Many of us have had conversations in our childhood about things we want to accomplish someday. For me one of those things was to write a book on my life. I think the idea came to me in middle school . This would be a conversation that I would continue to have with friends and family for many years. Then about three years I started actually writing a book on my life. Then on Sunday I finished! I self published my book after only talking about doing it for about twenty years.
“The Impossible Only Takes a Little Longer: One Woman’s Story of Determination” is now available on Create Space and on Amazon. Currently it is only available in paperback. I am working on formatting it into e-book on Kindle.
The book has stories, poems and pictures that brings the reader through challenges and success of my life. If you’re looking for a story that will inspire you or someone else in your life pick this book up. As I have been told my friends before “I’m just being little me. I never tried to be inspiring.” That was when they responded, “That’s why you are so inspiring Sheila. Keep being you!”.
October is National Disability Awareness Employment month. It has made me stop and reflect on my experiences with gaining employment. I was 18 when I got my first real job this was after countless applications. So many of my friends had jobs and I just wanted someone to give me a chance. One day I had an interview at the local movie theater and I went in and talked to the manager and I explained to her how I could do the job and that I was just the right person for the job and she decided to give me a chance. I remember her being very concerned that I would not be able to reach the register. I told her I would not have applied for this job if I didn’t think I could do it. Then I said to her let me show you we went downstairs to the register and I showed her how I could reach and what I had to do slightly different. She hired me on a temporary bases saying lets see how this works. I was so excited that she was giving me the chance. Looking back I have realized that no one else had to prove their abilities to the point that I had too in order to get the job. It really wasn’t right that I felt I had to show her that I could do something in middle of interview and that she encouraged me to show her. There were a lot of discriminatory acts that happen in that interview but all I cared about at the time was getting hired.
Working in theater brought lots of challenges but it also gave me the chance to show people what I really could do. I often had the fastest line. I interacted with thousands of people at the theater in some way it was a chance for them to see that a person with disability was capable of many things. I also had to deal with ignorance some was in the form of people staring at me which is something I dealt with growing up and sometime people make comments.
Since the movie theater I have had to deal with job discrimination I filled out many applications when I was in college hoping to get some kind of employment but again I saw the faces and when I turned the application in I honestly didn’t believe it would make it to a manager or an interview. I remember how frustrating it was because I could do many things if people would just stop and treat me like everyone else. While in college I worked at an after school program this is where I really began to grow my professional skills. Since college I feel like I have had less job discrimination and maybe that is due to the types of jobs I have applied for or the people have been educated better about the abilities of people with disabilities. I do know that the stereotypes are still out there able people with disabilities there are those who are shocked that a person with a disability can have a full-time job. Then there are others who are angry that people with disabilities are not gainfully employed. The reality is being gainfully employed with a disability is not easy and each of us are doing the best we can.
An invitation to the Easters Seals Walkathon connected me to their Youth Leadership Conference. I had an audience of about 40 youth with physical disabilities and my topic for the day was Self Advocacy. Presenting to this group was amazing they had hope, energy, and inspiration. I was able to connect with them on many different levels. Most importantly I was able to show them through my life experiences that they could do anything that they put their minds.
Through an evaluation I asked the students what did you learn from this presentation?
“I learned to keep going regardless of what anyone says” (John 20)
“That it doesn’t matter what your disability is you can do anything you put your mind too” (Samantha 17)
“To stand up for your rights (against discrimination) no matter what” (Dominic 17)
“I will remember to fight and never let anyone walk over me” (Melissa 17)
I will remember how excited and inactive the youth were throughout the presentation. I could tell right away that I was making a difference in their lives. One student told me that they will most remember :my positive outlook, my never give up attitude and how it was contagious throughout the whole audience”. (Gabe 23)
While having dinner with the youth I was asked how do you deal with being stared at all the time? I began in explaining that it depends on if it is a child or adult and what I might perceive their age to be. Then there is factoring how that staring makes me feel in the moment. The young child maybe 7 and younger is usually just curious and is trying to understand what is different about you. I will often will smile, wave or say hello. That is usually enough to have the child to see you as a person and they move on. After the age of 7 the staring is usually is cruel and they are just making fun of you. The thing to remember is that they are the ones who have the issue not you. For some reason they feel that they have the right to put their issues on you and making fun of you is good. Well, it is good until you call them on it. I will walk up to people and tell to stop staring, tell them what they are doing is wrong, ask them if they would like to be stared at or just stare back. When you do these things it changes the power in the situation you gain your power and they become uncomfortable. When I was a kid I would fun with the kids when they laughed at me and they stopped pretty quick and I use to tell adults that I was sorry they had such a small brain.