As of late, I’ve been watching, or listening to more like, ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’ as my background noise while I write content for this blog. Of course I knew of the show before. I initially heard of it when that fateful season 4 school shooting episode aired. It was the shooting that saw Drake’s character, Jimmy Brooks, bound to a wheelchair. I just finished the 5th season of the show, and let me tell you, seasons 4 and 5 were absolutely intense. But I loved it. Some compared seasons 4 and 5 to the Stars Wars trilogy, and I must say that they’re totally right. Drake’s, or may I say Jimmy Brooke’s, storyline after the shooting was my favourite, which was why I was so utterly surprised when I read that Drake, the actor, initially wanted to quit the show after his character was bound to a wheelchair.
His co-stars opened up to fans that it was because Drake wasn’t comfortable playing a disabled man when he really wasn’t. He changed his mind when someone reminded him that he could be the representation that the disabled community, the largest minority out there, so lacked at the time, and to be honest, still do. In the 4th and 5th seasons of the show, Jimmy navigates his new life as a disabled person and comes to terms with the fact that he will never, ever be the same as he used to be whereas people around him, specifically his father and his girlfriend, saw him as being just the same. He ends up breaking up with his girlfriend a year after being shot mainly because she refused to see the person he became after the event that changed his life forever, and in a way, started anew.
I never resonated with Jimmy Brooks. I was always disabled. I was born with cerebral palsy. I’ve never known a life where I’m an able-bodied person. Whereas he was absolutely healthy, and due to an accident, had to relearn and adapt to a brand new life. It wasn’t until I started watching the story-line again recently that I really understood the character and what he really went through. That’s because I went through the exact same notion when I was first diagnosed with epilepsy.
When such a life-changing event happens to you, you become a completely different person. It’s not like you become a different person on person. But rather, it just comes naturally. The things that were once important to you seem so small. The people that were closest to you are now the farthest. The interests and hobbies you once had now seem boring for you. And when you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness at an adult age like me, you have no choice but to change your lifestyle completely if you want to survive.
When Jimmy was out of the hospital after being shot, he was understandably depressed that his life completely changed and consistently looked for someone to blame. I related to that. For years, I was grieving the life I had to eave behind. I wanted my old life back desperately, and it wasn’t until about 5 years after my diagnosis that I had to embrace the life that I have. I consistently looked for people to blame for my downfall, but at the end of the day, no one is to blame at all. Even those who did bad things to me and mistreated me weren’t to blame. They took advantage of my vulnerability, yes. But they weren’t to blame. If I were to point fingers, I’d be pointing the fingers at myself.
In the years that followed my diagnosis, I felt completely lost. I didn’t know who I was as I lost my sense of identity. I so desperately wanted to be the same as I used to be before the car accident that cost me my health, but that person was gone. It was like that part of me had died. I spent so much of my time just being angry at the world and at the universe for turning my life upside down. I didn’t know what I did to deserve it. Now looking back, I realize that my diagnosis was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. It gave me a sense of strength and I never knew of, both physically and mentally. It gave me a sense of stability and awareness that I never had before in my life.
The first few seasons of ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’ saw Jimmy’s passion in basketball. He wanted to have a future in the sport. After the shooting, he attempted to continue his basketball dream, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The passion he had before was gone. His father tried his best to force Jimmy to love the sport again, but to avail, and rightfully so. Instead, Jimmy fund his new passion in art. For me personally, writing, an art in itself, was my passion before the fateful car accident that changed my lie completely. That’s why I got into freelancing and dropped blogging. It was only many years later that my passion was born again. I was back to my old self again and I realized I needed to bring my passion back no matter how hard it will. The harder it is, the more worth it is. Not everyone has the same story as Jimmy when it comes finding art through trauma, but art definitely is a life-changing experience you find through trauma. Jim Carey said in an interview he found his passion for art through trauma, and he created the most beautiful art as a coping method.
What I saw in Jimmy’s character development was love and embrace. It wasn’t love and embrace between lovers, or friends, or family. It was a love and embrace between one’s self. He began to love himself wholeheartedly and embrace his new life as a disabled man. His character is important to disabled people, specifically disabled people, as a representation, absolutely. But it’s more than that. Jimmy Brooks represents those individuals who become disabled later in life. I didn’t have Jimmy Brooks to help me through my life altering trauma. But so many ‘Degrassi’ fans do, and they will become better through it. Jimmy Brooks shows that life doesn’t end after becoming disable later in life, but rather, a new beginning of your life starts to blossom, and that’s the beauty of trauma. Drake, or Jimmy Brooks, shows its young audience that trauma doesn’t have to be so tragic.