Today is my first day in a new era in my career. On April 1 I left a consulting job which I have held for the last nine years. This is my latest leap of faith – or risk – I am taking. My consulting job involved 15 – 20 hours a week of counseling at a nearby brain injury program. I loved the work I did there! Many of the clients I had there when I left, were my clients for the past several years. Every week they would allow me into their lives while they told me what was going on in their life and what they were struggling with with regarding their personal adjustment to their brain injury. With many years of working with people so intimately, the counseling process was several layers deep. My decision to leave did not come easy. But space had to made for bringing Firewalk: Embracing Different Abilities from my personal computer monitor to the world. If I wanted this to happen, I had to let go of some things…even that which I love.
Leaving, moving on, taking risks is something I find that people with disabilities do not do enough of. One of my clients at the brain injury program, someone who I have seen from almost the beginning there, asked in the midst of having a hard time with my departure, “When do I get to leave?” Good question. I have found in my work in the rehabilitation field, us professionals get too comfortable with the people we serve having services which meet their needs and maintain their health and safety. We tend to get nervous when a person wants to make a change, try something new, or even pursue a dream. We worked so hard to get them good services, why do they want to rock the boat?!
Because dreams and the desire to grow do not discriminate. To fully live life, one fulfills a dream, meets a goal, or risks a new adventure. Having a disability just means one considers the problem-solving around the logistics of it in pursuing the quest. My wise mentor, Ann Bradney, has reminded me many times that as I take risks and move on, I model that for my clients. I show that a disability does not mean settling for the status quo, staying safe, or living small. This is a lesson I hope readers of Firewalk: Embracing Different Abilities come away with – to leave when one feels called to something else, to take risks, and pursue dreams while incorporating the needs of your disability into your quest.
A beginning step we can take to help people on the path of “shaking things up” is to start asking people about vacations. In my years of working in the disability field, I rarely see people go on vacations. Yes, I know this is largely due to the fact that most people live on a budget consisting of Social Security benefits. Nevertheless, with creativity, saving, and help from professionals, plans for simple and relaxing getaways can be made. This is also part of fully living life – to travel, explore, relax, and get away from the grind. This is naturally on my mind because today is my first day back to work after taking a cruise last week with my husband. Before I left, I was explaining to one of my clients why I would not be available for a week and he asked, “When do I get to go on vacation?” Upon asking him questions about what he would like to do, it came down to something as simple as camping at a local state park. It may take a little planning to help him make this a reality, but so worth it to see HIM leave and get away for a while. What risk can you encourage?