be. We do not want them to hurt. We want them to be able to fit in. We want them to have friends. We want them to be able to hide their differences so they are not teased for them. Erin, instead, is teaching her children to embrace their differences. She has a son with OCD and Tourettes and yet she feeds his interests in the solar system and Stephen Hawking. Her daughter has a crazy style of dressing that might not always match in conventional ways, and yet Erin encourages her to dress how she feels, often allowing her to express herself in adorably vibrant ways. These are happy children living in a time when not many children can truly experience happiness.
The reason Erin has succeeded at raising such great kids is because she herself is an ardent supporter of the people. She fights for the rights of those with disabilities and illnesses, the GLBT community, children, women, and other minorities. She supports free speech and free thought. She is not afraid to speak her mind and put bigots in their place. I read her well-thought-out rants on politics and it gets me fired up. It demands my own response. Erin experiences our joy with us and cries with us at the sadness we have endured as minorities. She truly cares, in a world where not many do anymore.
So…let it be said that I do not admire Erin because of Lupus, but in spite of Lupus. In spite of Lupus she is still living her life as a fighter for the people, as a fighter for her kids, and in the process is still fighting for herself.
To learn about Erin Kotecki Vest visit her website at: http://queenofspainblog.com/