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survival2success

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 70: When Breath Becomes Air: If I Wrote my Foward Now

 

When-breath-becomes-air
I am currently reading this book which is what inspired this post (mostly)

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?

Forward*

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.

 

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 67: Fustration: Two Outcomes

 

Disability in the Workforce
2015 is the last reported statistics by the Federal Government, Respectability, and Cornell University

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.”

 

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 61: Being in Pieces and Having a Divided Mind.

 

a-divided-mind-joe-paradis
A Divided Mind–Artwork by Joe Paradis

 

This morning one of my “Facebook Memories” was of information I gleaned from a Sermon by Timothy Keller (back in my comfort zone!) two years ago to the day. Guess what it was about? That’s right–you guessed it–anxiety. At first, when I realized that two years ago around the same time I was dealing with the SAME issue I started beating myself up in my head. See, you haven’t changed, you aren’t growing, anxiety and depression are going to be continuous battles that you will always lose. Thankfully before I left for work, I listened to the sermon again because Mr. Keller tells us to discard those thoughts and remember where they are coming from. Below is an excerpt from his sermon that really hit home for me, again,

The word for anxiety is a little Greek word  merimnaó which means to be in pieces and there is a play on this word anxiety in Luke chapter 10; that tells us the story of Martha and Mary. There is a great place where, two sisters, Martha and Mary have Jesus in to eat a meal and Martha is running all around, running all around and it says that she was anxious—merimnaó with much serving. And the word literally means to have a mind divided and distracted with too much. Too many goals. Mary is just sitting there listening to Jesus and Martha starts to get, “Mary we’ve got work to do and you are having your quiet time.” Mary doesn’t care that the house is a wreck and that they have things to do. That doesn’t matter she’s getting her time with Jesus. Are you a Mary or a Martha? Now Jesus actually makes a play on the word merimnaó. He says, “Martha, Martha you are anxious and troubled about many things (which is merimnaó).”  Mary has found the one thing that is needful, Mary is single-minded. Mary has one thing she is looking at and Martha had 300 things. (Timothy Keller “Fruits of the Spirit: Peace and Overcoming Anxiety,” 1990)

I am definitely a Martha, although you would never tell that by the looks of my apartment sometimes! But, right now my mind is divided and being pulled in so many directions. I’m surprised it hasn’t been pulled to shattered pieces yet. That has to be God’s protection. Even today my mind is considering my job, Melaleuca, my relationship, the possibility of moving, Boston, Job applications, friends, family, my future, my past. Some of these things are not bad, but it is; nonetheless causing my mind to be divided and for my anxiety to have a fertile ground in which to grow.

As I said, some of the things my mind is focused on are good things, they even require my attention. But look what Mr. Keller says, “Mary has found the one thing that is needful, Mary is single-minded.” Mary had a family, she had a home to take care of, meals to prepare, but when she had the opportunity, she focused her mind on the One that would pull all of her life together and keep her mind in on piece–without anxiety. When Christ is my focus, and I give all my concerns they no longer have the right to pull apart or divide my mind. Here is to needful, single-minded focus.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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