As I said on my “About” page everyone’s definition of success is different. I also have no intention of providing a step by step, “how-to” guide, so even if your definition of success is different from mine I hope you will be encouraged to move toward your own goals as I press forward to mine day by day.
Here is my overall definition of success: I want to live a life of integrity and joy. I want to one day have a family of my own, but, as I wait for that, I want to be a blessing to the one I have. Financially, I want to be debt-free. I want to be able to live a life monetarily where I can freely give to others while taking care of myself and my family. Professionally, I want to work for a place that has the mission of working with those who have been marginalized in society to give them the tools to push out and life truly free lives.
For me, it helps to have these goals categorized.
Integrity and Joy:
Memorize “Jesus in Every Book of the Bible”
Read 2 Psalms and 1 Chapter of Proverbs a day
Call at least two family members that I don’t see that often once a week
Be involved in the family gatherings that are here.
Get everyone’s birthdays, and send cards
Pray about relationships daily
Work hard at my current full-time job
Pay down debt, don’t use credit cards.
Develop the skills necessary to be successful at working for the health care business I work with
Create Overview video for health company, create business-end video, create grabber video
Re-work Budget, stick to it!
Apply for two new jobs a week
Learn about “Cold Networking”
Post on professional sites at least 2 times a week
Driving lessons; work on finding ways to afford a car and the car insurance
So much of what I am facing is so I will JUST KEEP REACHING
I have been struggling with so many things. I think a lot of it has to do with falling into the comparison trap. I go on Facebook, I go on Instagram and I see so many of my friends living lives that look so good. It looks like they have the jobs they need to provide for themselves and their families, it looks like they are traveling and seeing things that I feel like I can only dream of seeing.
Some of it is because I personally struggle with sugar-coating life and looking through rose-colored glasses while obvious injustice, pain, and chaos occurring around me. Whether these things are on a personal level, communal level, national level or international level I can’t stop these things from bothering me. Sometimes, I have been accused of allowing things like these to weigh on me too much–hence my sometimes gloomy outlook–and slightly paralyzing depression at times. When I look at the realities of my life, what’s going on around me, and I feel as if there is nothing I can do to change anything all my energy drains from me and I lose my desire to function beyond necessity. It takes friends, family, and activity to move me forward again.
I have been in this “comparison trap-gloomy state-paralyzing depression” cycle for months. I had time periods when I thought I was breaking out of the cycle. I would be good for a few days and then somehow, I would be back in that cycle again. A few weeks ago I finally broke. Someone I cared about got hurt and I didn’t feel secure in my life either. I barely made it through that month financially and I saw photos of friends with their kids, friends traveling, friend putting up statuses about their new jobs. I just cried out to God, kept asking Him what I did wrong, asking him when He would be done punishing me, I kept telling God I was so sorry and that I was trying so hard to obey Him and do the right thing.
That night I also talked to a mentor and friend of mine. She reminded me that God does not work the way I was interacting with Him. She told me that she did not believe God put us in circumstances to punish us but rather to have us grow closer to him. That night, after talking to her, I realized I had been only sporadically spending time with God. I heard a sermon a few days later on my podcasts where God was like a good “green light” daddy. God looks forward to giving us the desires of our heart. He just also wants us to spend time with Him so we can learn to delight in Him and; in turn delight in the same things He does. So, as hard as the movement from survival to success has turned out to be–I’m learning it’s about maintaining my relationship with Him and to JUST KEEP REACHING!
I have not written in a while, again. Sorry. To be honest with you, I have been at the failure stage of this “success journey” for a long time. I thought; well, everyone goes online to escape reality, why would anyone want to read about my current failure stage? So, you may not want to, and that’s fine you can stop here if you would like, but, I promise you I actually have something significant and ((((gasp)))) positive that I have been learning through this time.
I have been job searching for over a year and a half–I have had only one promising lead–which fell through because of lack of funding. I have been applying for jobs five days a week, and I am becoming more and more drained by my circumstances. Some days, I come home and just cry. My mind has a field day with me. I hear the lies of my past the realities of the statistics for people with disabilities in the workforce and I feel the crushing weight my daily routine. As of late, I have been really struggling to find any meaning in what I do on a regular basis. Outside of my faith, the only thing that fills me with any kind of residual hope and strength is getting to see the man I love slowly bring his dreams to fruition.
Almost two weeks ago I came home emotionally drained, so drained I nearly fell back into an old habit. One that I know would have achieved nothing, except; maybe temporary emotional relief. I got through the night with the help, not some friends and my boyfriend. The next morning, somehow, I woke up with the determination to do things differently. I’m not sure where that reserve of courage came from, but I am thankful for it even now. That morning, I listened to a chapter of a book called Kingdom Woman by Tony Evans and Krystal Evans Hearst. The chapter I listened to happened to be on being “a Woman of Excellence.”
This chapter made me think, should I be pursuing success at all? In seeking success am I asking God for gold and riches, rather than Solomon’s right request of wisdom? Should I instead be pursuing excellence? The author’s of Kingdom Woman define excellence as something that is available to all not all just a select few; like success. Excellence is not concerned with how you compare with others [Excuse me while a colossal weight gets lifted off my shoulders!] but it is concerned with your individual potential and who you are supposed to be. Who you and I were meant to be; not anyone else. Here is my favorite part: EXCELLENCE IS NOT PERFECTION!! Excellence is doing all you can with all you have at that moment.
Here is the part where I think living a life of excellence is like Solomon asking God to grant him wisdom above riches and prestige–and then God giving him everything in the end. Excellence like wisdom is not merely a one time gift that we all have access to but, as the authors of Kingdom Woman go on to say, “excellence shows up more in the smaller things than, the bigger things. It is a pattern. It is a lifestyle.” Excellence may not always be as recognizable to people as success, but I believe it is a worthwhile pursuit. If only for my own wellbeing to know that I did my best and put excellence into everything I did.
Last night was a difficult evening. I didn’t get something I really wanted. I also thought it was something that was a “slam dunk.” Logically, I know God is in control and that He is absolutely and always good. As long as I kept myself busy with activity, I did well; held on to the truth I know and believe. But, as soon as the action stopped that “chatterbox” full of lies started attacking me. What makes it hard is that it isn’t just the simple verbal garbage I have heard throughout my life–it’s researched backed statistics. When I start to think of those statistics I wonder, why bother? See it’s research, statistics, and thoughts like these that make me give up. On most things, it’s for a short time, but other goals and dreams have faded and died because of this process. So, this morning to fight another temptation to give up I started writing a goals list:
Get a new job in Boston
Why: I love Nick, and I know that God has more for us, and being separated by 6+ hours of a public transit commute works for now–but will not work on a permanent basis; Boston is more accessible and has a much more lively, active disability community. I need a job where I am not just scraping by to survive and where I am actually treated with respect and dignity.
Steps: 1. keep applying, 2. keep reaching out to my network, 3. keep my head up, 4. cold emailing, 5. Don’t QUIT
2. Get Certified in American Sign Language
Why: I learned Sign Language at the School for children with disabilities that I went to when I was little. I stopped using sign language when I went to Public School but when my dad got re-married my stepmother reintroduced Sign Language. I loved it all over again. Knowing sign language well enough to be an interpreter will give me more of an in with a part of the disability community that I care about. I also see this as a way to possibly serve in churches to make them accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing. Also, won’t lie, I could totally use the extra income of a certified interpreter.
Steps 1. wake up early enough to spend 45 minutes in the morning practicing my sign language, 2. when I have practiced enough find groups on Long Island where I can practice my skills 3. Practice, Practice, Practice 4. DON’T QUIT 5. Take Certification exam
3. Gym (Health)
Why: Mainly because it makes me feel good! I like going to the gym it gives me a natural endorphin rush that really makes me feel good. For the first time in my life, I don’t look at myself with disgust when I put my clothes on. I also need to go. Strength training makes walking easier and less painful for me. Also, I work for a health company part-time, if I am not taking care of my health how will that reflect on the company itself?!
Steps 1. reset my alarm clock that is across the room so that when my medication reminder goes off in the morning, I don’t just take my medicine and go back to sleep but I actually get up! 2. go to the gym first thing in the morning for strength training, 3. keep eating the right food and using my Melelucca products, 4. go to the gym after work for endurance training, 5. Don’t Quit!
Why: Because I can’t live this existence anymore. I have worked so hard in my life and none of it is paying off at all. My Degrees are simply tokens that have lead me into an enormous amout of debt. I do not want to enter any future relationship dragging my debt with me, as much as people laugh at me I refuse to be another American in a large amount of debt living paycheck to paycheck having anxiety everytime I get hit with the “unforseen.” The “unforseen” happens a lot more often than anyone cares to admit; I’ve come to see.
Steps 1. Don’t Quit–I was considering this recently. 2. Don’t be attached to outcomes 3. talk to more people 4. be more intentional 5. Master Social Media Marketing (SMM)
Why: Because I love writing, I have a story to tell. I don’t think I have the right to tell it until I have moved past this survival mode but in the meantime I can write about how to keep you hope, confidence and motivation intact so that even though you feel like you are going three steps foward and two and a half steps back–you can stay focused on that half step foward. Bloging ang SMM is the way to be heard in this increasingly noisy world–I have to be heard in order to be seen for my value.
Steps: 1. read the materials I have on blogging and SMM, set up a weekly schedule for posting across the diffrent platforms, 3. stay consistant. 4. Don’t Quit!
6. Do well at my current job
Why: It’s where God has placed me right now. I am not working to please people but I am working as unto the One who created me. I am to do my best to maintain my work eithic and contribute whatever I can to the agency. When I am given the opportunity to move up, I want to leave them with a good flavor in their mouth.
Steps: 1. Be early, 2. return from lunch on time, 3. finish data entry in a reasoanle time frame, 4. take a grant writing course, 5 re-start the agency newsletter, 6 volunteer to help where/when possible. 7. Come in early enough or stay a bit late to clean out organize desk, 8. Don’t Quit–till it’s time.
7. Driver’s License
Why: Even when I do get to an accessible city it will still be good to have access to a car, that way we are never stuck anywhere. I can travel to non-transit cities and not be dependent on figuring out who is going to be around in order to plan everything.
Steps: 1. reschedule my lessons, 2. check with my brother and see if he will let me practice with him (he has an adapted car and this will give me more practice, 3. Simulations? 4. Don’t get anxious about finances 5. Don’t Quit!!!
I have been silent for quite a while. Sorry. I was busy traveling and then thinking things through. While I was away, I started reading three books. (Yes, I am one of those weirdos who reads several books at once.) One of the books that I began to read was Lean In by Sheryl Sanberg. Disclaimer: I read this book back when it was first published in 2012, but I was reading it with a different perspective in mind. I remembered learning a lot, feeling like someone was finally telling me the truth about what I was going to be facing as a woman about to hit the workforce. Now, In 2015, three years after entering the workforce I needed a refresher, a dose of hope and a reminder that I am not alone.
After reading the introduction and first two chapters, something important for me clicked. I know this is going to sound like a “no-brainer, ” but sometimes, I’m a little slow. I need to be and stay positive. But, at times there are people around me that I swear ” eat rainbows” for breakfast and “ride unicorns” to work. Their constant positivity used to make me think they needed a reality check. Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized–that rainbow eating, unicorn riding people–that’s who everyone else wants to be around.
I’m not saying I’m going to paint on a fake smile and lose my authenticity. I have never been good at faking anything. But, I am going to start doing everything I can to be authentically happy. Authentically grateful, authentically filled with joy. I know it is possible. I have met people who have survived worse situations than my own, who have had to “start over” more often than I have, who are without support and yet they truly have joy.
Cultivating this joyful authenticity isn’t going to happen over night, but I know it can happen. The first thing two things I am going to start doing is reading a Psalm of gratitude and listing 3-5 things that I am grateful for on a daily basis. I am going to need people to hold me accountable to these tasks. I will create an extra tab here titled “Gratitude Challenge.” Usually, I have done really good at this for a couple of weeks tops, but then, I taper off. Please hold me accountable!
Click here to see the many benefits of practicing gratitude.
At the bottom of a friend’s email under her name it reads, “Adapt and Overcome.” She says that statement a lot, and I had come to adopt it as a personal mantra, After all, people with disabilities, such as myself, spend their lives adapting and overcoming. It’s a matter of survival more than choice. I suppose we could choose instead to sit in institutions, collect SSI nd die; but I can promise you a majority of us that can make the cognitive choice don’t want this kind of existence.
After the “Die-in” at Senator McConnell’s office on Thursday, June 22, 2017, I realized that the mantra od “adapt and overcome is not only unrealistic but very limiting as well. Mantras aren’t supposed to limit a person–they are meant to propel you forward into the limitless. Life and society have trained me to “adapt and overcome” but I think a much better mantra for me is “adapt and resist.”
I have been trying to adapt and overcome since the day I was born. Sure, It’s gotten me further than anyone expected. I could sit here and list the ways I have adapted and overcome. That would fill you with nice, warm, inspirational feelings. But, I hate to tell you–I am not here ti be anyone’s “inspiration.” I am here to live the life I was created to live and be an active member of society (yes, that very society that wants to leave me on the sidelines). Adapting and overcoming has directly made me an inspirational chess piece in society’s game of “good feelings.” I’m done playing the adapt and overcome game. That game is for society’s momentary benefit not their long term benefit or for my benefit at all. It’s time for me to “adapt and resist.”
For those of you who don’t know, which is probably many, if not the majority; “Adapt and Resist” is the call of ADAPT. ADAPT is an active, in-your-face, non-violent disability rights group who has forged inroads for the disability community here in America and overseas for generations. Here in America, the actions led by this group got people with disabilities access to busses and other forms of public transit, this group got individuals with disabilities access to buildings and education as well. It was because of their actions that Independent Living Centers were formed and major pieces of Legislation pushed into the forefront of the American awareness. People in ADAPT didn’t just try to hop up on sidewalks with their wheelchairs they took sledgehammers to the sidewalks and made curb cuts.
I am no longer going to play the part of someone who has managed to “hop up on a sidewalk.” I now have my sledgehammer in hand. My work ethic is outstanding; I go above and beyond in my job every day, yet the woman who everyone knows shops all day is treated with more respect? “Hop up on the sidewalk” would have told me to keep working hard–they will respect you–things will get better. The sledgehammer in my hand says to me, moonlight with an online health company and search for another job where I will be seen for my skills and abilities. I have two masters degrees, published journal articles on hiring practices and over five years of work experience and here I sit as a receptionist being paid below the poverty line for where I live. “Hop on the sidewalk,” tells me don’t worry, things will get better, you may even get a license and be able to afford a car. The sledgehammer in my hand screams, “get the hell out of here! Why live somewhere where people with disabilities aren’t actively in the community? Why stay somewhere where constant inaccessibility screams rejection?”
I’ve been foolishly living a disillusioned life that says if I adapt and overcome things will change. No, they won’t. If I want a better life, I need to “Adapt and Resist” one sledgehammer swing at a time.
I started reading the book When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi Wednesday afternoon during my lunch break. I only made it through the Preface and the Forward so far, but I can tell you that there was nothing in me that wanted to put the book down and go back to work, except for the fact that I don’t want to be fired. Minor details. The books’ forward begins with, what I can assume is, close to the end of the story. This provoked a thought within me: What if I were to write the forward to my book now? So many people have encouraged me to write a book, and I never can think of where to begin. Why not start with some highlight of an ending?
I carefully am slicing the vegetables go into this evening’s beef stew. My hands shake a bit as I slice (One of the joys of having Cerebral Palsy). I slide the sliced vegetables off of the cutting board and into the pot. As I smell the aroma of the preparations of tonight’s meal I can’t help but smile. My family and I live a simple life, but we love it. My husband is sitting at his desk in his office working on a website that he just picked up from a new client. Sometimes when I hear him making groaning noises I worry he is ripping his hair out; but only for a few seconds before I just laugh inside. He may be frustrated when he lets out that groan, but I also know he loves what he does and he’ll figure it out. Like me, he was told be many he would never make it. Now, he is a CEO of a web design company that focuses on accessibility in web design. I won’t lie when he first started his endeavor I was nervous for him, afraid at times he would lose the roof over his head or not have food to eat. He always assured me that he had backup plans. I always prayed for him; that he would never have to go to any of his backup plans. Now as I listen to him type away at his keyboard my nerves are not bothered by his work. Now they are split over other things instead!
I put the lid on the pot to let the stew simmer for forty-five minutes. As the stew simmers, I make sure everything else is prepared for the meal and set the table. Two adult settings and one for our small toddler who is right now, thankfully entertained by the toys in their playpen. The newest addition to our family is miraculously sleeping in their infant seat less than a 20 feet away. Usually, things are not this peaceful and in a half an hour I’m sure either one or both of them will be crying for a need to be met. As I look at both of our children not only do I consider the current peacefulness a miracle but I consider their very existence a miracle. I know, in reality, the existence of any life is a miracle, but my husband and I were faced with particular challenges in creating this family.
I am not going to go into all of them right now, but one of the first ones we encountered was that before we even got married, we wanted to be financially stable. Not a bad idea. Both of us, however, have Cerebral Palsy a disability that is considered a “targeted disability” when it comes to workforce statistics. My husband was smarter than I was and figured out much earlier in his life that he would have to forge his path to know financial stability. Me, well, not so much. I had this disillusioned belief until my early thirties that if I got the right degrees, did internships, kept connections and worked hard that I would get a good job. Granted, this had seemed to be working until I was twenty-nine and a man who will only be known as “M” throughout this story tried to destroy me. After my experience with “M,” I had to start at the bottom of the totem pole in the workforce again as if I never went to school, had no experience. It was one of the most bittersweet times of my life.
Eventually, through some exceptional circumstances, I broke into the corporate world getting my first corporate job right outside of Boston MA in a human resources department. This was such a blessing because when I first met my husband he lived in Massachusetts and I used to live in New York. A long distance relationship for anyone can be difficult. A long distance relationship for two people with disabilities on low incomes; even more so. How did I break into the corporate world, one in which I have been able to stay in, grow in and love? Well, all in all, it’s a long story. But as my husband puts it; I found my “Mr. Johnson” (this is a reference to “Mr. Johnson from NASA as portrayed in the 2017 movie “Hidden Figures.” My current company was able to look past societal prejudices, misconceptions, and statistics–and they took a chance on hiring me–an individual with a “targeted disability.”
Things weren’t always like this and trust me, the scene before me now is a rarity. It is almost never this peaceful; things hardly ever go this smoothly. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I burn the stew simply because I’m lost in the moment! Thankfully, my family thinks “burnt” is a natural food flavoring! Yes, my life was, is and probably always will be a little crazy. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I mean how else would you get a book like this in your hands?
Before you turn the page to the first chapter, I feel like I should be fair and tell you some of the stories you will read about. That way you can brace yourself; at least somewhat. Let’s see there’s the time when “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel became my family’s theme song for me. Not to mention, the “beer bag” story. Oh and the one about how I told God I would never be stupid enough to love another man, and I was fine being single. Yeah, Cerebral Palsy is brain damage caused at birth I think that’s how my mind justified allowing me to go back on that one, the heart; that is a story all on its own! Feel ready? No? Oh well, here goes nothing…
*This forward is “just for fun,” it can be edited changed and rearranged at any time. And actual forward in books are much longer–this is a blog post. So all of you reading this, flipping out, quit it. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9). I am just having fun with the desires of my heart, but I know that God is the one the writes my story and I am wonderful with that.
I fell off the grid again. I was told that if I wanted the writing of a blog to be successful, I should write on it four to five times a week. I have been failing at that miserably. I love writing, but there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.
So here is the latest update: I have applied to many jobs in Boston, MA. (I have seriously lost count). I have heard nothing from most and have gotten clear rejections from the rest. Most of the silence and straight rejections have not bothered me but yesterday I received a rejection, and I just wanted to quit. I was near tears at the end of the day and instead of doing anything useful I went home sat on the couch, binge ate (a weird combination of food by the way: popcorn, cheese, harvest grain crackers, frozen mangos, frozen peaches and I think even some Challah), and caught up on some season finale’s of my favorite shows (Elementary, NCIS New Orleans, Bule Bloods and Bull). I also put my boyfriend through the ringer with my depressive texts.
I don’t know why this rejection, in particular, bothered me. I just couldn’t get the broken record of all the messages I have been fed by society to stop. I think what makes it so hard to stop this broken record is that some of the things on the record are statistically true and a reality for people with disabilities in society. Lies get mixed in there but when the sting of rejection when another door slams shut it’s hard to differentiate between reality and the lies. Not only that, but even if I can distinguish the truth and the lies I am left feeling like there isn’t anything I can do to fight against the persistent discrimination against people with disabilities in the workforce.
I am better today. I’m going to use my skills today. I’m going to the gym, physical therapy and I am going to take a lavender detox bath. After that, I am going to call my Melaleuca director, repost my professional resume and watch the video about cold Networking from Ashley Stahl International. I already asked forgiveness (and was granted it) from my boyfriend for writing such foolish texts. I thank God for him. This journey to success is difficult and painful. I a grateful to have so many supportive people in my life.
This past week a former professor sent me an application for and the suggestion to participate in the Rotary Peace Fellowship. When I first read about it; I got so excited! There is a program that takes place at the International Christian University in Japan. The idea of being able to live overseas for two years for free with a stipend and a fully paid for Masters Degree lit a small fire inside of me. Not to mention it would get me out of the current situation I am in.
That fire was quickly snuffed out me as I had a logical conversation with a friend of mine. Number one, I don’t need more education at this time. Two Masters degrees aren’t opening doors for me, as a matter of fact; they may actually be closing doors. Logic says a third would just slam more doors. Number two, there are too many considerations medically with a long term trip that would at least take a year to safely sort out, and I would be leaving in August if I got accepted. Number three, I have too much going on personally with relationships to just get up and run away. Running away used to be a fun concept to me but the more I learn to actually form lasting, real relationships, the more running has lost its glamor. Last, but not least, God is not calling me to go overseas, and he is not calling me to pursue that program.
So, I am staying here, working hard at my current job, doing what I can to build up myself with the online health business I do on the side, and I will keep applying to other jobs. God will open the right door. It will not be an escape plan, but the proper move forward.
Looking at those statistics as a person with a “Targeted Disability*” can easily lead me to wonder why I bother trying so hard to change my circumstances. I mean, looking at these numbers you think I should just give up and go back to living on SSI, and I should definitely not think that I deserve a better position than what I have now. I should just be happy I’m employed at all.
But, I refuse to accept the status quo. I am too frustrated and angry. I have worked too hard in my life to remain satisfied with my current circumstances. I heard it said that the most faithful people are the most frustrated people. I believe that applies to me at this point. First, my frustration broke me down. the frustration was leading to me believing the lies that said, You are a failure, you aren’t good enough, the only thing that lies ahead for you is more humiliation and shame. It’s been a battle to fight through those lies. I know they aren’t true. But, given a week moment, those lies can quickly come crashing down on me.
Now, today, at this time my frustration is fueling me towards change; the change I deserve. When my frustration hit this tipping point, I decided to enter the battle, and I will fight until God’s purpose for me is fulfilled in my life. For a while, I accepted where I was in the workplace because I rationalized that God can get glory from my life no matter where I am situated. That statement is still true, and so I am managing my current situation with that in mind, but I also know that I have been prepared for so much more. My frustration has engaged me in a battle to change my circumstance. Of course, I want my circumstances to change so that I can stop living by a thread and have some freedom. But, I am doing this for other people with disabilities. When I get myself into a better place, I can become a voice for people with disabilities. I can push open doors for them that have continually been slammed in my face. I will do this through getting a better job and through Melaleuca.
*Targeted disability is defined as “a disability that the government has, for several decades, emphasized in hiring because they pose the greatest barriers to employment, such as blindness, deafness, paralysis, convulsive disorders, and mental illnesses, among others.”