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    • #17275

      Happy Tuesday, everyone! My latest column went up yesterday, in which I talk about how difficult it is for me to stand still. I inherited my drive and work ethic from my mom, who always has something going on and gets antsy when she doesn’t have a goal to strive for, so it’s no surprise I’ve been struggling with my potential career change. It’s hard watching everyone else move forward when all you can do is stay in your holding pattern.

      That being said, I hung out with my very first PCA a couple of weeks ago, and it reminded me just how far I’ve come over the past few years. Obviously, with SMA, chronic pain, and fatigue, my achievements don’t look like everyone else’s achievements, but it helped to look back on everything I’ve accomplished—everything I’ve survived.

      Do you ever feel like you’re not keeping up with everyone else because of your SMA? How do you combat those feelings?

    • #17308
      Kevin Schaefer

      Great column Brianna! I’ve enjoyed following your journey toward finding the right career. It’s no doubt a huge undertaking, but it sounds like you’re on the right track.

      I can totally relate to the whole “feeling like I’m not doing enough” mentality. I work full-time, and I still feel this way sometimes. I think a lot of it has to do with our workaholic culture, and this mentality can be dangerous if we’re not careful.

      If I’m feeling this way though, I try to reflect on some specific accomplishments, just like you did. Just this morning, I was scrolling through old columns and articles for other sites I’ve written for. I was putting together a pitch for a comics anthology, and gathering some writing samples to include in my pitch. As I did this, I came across a bunch of pop-culture reviews and interviews that I was really proud of. I hadn’t read some of these pieces in years, but just looking them over really boosted my confidence. I even put up a self-promotional Tweet afterwards with links to a bunch of my articles.

      Doing a combination of this and setting specific goals for myself helps me when I feel stuck in a rut. Also, taking time to rest and spend time with family and friends is equally important.

      • #17513

        Thanks, Kevin! I really appreciate it. And I totally agree with you that workaholism is probably at fault here. Weirdly enough, mindfulness practices have helped me step back and appreciate the fact that I’m alive and well. When you’re in that mindset, external accomplishments don’t really matter as much.

    • #17312
      Kelly Miller

      I’m right there with you Brianna! I spent the first 45 years of my life feeling like I wasn’t living up to what I should be. When I had to retire from my job because I had a terrible pressure sore that required surgery and me drastically cutting back on my hours, I went thru a year of depression because I felt like I wasn’t contributing my fair share to society. What’s funny about this is I had just spent the previous 17 years telling clients who came in to file for Social Security disability that they couldn’t compare themselves, or their situations, to anyone else. It wasn’t until I got into a support group that I began to realize I have my own worth in this world. Every time I make a connection with someone else, either in person or by email or by telephone, I am touching that person’s life in a way that no other can. I have to remind myself often that what I have to say matters and is always unique. I think we all have the ability to touch other people when we don’t even know that we’re doing it and aren’t even trying.

      • #17514

        That’s a really great perspective, Kelly! I’ve been trying to keep that in mind – even when I’m not doing something, I’m still touching people’s lives and making ripples just by existing. It’s a difficult pill to swallow, but it’s been so helpful for me personally. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • #17315
      Ryan Berhar

      Oh yes, I feel like that often. It hit me like a ton of bricks after graduating high school. It’s not as bad now, because I have made a lot of progress. These days, i feel more left behind with regard to relationships/marriages morseo than career wise. My best friend/cousin is getting married in June, and my other best friend is likely getting engaged soon. They’re both younger than me, so sometimes I feel kinda behind.

      • #17515

        I feel the same way! My two best friends are in long-term relationships and I’ve been wrestling a lot with the fear of getting left behind. It’s not fun at all. 😔 I keep telling myself that getting married and starting a family isn’t everything, but I don’t think it always sticks, haha!

        • #17521
          Ryan Berhar

          Yes, definitely not everything, but it’s just scary to think about my future in general really. Like in ten years will I have a wife and kids? Will I be able to move into my own home or maybe even move someplace warmer? Or will I more or less be where I am today? One day at a time is what I remind myself. It’s tattooed on my arm.

    • #17394
      Jenny Rellick

      I definitely have felt the way you do,  but I have also felt like I was left behind because of my SMA.  Back in the ’90s, I worked hard to get into a top law school. I personally found law school grueling and hyper-competitive, but I pushed through, graduated, and passed the bar   I  worked so hard to get a job.   I looked good on paper and got a lot of interviews, but not one resulted in a job offer. To keep my resume current, I worked for free as a temp at a friend’s firm (back then, I couldn’t keep Medicaid and my dad’s insurance if I had accepted pay.) I went to a workshop on interview skills, and the coach said I was interviewing very well.  When my applications for legal jobs stopped getting responses, I tried applying for non-legal jobs.  Again, I got interviews but no offers.   Despite trying so hard, I blamed myself.  I “failed” where all of my law school classmates succeeded.  I told myself that I just didn’t have the right temperament for law and had chosen the wrong field of study.  At one point, I thought, “The last five years have been a complete waste of time and money.”  I became deeply depressed, and it was very hard for doctors and therapists to treat me because I couldn’t believe in myself.
      I don’t think most employers intentionally discriminated against me.  Now I believe the problem was that, even if I was on the employer’s short list, the “gut feeling” that employers use to make a final decision never favored me because of my SMA.  To them, disability is a little uncertain and unfamiliar, and people like to hire people like themselves. This subtle subjective disadvantage affects us in many ways.  It’s why so many dates don’t turn into relationships. It’s why our hard work often goes underappreciated. It’s why cocktail parties often don’t result in us meeting any new people or even getting in conversations with our acquaintances.  SMA itself can cause us to “fall behind” when illness interrupts our pursuits, when our voices don’t carry in a restaurant, or when our bodies are so fatigued that we only have a little time to do what we want to each day.  But feeling like you’re falling behind in your career or relationships is almost always unjustified. Some pretty strong but subtle social forces–call it ablism or thoughtlessness– are working against us, and we must not blame ourselves when they get in the way of our dreams. What worked for me was finding a niche. I lived in a university town that let me enroll in classes without being admitted to any graduate program, and my dad helped me pay.  I told myself I was a recent college grad who wanted to make an informed career choice.  I considered social work, journalism, and public health. In the end, I chose public health and learned a lot of subjects I didn’t even know existed or didn’t think were within my intellectual grasp, like statistics. Because my skills were in demand and only a limited number of people had those skills, gut feelings didn’t matter as much to employers. In fact, they were relieved to find me. I had to move from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., which was possible because my mom was retired and moved with me, and I found a college graduate who I trained to be my PCA in North Carolina and who moved with me in exchange for free rent.   Follow your passion, but also think, “How do I bring something special and helpful to employers?”  For you, Brianna, your community counseling degree can work. A lot of therapy is now offered online and on demand. For people facing severe and chronic illness and their families, you can offer credibility in a way few can.  Your writing shows your insights and can serve as your portfolio. Not many counselors can bring what you can to the field.  When you know you are doing something important, you get the energy to challenge the subtle ablism that affects so many aspects of our lives. You get the confidence to date and find someone who sees your disability as a good thing–no kidding, people exist who don’t see beyond disability but like you, in part, because of it.

      • #17516

        WOW. Thank you so so much, Jenny. I didn’t realize how much I needed to read this until I did. 😭 I absolutely agree with you that ableism plays a huge part. I think, at least for me, internalized ableism plays a role too because while I know I’ve done a lot, I still feel like I don’t measure up. It’s frustrating, but as you said, we all have something special to contribute; we just have to figure out what that something is.

        Thank you again for sharing!

      • #17526
        Ryan Berhar

        That’s some fantastic perspective, Jenny!

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