Sharing Perspectives on Disability Pride Month by Richard Nakai
Back in October 2000, the staff at UCLA HELP Group had something to say about my diagnosis. They told my mom and me, “Don’t expect too much from him and don’t put too much pressure on him.” It was a relief for my mom to finally have an answer to the puzzle that had been bothering me since preschool until my freshman year of high school. But for me, I was determined to “fix” myself.
Hey there, I’m Tsukasa Richard Nakai, but you can just call me Richard. From my freshman year until 2021, I was really hard on myself, both emotionally and verbally. No matter what I accomplished, I never gave myself credit for it. And if I made a mistake, oh boy, I’d beat myself up over it, like a dog feeling guilty about making a mess. But then, last year, I got chosen to be part of the 6th class in Leadership Best Buddies. We had these group sessions with Dr. Greg Nelson, where we delved into our strengths. And guess what? One of my top strengths, connectedness, stood out like a sore thumb! It didn’t make sense to me at first. How could that be a strength? But then, it hit me like a lightbulb moment—I realized I could build bridges and help guide others.
One of my colleagues challenged me to accept all parts of myself and take pride in my work. See, I always saw myself as just another cog in the machine, nothing special. But now, understanding the value of what I do, I’ve let go of the pursuit of “Perfectionism.” I’ve come to accept that I’m perfect just the way I am. And you know what? Landing my dream career and getting my first job ever felt amazing. I’m forever grateful for that opportunity.
As we celebrate Disability Pride Month, I reflect on everything I’ve accomplished and everything I continue to do. It still puzzles me sometimes, but you know what? I just shrug it off and keep moving forward!