From the pride of graduating college to the anxiety of finding a job
Looking back on 10 years of being in the labor market with SMA
Although I’m finding it hard to believe, this month marks 10 years since I graduated college. It feels like yesterday that I was excitedly driving across a stage to receive my diploma. With five long years of hard work in my rearview mirror, I couldn’t help but feel so accomplished in that moment.
Through hospitalizations, a pandemic that left me homebound for a semester (no, not COVID-19; remember the H1N1 flu?), and the daily challenges of life with SMA, the girl who didn’t know if her body could keep up with the demands of college had earned a marketing degree. She was feeling like she could accomplish anything. But in the back of her mind, she wondered: What’s next?
Just as I had entered college with so many unknowns, I was now entering the real world with the same trepidations. In 2013, the year I graduated, a mere 17.6% of disabled people were employed in the United States. Though there was no explanation why this number was so low, I was part of that statistic.
Disabled people must consider many factors when job searching — office building accessibility, finding caregivers during office hours, working while receiving Supplemental Security Income benefits — but the primary factor for me was frustratingly simple: My body couldn’t physically withstand a 9-to-5 office job.
During the first few months after college, I felt as though I was falling behind my peers. I wanted to work. I wanted to apply what I had worked so hard to learn. But I didn’t know how to make it happen, and I also hadn’t been a part of online disability communities to ask for guidance.
‘Each charted course’
To my surprise, in October of that year, my friend asked if I could be her social media manager for her new gym. This meant I could work from home, create my own schedule, and go at my own pace. I happily obliged.
In the years I spent working for her, I also started to build a personal brand online. I created a website to blog about life with SMA and used social media as another tool to develop that brand. This eventually snowballed into more job opportunities, including the one I have here at SMA News Today and my role as chief creative officer for an intimates brand called Liberare.
Though I no longer work as a social media manager, I am forever indebted to my friend who gave me the opportunity. Before working for her, I was unsure if I was capable of having a job. Remote work wasn’t widely offered like it is today, and I couldn’t see myself keeping up with the demands of working outside the comforts of my own home. My body simply wouldn’t allow it. In the months following my graduation, I was doubtful. Not knowing what my future held for me in terms of my career path was both unsettling and disheartening.
Alas, here I am, 10 years later. And I can say with confidence that I never could have predicted where I am today. Though I wasn’t able to foresee all the possibilities that were ahead, I still managed to forge my own path. I still arrived at where I was supposed to be. I may not have taken the traditional route most graduates do, but like everything in life with SMA, I adapted and did it my way.
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.