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Advice on Going from Survival to Success for the "Instant Generation."

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Day 71: ” Adapt and Overcome” Vs. “Adapt and Resist

Adapt
ADAPT Action 2017: DC-“Die in” Picture Taken by Cara Leibowitz, Edited by By Michael Thornton

 

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.

Day 69: The Sting of Rejection and Closed Doors

 

not your door
The way to handle rejection: Trust God, especially with closed doors.

 

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.

 

build a door
Trusting that God already has that door built, I just have to trust His timing.

 

 

Day 68: Escape Plans Vs. Moving Forward

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.

 

EscapeRoom.png
I Will Not Escape. I Will Look for That Open Door

 

 

Day 66: Long Shot

 

Long Shot
The Definition of Anything Successful that has Happened in my Life

 

So, I did it again… I applied for a government job. I couldn’t resist the temptation when the job suggestion popped up in my e-mail yesterday. It’s a position for a category 203–Human Resources Assistant at the Boston VA Medical Center. When I was recently in Boston on the train; every time I heard the announcement “the last stop of this train is the Boston VA Medical Center,” I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a position open there that I could fit into.

While I was there, I took a quick look on USAJobs, and there was no vacancy open that I qualified for. So, I let the idea drop. I would love to work for the VA Medical Center. I have so many veterans in my family that I am so proud of. This would be a hands-on way for me to serve those who have served. I have worked at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, and I loved it.  This could be a way for me to fulfill my “Hidden Figures” type calling. People with disabilities need the chance to prove themselves in the mainstream workforce. If I can get in this door; I will be able to open the door for other people with disabilities who are able, qualified and ready to work.

I filled out the KSA’s, attached my Federal Resume and my “Schedule A” letter. I have also contacted the Selective Placement Program Coordinator at the DC VA Medical Center, they were the closest SPPC to Brockport, MA. I will see if he responds and if there is a more direct contact for MA. I’m not “white knuckling” this opportunity. I would love it if it happens but; I feel like it is so unlikely that only God will be able to turn the knob and open this door. I have no control whatsoever. I’m actually quite relaxed.

Day 62: The Digitized World and Control

 

HR-digital
The Digital Job Application

As you know, I have re-entered the job applying process. In the last week, I have filled out six applications. No, I am not discouraged. I have only just begun, and I know this, but, God is using this digitized application process to continue to teach me a valuable lesson. I have microscopic control over what happens next. It’s one thing for me to say, “God, I give you control,” another to actually give it to Him.

Logically, I know God is completely sovereign, I know He created the world and moves people and circumstances as He sees fit. I have read a few books on the subject: Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges, The Reason for God by Timothy Keller and some assorted Essays from Finding God at Harvard compiled by Kelly Monroe-Kullberg touch on this subject as well. I also have at least 25 index cards with Scripture verses on them that speak to God’s sovereignty and control (Col. 1:16-17; Isa. 46;10 and Psalm 24:1-2 are a few of my favorites that I can recall right now). Yet, when it comes to putting this logical knowledge into practice–there seems to be a disconnect. I tend to say to God, “Take control of this,” but things don’t happen as quickly as I want or I don’t get answers at all. Then, I do whatever I can to grab it back.

This digitized application process, though, is making me have no choice but to leave the control in God’s hands. Yes, I am doing my best to fill out applications, write appropriate resumes for each individual job, spend time on creating professional and relevant cover letters. I am using the words in the job descriptions in my resume so that the computer does throw my resume out. After all that, though, I have no control; at all. This hit me hard today when I attempted to call a particular company to see where they were in the application process.

I dialed the number, got the company directory and pressed the number for “job seekers.” Well, it was not a surprise but, nonetheless, disappointing when I heard the following recorded message: [Company Name]’s application process is entirely digitized if [Company Name] is interested in you, we will contact you. I knew this was most likely the case, but for some reason, a lump dropped in my stomach. I began to hate the fact that my future was in the hands of a machine. The I remembered Proverbs 21:1; “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” If God can turn the hearts of people what is a machine to Him? 

Never did I imagine that computers, which people supposedly control would be the very thing God would use to show me (again) that I have no control whatsoever.

 

Day 58: At it again and on “Do it Again”

 

Job Applications
Applying Again

If you remember back in January, I said I was taking the month off from applying to jobs because I was just getting so worn out and tired of the process. I was hearing nothing and getting nowhere. I had gone through developmental training, got help from a career counselor and had friends putting themselves out on the line for me and still getting nowhere. By the end of December I was so tired and to the point of tears. Everyone was telling me I was well qualified, my resumes and letters were well written. I was told nothing was wrong with me but that the job market was just scarce. I was reminded that there are people who graduated when I did and still were without any job so I needed to be thankful that I have a job. I will admit, although sometimes, things are not easy here I am grateful to have a job.

I ended up taking a break for a bit longer than the month. At the time, I thought it was the right thing to do. I had just moved into a new apartment, started taking driving lessons and thought that if I worked hard, I would prove my value to my job. I thought that if I showed my value to my job, I would be able to move up and continue to contribute to the agency. I am now fully convinced, in heart, in mind, and in spirit that things need to change.

My driving lessons are going well, but even if I managed to obtain a car, there is no way I could afford the insurance or gas. My job has made it clear to me that there is nowhere I can move within the organization. I can’t stay where I am. Too many days I go home feeling worthless and undervalued. So, my job search is back in full force; this time with Boston on the radar. While I was there I saw and heard about so many job opportunities that I lit up inside; in a way, I have not lit up in a long time. I have now filled out five applications in two weeks. My resume, with any luck and the help of God, may get into the hands of the CEO at one of the companies I applied to.

 

melaluca
Melaleuca The Wellness Company: CONFIDENCE 

Meanwhile, while I have been searching for a new job my dreams have been getting bigger. Do you remember the Dream Board I made? Well, that accessible house, I want to give someone I love the ability to see their design plans for a universally designed home to come to fruition. I also want to start a fund that is set aside to help churches to meet financial needs so that they have no excuse not to be accessible and open to people with disabilities. I have been seriously considering giving up on Melaleuca, as a marketing director.

I love their products, they have worked for me, but I keep feeling like direct sales are just not for me. For some reason, I just can’t do this. My mentor (poor guy) called me last night. I was on my way to Physical Therapy, so I only texted him in return, but as I was walking home I was thinking: maybe I should just tell him I quit. Thankfully, I skyped with my boyfriend later that night. He is taking a bold step in his career aspirations and I am so proud of him. I realized that he already thinks I am amazing (Don’t ask me why; I couldn’t tell you!). But, I know worked at Melaleuca he would be so proud of me, and I would be able to meet my financial goals and dreams. After talking to him, I decided not to tell my mentor I was quitting. On top of that, this morning I heard a video about confidence from Steven Furtick called “Do it Again.” I am not giving up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 57: “Selma” Vs. “Hidden Figures.”

Just a forewarning, this post is not a review of either movie; except to say that I thought both of them were fantastic and both of them stirred my spirit; to sadness and hope. I know that some people may not like the equation of the Civil rights movement for African Americans in this country to the Civil rights movement of people with disabilities in this country. You may not feel our battles are the same, but I mean no disrespect to the Civil Rights movement for African Americans. People with disabilities owe you respect and gratitude for paving the way and showing us the many facets necessary in which change can occur.

When I was in Boston I watched “Salema” with my friend who is a fearless, powerful self-advocate and advocate for other people with disabilities. As I watched him throughout the week I became jealous of the way in which he conducted himself. He was fearless in getting people to move so that he could have access to the places he needed. Me, on the other hand, I will push through crowds, but I will try to find an open seat and get in as quickly as possible. Fearful of frustrating or angering people. I watched him powerfully speak before a transportation Board that was considering cutting all paratransit services for people with disabilities. I may be able to speak but not in situations like that. It was annoying me that the people on the Board seemed not to care about the words that were being spoken to them by the many they would be hurting. He simply said, “they have to be that way. They can’t show that any of this is affecting them.” I was amazed and held him in greater esteem even then. He is also part of a disability advocacy group that is not afraid to rock the boat and rock it heavily. while I respect what they do and what they have accomplished on our behalf; I couldn’t do it. After we watched Selma my heart and emotions were twisted inside of me. He then asked me if I would be willing and able to stand by someone willing to go to those kinds of extremes to bring change. It took a bit for me to compose myself, I told him I would want to. I suppose the better answer would have been: “With God’s strength, I could.”

This weekend, I watched “Hidden Figures.” Throughout the whole movie, I was thinking that’s just wrong or yelling “You go!!” I realized that the disability community is at the place these women were. We are highly educated and being completely underused. I look at myself, I have two Master’s degrees, internship and work experience and here I am working as a receptionist. I am working hard to change these circumstances and I have faith that God is at work I just need to trust Him and have patience. One of my Master’s Degrees is in Human Resource Management. My entire reasoning for getting this degree was so that I could either work for the Federal Government or a top-notch corporation and change hiring policies and treatment of employees with disabilites. First, by proving my invaluable worth and work ethic then bringing more qualified individuals with disabilities on board. Being a “hidden figure” of my own so to speak.

Although our ways of wanting to bring about chang for people with disabilities differ tremendously we have a common vision of change. I only hope he is able to stand by someone who would prefer to bring “hidden change.”

Day 56: Anointing, Trusting and Just Doing Something.

 

anointing_of_fresh_oil
Did David’s anointing provide him with an extra seal of God’s promise to him?

I am so many things going through my head. Most of these things have left me wondering: God, how do I know that this is a part of your plan for me? Help me! Granted, I have been more at peace lately than I have been in a while. Don’t get me wrong, like that “Wack-A-Mole” game found at most carnivals and arcades; my past and anxiety has reared its head. But, I have, thankfully, been able to–with support and skills–not denial–been able to “wack” it back into its proper place.

During today’s “First Five” devotional I read mostly about how some of the sojourner’s from the area of Benjamin thought they would be rewarded by David for killing Saul’s son who was claiming kingship over every tribe of Israel except for Judah. Unfortunately, their selfish ambition leads to their hanging by David’s men. The devotional talked about how David did not need those men to act as assains for God’s promise to him to come true. David trusted God.

13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him [David] in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 8:13)

I know David had to wait decade’s for God’s promise to him of becoming king over a unified Israel to come into being, but I wonder if being anointed by Samuel when he was a teenager gave him an extra ability to trust God and his promise? I don’t have a Samuel who is telling me, this is what the Lord has planned for you. I haven’t been outwardly anointed by a person set apart by God to tell people what God is saying and what to do. I know this should not be tripping me up. After all, the time of the Prophets is over because Christ left us His Spirit to be our guide.

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14: 16-18)

When I first read this devotional, I was left praying similar to Todd Agnew’s Song “Witten on the Wall.”

And I wish You still spoke through burning bushes,
And I wish You still wrote on blocks of stone,
‘Cause the sound of this world’s deafening,
And I’m having a hard time listening,
And I wish Your will was still written on the wall.

But, then, it clicked in my brain. “If you love me you will keep my commands.” I just need to do everything I can to hold to Christ, to obey him, honor him and His Spirit will guide me moment by moment. Step by step. I don’t need a prophet’s anointing, a burning bush, or writing on stone and walls. Sometimes, as Keven DeYoung puts it, I need to Just Do Something.

just-do-something

 

Day 54: Boston, Boundaries, and Expectancy

 

Salem Sunrise
“Sunrise Easter Service” Photo Credit: Nick Holtzham

 

I fell off the grid again for a while. Totally unintentional. I went away the first week in April to Boston, MA. On my way there I was nervous, excited, considering exit strategies; all rolled together. I am happy to report that an exit strategy was not necessary and beyond that, I am trying to figure out an entrance strategy.  I realize I have to fill in some blanks or I am going to have some confused readers.

Blank 1: Exit Strategies?

Why you may wonder, would I be considering exit strategies for a vacation? I was headed up to Boston to meet a person I had met online for the first time. Let’s just say, to keep it simple, meeting people online has not worked out well for me. I have been Skyping with this person for months, and my gut told me I was safe, but at times I don’t trust my gut.

I am so glad I went. No exit strategies necessary! The young man I was going to meet turned out to be absolutely amazing. We had a great time going to places throughout the Boston Metro area. I found myself connecting with him on a level I thought I would never allow/or be able to connect with someone again. A complete gift. Now, before my friends and family freak out, we are both planning to take things really, S-L-O-W! We both have our own reasons, but the pace will be S-L-O-W! Did I mention, S-L-O-W?! Hopefully, in keeping things slow, we will continue to build an honorable relationship. Learning about each other, letting our friends and families examine us, letting God shape His purposes for us.

Blank 2: Entrance Strategies?

Again please don’t freak out. I know I just moved to the apartment I am in, so the idea that I want to leave already may seem crazy. Perhaps it is. But, there were three major things I discovered about Boston: Disability Community, Job Opportunities, and good public transit. I always wrote Boston off because of its cold weather. But, I learned my body hates me just as much here weather-wise as it did up there. There was really only a 5-9 degree weather difference between Boston and where I am now. I figured, it can’t hurt to apply for jobs there, what is one more possibility to change my employment circumstances?

So, I am trying to be hopeful and filled with the expectancy that maybe this is the path I am supposed to take. At the same time, I am trying to surrender to God. Trying so hard not to “white-knuckle” this possibility; in case God has other plans. This is a very hard balance to maintain.

 

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