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RIO DE JANEIRO wall by SEBA CENER

Inspiration beyond labels

Diogo Almeida

Product Support Engineer

Back when Old Trash was first formed, in 2011, grunge was the band’s favorite genre. They have since expanded their range into punk and heavy metal, they have experimented with different rhythms and come up with new things. It was then that the band members realized they didn’t have to restrict themselves to a genre. They had a mission, and this mission required no labels: they wanted to talk about things people could identify with, like pain and overcoming obstacles. Diogo Almeida resembles in many ways the band he founded: just like the band, he, too, doesn’t want to be restricted by labels.

Ever since he was little, Diogo was consumed by his passion for music and for science, driven by the pressing need of understanding how the world works, how rain falls, how gravity operates. At sixteen, he decided to buy his first electric guitar. His dad, ever a stickler for teaching the value of money, said Diogo could work with him at the garage, if he wished, so that he could save enough money for the instrument.

One day, during a break from work, Diogo and his dad stopped at a gas station to buy a snack. It all happened too fast: a group of men started arguing, then they took out their guns and started shooting. Trying to flee the scene, Diogo was shot in the back. He fell down still conscious and trying to understand what had just happened. His dad pulled one of the gas station attendants inside the car and together they drove Diogo to the hospital. Diogo was struggling to breathe and, as far as he can tell, it is true that your life really does flash before your eyes when you’re about to die. He passed out.

In the hospital, they bagged Diogo’s clothes and handed them to his parents, saying that the wounds were too severe and that he wouldn’t make it. But against all odds, and in less than a week, Diogo was already leaving the hospital. The full recovery, of course, took much longer than that, both physically and emotionally. According to him, the wheelchair – which became his primary means of mobility after the incident – is but the visible consequence of what he went through.

In the beginning, he was afraid of going outside, and for a while he wouldn’t leave the house. Until his dad told him he had two options: either to lie down and hide forever, or to live. Diogo chose life: “I realized my life wasn’t over, it had just changed,” he says. From then on, he began to play even more instruments: on top of the electric guitar, he learned the violin and the harmonica, to name just a few. He went back to school, faced his classmates’ initial withdrawal, and learned how to use humor to defuse potential situations of prejudice. “When people feel sorry for me, I cannot help but to feel sorry for them. Where are my limitations? Would anyone say that Stephen Hawking was limited? The limitations are in the mind of those who claim that I am unable to do something,” he argues.

Diogo sees the whole process he went through as fundamental to his own personal growth: what it might have taken him years to assimilate, took him only a few hours after the accident.

Before the wheelchair, I used to do crazy things. I broke my wrist, I cut open my chin, my forehead. I used to skate while holding on to buses. And then, all of a sudden, that boy who believed himself to be indestructible was now lying in a hospital bed. In a matter of hours, the boy became a man. I settled down and began to think about studying, about having a future.

Today, being at SAP also fulfills this need. For him, the most interesting part [of the job] is to be constantly challenged and stimulated. “They are interested in what Diogo can bring to the table, they want to hear what I have to say and what my ideas are. Many of the places that hire people with disabilities seem to do that out of obligation, and I would never want to be hired just because of that.Here they didn’t see the wheelchair, they saw Diogo,” he says. This doesn’t mean, of course, that the wheelchair can be overlooked: accessibility is a key factor, and it should be taken into account in both public and private environments.

Now, as a 24-year-old man who thinks about the future, Diogo plans to finish college and to buy a car as soon as possible. Despite not being very attached to materialpossessions, a car would greatly help him to go to places where public transportation still fails at providing inclusive accessibility. On top of that, Old Trash – which was on a year-long hiatus – has decided to make a comeback by popular request. The fans have recently taken to social media to complain about the band’s absence precisely when it was on the rise – in 2016 they opened a concert for Angra, an internationally acclaimed Brazilian power metal band.

Soon enough Old Trash will get together again to resume its original mission: to inspire and to encourage people to keep on fighting, no matter which obstacles stand in the way – a commitment that Diogo will also uphold offstage.

Excerpt of the song Cancer, by Old Trash. Written by Diogo:

And if you think the hole has no end

We can dig deeper

And if you think you lost the game

We can play again

And if you think that is the end

It’s time to go back to the past

And if you can’t go to heaven

We can live forever

Address of graffiti art: 48, Jogo da Bola St. – Morro da Conceição | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil