My Bag


My name is Jameela Jamil. Welcome To I Weigh Community.

Two years ago we started an Instagram account to try to create a safe and radically inclusive space on social media. A lot of us want to help others and change the world for the better, but don’t know where to start.

Activism can seem daunting. Sometimes it’s just hard and lonely. At I Weigh Community, we don’t believe it has to be that way. We believe in brick-by-brick activism, and making a difference in large numbers. We’re going to have to come together and do this as one to really shift the narrative of our society.

I Weigh Community will introduce you to new voices, artists, activists and movements. These are the people we believe we need to listen to. We are still learning, and we’re inviting you to come and learn alongside us so we can all grow together. It’s never too late to want to help and understand each other better.

This movement is so important to me, and I look forward to getting to know you all.

Jam x

It’s no surprise that when we’re in pain, we like to have something, or someone, to blame. Perhaps fate has chosen a pitiful destiny laid out just for you, or a mistake that was made in the past has found a way to torment you in the present. As a person with a disability, I have encountered these thoughts on multiple occasions all in hopes of seeking answers regarding my own destiny, sometimes questioning one all together. But, as I’ve come to learn, destiny is not really what the universe has in store for you. Destiny is what you make of what is given to you.

When my mother had me, she was completely unaware of the journey she was about to face. I was a healthy child, I had all the little toes and fingers that she would count and sing songs about and I would laugh, just like any other child would. However as most children would eventually start squirming around and crawl to their mothers during playtime, I had trouble even lifting my head. After six months of searching across Ukraine, I was finally diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. With limited resources in our hometown of Chernivtsi, Ukraine, we moved to Los Angeles to seek medical care. At 22 years old, my mom had to leave her life behind in order to save mine. In that moment, she realized that although this wasn’t the path she was anticipating, it was her destiny.

Growing up, it was strange to have to adapt to circumstances that weren’t under my own control. I knew the science behind my condition— a flaw in one of my genes meant my body did not produce enough of a protein that is vital for motor neurons to send signals to the muscles in my body. Over time my body progressively got weaker, but I always struggled to find a reason behind why I was “chosen” to be disabled. It took me many years to acknowledge it, but I recognized that this instinct we have to put blame on others leads to what is best described as a cycle of dread, where we build up resentment and never learn to fully accept and love ourselves because we are caught in a hamster wheel continuously thinking “what if my life was just a little different?” These thoughts held me back from excelling in life and showcasing my strengths because I spent all of my energy comparing myself to others. I knew that the only way to escape this cycle was to finally give up on society’s definition of perfection and create my own definition by standing out in a sea of identical people.

I always struggled to find a reason behind why I was “chosen” to be disabled.

As a disabled person, I feel as though society never expected someone like me to be able to “contribute in a meaningful way”. Ever since I was in elementary school, others would be surprised when I was scoring at the top of my class in exams and assignments. In public, I would often never get spoken to directly, or I would be infantilized. In other instances, people often thought of me as an “inspiration”, or as a reminder that they “could’ve had it worse in life”. While these incidents decreased as I got older, I still encounter people who undermine my worth or imply that my life is not worth living. This statement is ingrained in people’s minds through everyday media and often causes people to fall for the misconception that people with disabilities hold less value than those without disabilities. While these underlying prejudices may never entirely go away, I found that coming to terms with my lifestyle and discovering my own value as opposed to having others define it was key to unlocking my drive to push myself and succeed. 

I never wanted to be recognized as “the girl in the wheelchair”, but my disability was a part of my reality that I simply couldn’t erase. So, I took the part of my identity that was weighing me down, and I reevaluated my worth based on my strengths as opposed to my weaknesses. I was no longer destined to live a life of self-pity, because I knew my “destiny” was a direct result of my own actions. This way of thinking applies to all situations, not just mine. Regardless of our individualized circumstances, we all have something worth bringing to the table, and the moment we are able to recognize that is the moment that each member of our society can begin creating their own destiny. 

I took the part of my identity that was weighing me down, and I reevaluated my worth based on my strengths as opposed to my weaknesses.

My challenges, although they’re different from others, are what shape me. In spite of the limitations I was born with, I’ve molded my destiny like a ductile metal. I took pride in my differences and became the 5th grade president of my school. I was a lead in films and showcases at my performance arts middle school, utilizing my wheelchair as a creative prop rather than being ashamed of it. In high school, I joined the Academic Decathlon team where I was the first wheelchair user to get 1st place in Division 1 of the speech competition in the state of California. Outside of school, I became a part of a professional wheelchair dance company, I volunteered and helped a camp for those with disabilities and chronic illnesses raise money, and I was featured in telethons and interviews that all questioned how I handled my destiny. Well, I did it by taking advantage of what I have, and in my case, my mind and my determination are my most powerful assets. There are many people who are inclined to choose comfort over challenge, and while in some circumstances it is a necessity, there are other circumstances in which being afraid to step out of their comfort zone leaves people undefined in this world. Many have everything handed to them in life, and still end up with nothing, while others have very little and accomplish great things. I see this as proof that destiny lies in our hands.

My fate is one that belongs to 1 in 10,000 births, but my destiny is truly mine. Many may be facing significant obstacles that put them in multiple marginalized categories, and they may begin to lose hope and no longer see a reason to succeed. However, success is found when people are able to find a balance between their struggles and follow their ambitions. Through my ambitions my destiny has led me to UCLA, where I am getting the opportunity to study amongst some of the best in the country while I’m in the process of obtaining a bachelors in Environmental Science. Even as a first year student, I made a vow to never let my disability discourage me from having a full college experience, and so I am dorming on campus, I joined a wonderful sorority where I have met some of the most uplifting people in my life, and I plan on interning with an environmental science organization on campus in the near future.

It took me over 16 years to find the courage to fully embrace my destiny. Though I have envied my classmates for the strength they have been gifted with, the urge to not let my disability define me has let me believe in my capabilities and define my own future. My voice may be weak, but what matters is that I can be heard. I find myself pushing my boundaries every day to navigate my way to the destiny I carved out for myself. What I have found is people treat life like an obscure maze, when in reality, life leads a clear path to success for those who wish to see it.


  • Karen Dutko is an 18 year old Environmental Science Major who currently attends UCLA. She is a passionate advocate for disability awareness and she is keen on spreading her message across the world. When she isn’t studying for exams, you can find her spending time with her sorority, showing school spirit at football games, and catching up on her favorite TV shows.

    Photo Credit: Karen Dutko