Have you ever realized that life seems to have a certain “expected progression” of events? You know, things that should happen to you or that you should do just because that’s what everyone does?
In my mind, this is the expected life progression: birth → go to school → get a job → maybe do the “fall in love and have kids” song and dance → retire. Of course there are a lot of other things that happen in life that actually make it meaningful, but the broad strokes seem to follow the “educate →work→retire” pathway.
When you have a spinal cord injury, that pathway is basically obliterated. No matter where you’re standing on it, you won’t be anymore because 1) you can’t stand and 2) everything in your once well-constructed and well-planned life is and will be different.
My injury happened when I was in the “go to school” phase of my path and essentially, that’s where I still am as I now begin the application process to attend medical school. It’s actually a year long process (meaning I’m applying for the entering class of 2017), which is a long time to just sit and wait.
I’m good at sitting, not so good at waiting….
So, like any hyperactive individual that needs to constantly be kept occupied, I’ve been searching for items to add to my “ways to stay busy” list. Currently on the list: volunteer, speak and continue with disability advocacy, read books from a list of “100 books you should read before you die”, train in my racing chair/lift weights at the YMCA, work on medical school application, and probably the most important and time consuming item on the list, bug Mom (she secretly likes it, I promise).
Recently, there was a new addition to the list: go to work.
Yep, I now have an official, big girl, I’m going to pretend to be a grown-up job.
Two weeks ago I started working on an inpatient oncology (cancer) floor at a local hospital. I’m basically the individual who helps things on the floor run smoothly — building and taking down patient charts, scheduling up follow-up appointments, entering orders for doctors — that kind of stuff.
You know, the whole apply for a job process was a bit on the on the scary side. I’ve worked since my injury, but it has been for some amazing people who knew me before my injury. I’ll forever be grateful to them for the things I was able to do and what I learned about myself in those roles. It was wonderful way for me to recognize that I could and would be a productive member of society as a wheelchair user if I wanted to be. At the same time, I didn’t have to put myself in the uncomfortable position of “hey, hire me, it doesn’t matter that I’m disabled.”
Of course I know it doesn’t matter that I’m disabled, handicapped or whatever word you prefer to use. I mean, there was a whole year of my life that I dedicated to teaching and showing others exactly that. Yet, when I sat in front of my potential managers in a face-to-face interview, I would be lying to say I didn’t feel a bit self conscious. Feeling like I had so much to prove both for myself and other people like me. Proving that I’m both worthy and confident in the person that I have become as a wheelchair user and 24 year old woman.
It’s easy to say words you know you should. “I like the person that I am.” “I’m proud of myself.”
It’s a lot harder to actually, 110%, signed in blood, this is my reality, mean them.
I’ve been proud of this person that I’ve become since my injury, proud of the things of done and what I’ve learned. Yet I don’t think I realized there were (and probably still are) those little gremlins of doubt where I wonder if I am good enough, if I’m able to do the things I want to, and really, if I ever will.
I think everyone has things in their life that bring out a certain level of uncertainty. Things that make you question your worth and causes your confidence to waver. Yet, figuring out what those things are can be a wonderful gift. A gift that allows you to pause and reflect, realize who you are and reaffirm your value, both to yourself and to others.
It’s been a bit of an adventure starting this new “big-kid” job, just like any kind of transition can be. I’m enjoying the challenges of learning and working in a new environment while having this awesome opportunity to experience medicine and healthcare from a different viewpoint.
Every coin has 2 sides.
One can’t have certainty without uncertainty.
Don’t be afraid to find and embrace it.