I am a college graduate

Well, it is now official, I am a college graduate. I may not have been able to have a proper graduation but I am able to hold my diploma in my hands, and it’s an amazing feeling, I worked so hard for this.  I struggled so much over the years and because of issues with my mental and physical health, I spent almost 15 years trying to just get a two-year degree. And given the trauma of my brother’s death in middle school and how difficult high school was, I never imagined in a million years that I would have a college degree. In fact, a few weeks before graduating high school at my alternative school, I talked with a counselor and she asked me what my plans were and I told her I just wanted to get a job somewhere and earn a paycheck. She shook her head and asked about me going to college and I told her that I wasn’t sure about it at the moment, she shrugged her shoulders that was the end of the conversation, like at that moment we both gave up on me, college was out of the question.

I took a year off of school and worked at a Grocery store, bagging groceries. A year later, I started college and took a few classes but I wasn’t ready, I was in bad shape emotionally and physically,  I had to get up several times to use the restroom, I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the other students, I felt stupid and I didn’t understand the lectures so, I quit after a few weeks,  feeling like a total failure.

 

I gave up and found a minimum wage job ( one of many over the years) and worked for about three years, just trying to earn any money I could, my emotional and physical problems got significantly worse and it affected my job performance and I was treated poorly at every job I worked at. Finally, my physical difficulties became so bad, that I could no longer work and I forced to stay at home. During that time, I wanted to learn something so I taught myself Spanish by watching Spanish language television, listening to the radio, and reading my dad’s old books in Spanish.

Eventually, I decided that I should take a Spanish class at my local community class and I signed up, I also signed for an English writing course, I took a test and I was required to take a remedial English course to get me up to speed to a credited English course.  I remember the Spanish class well; it was a beginner’s course and I had already learned most of the language concepts. On the very first day of class, I met my teacher, she was pretty with curly hair and she said she was Cuban. My family is Cuban and I excitedly told her my family was Cuban, she looked unimpressed as if I was trying to brown-nose her. And when she heard me speak Spanish, she told me that I didn’t belong there, I belonged in a more advanced class, I didn’t complain.

When I took the English course, they had us write simple compositions about our favorite vacation or just creative writing, I enjoyed it, I didn’t see myself as a writer or have a passion for it yet. One day the teacher told us we could write about any topic we liked but had to have a 3 to a 4-page minimum. Well, I decided to write about the counterculture of the 1960s, a topic I knew a lot about since I watched every documentary I could on the subject.  A few days before the due date, I hadn’t written anything. I sat on my couch and started writing in a notebook every idea that came to my head, it was page after page. Eventually, I was able to mold that into a paper that spanned 10 pages, I just couldn’t stop writing. I turned it in, a few days later the professor talked me and said the dean was concerned because he thought I had plagiarized it but couldn’t prove it, I said sincerely that I didn’t, I just loved to write. The teacher said “I believe you” and handed me back my paper and like the other class, moved me to a credited college course immediately, it was one of the proudest moments of my life up to that point, I felt really smart. After those classes, I took another semester with two classes, I continued the English writing and Spanish courses, I did quite well, I was proud of myself.  As I was taking this class, my family was planning to move out of state, so I have to stay with my Aunt for a few weeks to finish my courses.

 

I moved to another city and took another year off to just get settled, I found another low paying job that I hated but, in my heart, I wanted to be back in school. After a year, I signed for classes here at the local community classes, I now had a school counselor and a set number of classes I needed to take. I started to branch out, I took a communications class and some other class I can’t remember, I did well in those classes, considering I was also working a job that was stressing me out at the time.  During my last year at this job, I missed a few semesters and just lost interest in school, I think my mental health was really deteriorating at this point. Sadly, my job was affecting my mental health so bad that I had a breakdown, I quit after 3 years and I was so distraught that I didn’t know what to do, I came home upset that I lost a job and I also liked a co-worker but she wasn’t interested, I was a mess. I was at one of the lowest points in my life and feeling hopeless. I was on Facebook and I saw a post from an old friend and they were now working with people with disabilities, I was impressed and I was also angry because I had disabilities and I was treated so poorly in the workplace, I wanted to do something to make a difference. I found a book with college programs, I was outside chain-smoking and I saw a program called “Human services technology developmental disabilities” And immediately I pointed at it and said to myself “I can do that”  I didn’t even hesitate.

A few weeks later, I signed for a few classes and I entered the program. I met with the man who was the chair of the program and he became my school counselor, he was kind and really believed in me ( sadly he no longer is working for the school anymore) He was teaching a lot of the classes I was in and I was excited to be there, I excelled, I loved the curriculum and I got good grades without even reading much, I was just interested in the classes, I wrote papers and loved the discussions we had. I especially loved when I had assignments where I had to interview people in the disabilities field, I got so much out of that. I was just proud that I was doing so well. I  was required to take a counseling course, which was the hardest class of them all, everyone feared this professor, she was tough. She would get upset at me if I wouldn’t follow the format of writing she expected. She would tell me that she didn’t care about the content, I didn’t follow her directions and I could do better. But once I was able to follow her format, she started to really like what I turned in and I was one of the few person’s that got A’s on her hardest papers; both required us to write over 10 pages, it was hard work but I love to write. I ended up getting an A in her class, I just jumped for joy.

 

After that semester, I had some financial troubles and I wasn’t working, my parents were retired and couldn’t help me much with paying for classes. Again, I had to stop classes and after a few months. I applied for a Pell grant, which basically gives low-income students an opportunity to finish school without worrying about finances, they paid my tuition and books, I even got money back at the end of the semester, it was a godsend. So, I was finally able to go back and get closer to getting my degree.

I took a few classes and began an internship program at a large agency in the area, it was a day support center where they had classes and art time for disabled adults. I was working at the time, so it was hard at first to get my hours. I really loved the clients and they loved me and I also got to know the support workers there, we got along well. I, however, did not like my supervisor, I could tell from the moment I walked in that she did not like me. I am not sure what it was about me but she had this disdain, she looked annoyed every time I would ask her a question, she never gave me direction, so I ended not doing much except helping teach the classes and interacting with the students, I felt frustrated because I didn’t know what to do unless someone took the time to show me what they needed. I finished my first round of internship and passed but I wasn’t happy and neither was she, I questioned whether or not I belonged in this field.

As time went on, I continued my classes, I slowly but surely got closer to my degree, but one thing was bothering me, I have a learning disability in math and I had been avoiding it until the very end, I knew it would be difficult. I finally had to take a remedial math course and it was this large computer room ( like you see in a library) with a station with 5 or 6 computers attached. The course was done in class and online, I was not allowed to use a calculator and I got so frustrated, I’d go home and just want to scream, I didn’t get it. After a week, I walked out, totally distraught, and thinking that I could never pass. The next semester, I tried again and passed the first remedial course. Oh, and the course was only for 4 weeks at a time, which didn’t give me the time I needed to learn and that only added to the frustration.

Before I took this next math course, I talked to someone at the disability department about getting accommodations, I qualified and was able to have a student write their notes for me, I was able to have more test time and to take it at the learning center instead of the class, I felt like this could help me pass. I was also feeling like I could pass this next math course because I heard that I could use a calculator, that was my main issue, simple arithmetic was holding me back and I could figure everything out if I just had a calculator. It turned out that I could use a calculator only if I passed the first test.  When I attended my first class, I was so lost and I kept looking at the girl next to me, she was so much farther along than me and I felt so dumb, I’d asked the teacher assistant a question and she’d explain it and I still wouldn’t get it, I’d ask again and could tell she was annoyed. I had it, I was cursing underneath my breath, I angrily threw my stuff into my bag and walked out. I called my mom and told her that I couldn’t do this, I felt like an idiot and I was never going to pass, I felt so bad at that time and hopeless. I talked to my counselor after and she explained to me that the class required no calculators and there was nothing she could do about it.

At the time I had started volunteering at a Christian organization for adults with developmental disabilities and I was telling the woman in charge about the issues I was having and she offered to help, there was also a parent of one of the disabled adults and she would sit down with me and go over the math problems and explain it slowly so I could understand, she was kind.  Also being there had given me the confidence I had lost while I was at the internship, volunteering I felt valued and loved and knew that I was capable of being in this field if I had the right guidance and people who cared.

I ended up having my mom come with me and explain to the counselor the difficulties I was having and how I was at a disadvantage because the trauma of losing my brother really affected my education in high school ( and that was the truth)  I asked if I could waive the math course and she said that usually never happens unless it were extenuating circumstances. She mentioned that the school might offer the option of substituting a class but it would be in science, I was concerned since I was not good at science either and had dropped out of a few of those classes over the years. She said substitution was also rare and I shouldn’t get my hopes up. I walked out feeling somewhat disappointed because this was my last resort and I didn’t get a solid answer but we did request that the class be substituted, I was told that it would take some time for a decision to be made.

 

A few months passed and I heard nothing, I contacted the school several times and didn’t get an answer, I was ready to give up at this point. I finally got an email from my disability counselor and said that they were looking over the decision and I’d know soon, I knew in my heart that it would be denied, I’d never pass this course and get my degree, after all those years of hard work. I was thinking of trying to find another community college to finish up at and see if they could waive this math course, sadly, I was told that it was a state requirement. My last resort was to write a letter to the state board and keep going higher up until I got an answer. One day, I was checking my school email and I saw something from school with the subject “Class substitution ‘  I was nervous and opened the email, it stated that the substitution HAD been approved and they were offering astronomy. I literally screamed for joy and jumped out of my seat. I didn’t know a thing about astronomy but I knew that it was better than math and I had a chance of passing.

 

I quickly signed up and attended class in the fall. I was concerned though that I might not do well but the first class, I enjoyed the lecture and the teacher was really cool. It was both an in-class lecture and online work, that was ok with me. But the best part was yet to come, the professor mentioned that we did have in-class quizzes and exams. When the exams came, he surprised us and said that the exam was online with open notes, everyone was relieved. I ended up passing with flying colors, my heart soared because I knew that I was going to do good in this class. The next exam came and I studied so hard, I made flashcards, I got notes from the professor ( like in the math class), I just focused on that one class. And to my surprise, the next exam was online as well. Most classes never allow exams online so I was ecstatic. It turned out all the work online and I was able to eventually pass.  The last day of class, I was on top of the world, I knew I passed and it was like a huge boulder had been lifted off my shoulders and I could finally rest easy, it was over, I had gotten my degree

After struggling on and off for 15 years and when I saw that I got an A, that was the proudest moment of my life. Me, someone who struggled so much in his life, someone who made to feel he was stupid and not good enough, finally got a college degree, I was a college graduate at last. I never thought this would happen. I never thought it would happen when I was an 18-year-old kid in that class with that counselor, I was just happy to be out of high school. I didn’t think it would happen when I was working low paying jobs, treated like garbage every day, and sick to my stomach. I didn’t think it would happen when I couldn’t solve a simple math problem ( that a child could solve) and I felt so stupid. But it did happen and it could happen to me, I could happen to anyone. If you want something in your life, you have to work hard with every fiber of your being for it, you have to picture it in your mind and never stop until you reach that goal. You can struggle but never ever give up, that is one thing I learned from this whole experience. I am a walking miracle and I hope somebody can read this and be inspired to achieve their dreams just like I did.

 

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New Year goals 2019

New Year Goals

Well, a new year is upon us and it has been quite a incredible year for me; I made a lot of progress and really grew as a person. I pray that 2019 will also be a good year for me; I plan on making the year to come a very successful one; I’d like to improve myself on a mental/emotion, spiritual, social and financial/career level; all aspects of my life. I am ending the year on a somewhat sour note; being unemployed but I have perseverance and I am very driven. I am many goals for this year and I plan to achieve a lot in the coming year.

One of my goals is education; I am determined to finally get my associates degree in developmental disabilities; I want a job in the field; maybe as a job coach, a peer mentor or a motivational speaker in the future. I can sense how my writing and story has inspired others and the idea of using it to help people is something I very much like to do. I will take any opportunity to use my experience to inspire others to do their very best and not to give up; this may be one of my callings in life. I want more career aspects because like anyone else; I want to make enough money so I can be independent; I don’t live with my family by choice; I’m with them because my health issues and disabilities limits the kinds of jobs I can take; I want to push myself to do better; I think we all deserve that.

And speaking of my career; I want to continue to volunteer with the disabled ministry; I plan on spending more time with them this year; getting to know them further; and learning the skills I need to enter the human service field. It also helps me grow closer in my faith and become a more spiritual person. Through this group, I know God is working in my life. I plan on volunteering in other areas such as teaching English as a second language and other volunteer opportunities throughout the area. Now that I have all this free time; I plan to use it wisely and maybe get involved in church more as well. I think God has big plans for me in 2019 and I just have to follow his lead.

I think this will be a big year for me socially as well. I plan to continue reconnecting with friends and hopefully making new friends as well; I am trying to learning to face my fears and learn to meet new people and not avoid social situations; just to put myself out there. Something as simple as asking for a someone’s number who I’m interested in is a big step for me. Maybe dating is on the horizon for me; that is an exciting new chapter for me. That’s something that creates a lot of anxiety but I know God will guide me through whatever happens. I plan on maybe taking a trip back home to see old friends; there are so many people I want to see; just the idea of traveling is new to me but I am ready for it. I am so thankful for all the friends I have connected but am sad most of them live far away; so I have to make the effort to see them. This will be the year where I expand my social life.

I will continue to write; exploring new ideas and forms of writing; I am going to keep my blog and hopefully gain more followers and connect with more writers; I am so excited about that. With my free time; I hope to find a writers group in the area and meet fellow writers face to face; maybe get the chance to share my poetry to a live audience; I would love that. Yes writing is my saving grace and I have no idea where I’d be without it.

I figure if 2018 was such a big year; then 2019 will be even better; I just have to have faith; I need to stay positive and move forward in my life. I want to inspire and encourage others and do my part to make the world a better place. I want to be a more compassionate and forgiving person along the way; I remain in prayer and I hope for the best in the upcoming year. And I wish all of my family, friends and followers a very happy new years. May 2019 be a successful year for you; may you be blessed with all the happiness in the world

Dave

 

 

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Plan B ( God’s plan)

Tonight was great; I helped volunteer with with disabled ministry at church; we had a huge benefit dinner for the ministry and all the young adults and volunteers were there.  They paired me up with one of my favorite people there; we worked great as a team.  Before we started serving I went with the young adult I was helping and we introduced ourselves to everyone.  One of the volunteers; who is an incredibly nice guy; had his parents and grandparents there.  I talked to his Grandfather and the young adult I  was with mentioned I just got a new job at Costco; he is just as excited about it as I am.   I told the man about the new job and how I try to work hard and I hope they keep me.  And this man said something to me that has stuck with me.  He said ” listen there are two plans; plan A and Plan B.  Plan A is your plan; it’s what you want; your goals.  But Plan B; that’s God’s plan and if this doesn’t work out; then it’s not in God’s plan.  You can only do your very best and that’s all you can ask of yourself”  That was so insightful and one of the best piece’s of advice I’ve heard in a very long time.  I sort of choked up; looked up and said thank you; that was a God moment for sure.  I was in the right place and exactly where I needed to be; because there have some rough moments at Costco, but God was speaking to me through that nice older man who I had never met before; I didn’t have time to process until now; really.

I always thinking about God’s timeline; how things happen for a reason.   It’s like that time that I walked into the church; finally having a day off and they were talking about the Rainbow Ministry and I talked to the pastor about it and the next thing I knew I was meeting up with the leader of the Rainbow Ministry and her daughter about volunteer opportunities. And here I am a part of this wonderful; caring group where I feel at home.  Even the leader to me said : honey you are like family, sit with us at church anytime”   God has given me a purpose here and sometimes I am at loss for words at how blessed I am.  I was driving home yesterday and thinking about my friends I grew up with; the rainbow ministry and getting a new job; making more money; I just started crying because I am so blessed, you know.  God speaks to me everyday and sometimes I feel like he has singled me out for a special purpose; God wants me to take the pain I experienced to help others.  Its amazing how a 5 minute conversation with a stranger could spur a whole blog post I guess it’s a part of the plan.   Stay blessed, my friends.  God loves you

Dave

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Jesus and the outcasts

I am really growing in my faith although I can’t make it Church service due to work and I should crack open my bible more; I try to live by the principles of Jesus’s teachings            ( which I have read several times)  and I often think about how God is working in my life.  I pray a lot when I feel other’s don’t accept me; they treat me as if I am unworthy and I’m sure mock me when I’m not around; I’m different.  I’m a pretty sensitive and gentle person and that is seen as a weakness; I have mental health issues; which I’m sure people pick up on; I have a lot of physical health issues and I am often uncomfortable which makes me anxious and people see anxious people as suspicious ( at least in my case) when they’re not. So I have felt and continue to feel like an outcast in many social situations.  The people who grew up with me accepted me but most outside of that circle have treated me poorly and that hurts.   So I was thinking about that the other day and if you read in the bible; Jesus didn’t seek out perfect people; the best looking guy in town; or the smartest guy; or the man in great health or someone that could communicate well; he chose those that were considered outcasts; tax collectors; those in bad health; those who stuttered ( Well that was in the old testament but you know what I mean) because Jesus knew that they could be the ones to effectively bring his message to ordinary people.  And Jesus didn’t go around helping only the rich or the highly educated; he helped sinners; prostitutes, the sick and the lame; people that society threw away              ( much like today)  But Jesus spread the word of God to them and healed them because the weakest members of society are the ones who need the most love and care.  It is so touching to read these stories of how Jesus cared for those who were outcasts. In a small way I saw myself in these passages and at times cried because I realized that I had pushed away God and yet he was also there to embrace me and accept me back; whereas people don’t always accept you back into their lives or have forgiveness in their hearts.  So when I feel mocked and pushed aside and made to feel like an outcast; I’m proud of that because I know Jesus is holding me up and giving me comfort; protecting me from the harsh world.  Not only do I love Jesus as the son of God but as a man; A selfless man who unlike the world preached that society should take care of it’s sick and disabled; it shouldn’t cast out anyone who is different; we should accept and love them; not in spite of their differences but because of their differences.  Having God in my life has given me hope in a world that sometimes feels hopeless; where people are so unkind to each other; where there’s no mercy or justice.  Times like that I close my eyes for a second; send a prayer to God; and while I may be anxious or hurting; I have peace knowing he is listening to this outcast and sending love down to him during those rough days.  Amen to that.  Remember that God is love and with him anything is possible

Dave

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The disabled ministry ( an update)

I wanted to make an update about beginning my involvement with the Rainbow Ministry at church; they serve the needs of the developmentally disabled in the community.  I emailed some of the leaders and was told that they had a coffee meetings; served by the disabled that they help; it was wonderful. I am so glad such a ministry exists and that they can be productive and do something worthwhile..  I walked in and the person who founded it was there and so was her daughter; both are really nice people; easy to talk and enthusiastic about the ministry.  I just told them I really wanted to be a part the ministry and she told me the days that they had opportunities; I have a difficult schedule at work but I am going to make this happen; as soon as I can I am going to talk to my boss and find the times I can be of service.  I am just so excited; I love helping the disabled; they are some of the friendliest people I have ever known and the least judgemental.  I also talked to her daughter that informed there is a fellowship night with on Friday with games and it would give me a chance to meet more people involved in the ministry;  it’s literally down the street and I will be there. I really feel God working in my life right now.

I admit I am always nervous when I make changes in my life and I’m not sure why since this is such a good thing. I just found myself really anxious and focusing on the negative aspect of work potentially getting in the way but I have to try to have a positive attitude. I pray God guides me and I can get the opportunity to serves others; I truly feel this is my calling in life.  And I am so happy to connect with others who are as passionate about the disabled as I am.

Thank you

David

A PSA about disabilities

I have the most amazing friends on social media especially those who are involved in helping those with developmental disabilities; a part of the population that oftentimes don’t have their needs meet and in my personal opinion are treated poorly by people who don’t understand them or the obstacles they face; that is why this post my friend made on Facebook was so moving; as soon as I read  it ;I knew I had to share it with my blog readers since I am so passionate about helping those with development disabilities. It is really is a beautiful post….

The other day my son and I were shopping for some back to school clothes for him. A very chatty sales associate stopped to ask if we needed any help. I politely replied “no” but noticed he was kind of lingering. He asked me a couple questions about my tattoos and I quickly noticed (from my own exposure/experience) that he was developmentally disabled. So, he kept asking questions and I kept answering them. We ended up discussing the fact that my son went to a school run by a mental health agency in our county and he expressed he worked with a similar organization in town that helped place people with disabilities with suitable jobs. He paused to help other people and I immediately noticed how other people were uncomfortable talking to him and really tried to avoid him. It made me really sad because he was so incredibly friendly and willing to share things about his life. Some of his questions may have felt intrusive to others but, I understood that he was merely trying to engage in conversation and give good customer service, so I indulged him. We looked at shirts longer than we needed to…him to my right with a beaming smile and my son to my left, crouched on the floor, semi hiding and whispering his answers to questions asked so I would respond for him and he didn’t have to make eye contact/talk with a stranger.

In that moment I realized just how beautiful neurodiversity is and how I was sandwiched in between two very obviously loving people with great curiosity, developmental disabilities and different ways of navigating public situations. Neither was fazed by the other’s behavior. I expressed to the man that my son and I had disabilities as well and that I was really happy for him that he found a job he liked and made him feel useful. Before we parted I shook his hand and thanked him for his help and made sure to tell him I thought the store was very lucky to have him as an employee and that I thought he was really good at his job. His face was beaming. I bumped into a manager on the way out and made sure to tell them how pleased we were with his kindness and help.

My point is…I notice a lot of times people shy away from those who they recognize as having intellectual or developmental disabilities. I understand that sometimes people simply may not know what to say. The trick is…you say whatever you would say to someone without a disability. You say hello and make small talk if you’re in the mood and you thank them for their help. I don’t know how many people take the time, even a few moments, to engage this man – from what I witnessed no other customers did. In all fairness my son and I do seem to magnetically attract people with varying disabilities which I always find interesting because none of us are wearing signs that scream, “We’re disabled!” I imagine it must be some type of subtle energy or openness that others pick up on. I feel blessed to have that. I feel good that perhaps we were a cheerful part of that man’s day. It doesn’t make us special or better than anyone else, just as having these varying disabilities don’t make us any less. It makes us human. It’s not that difficult in the least to simply treat people humanely.

Fear of the unknown shouldn’t stop us from reaching out or taking a few moments to engage with a stranger. You never know what beautiful things you may have in common.

Later that afternoon I had the pleasure of spending time with an amazing young woman with Down’s Syndrome and we had a great time in public as well…I noticed “the looks” and I purposely ignored them. She wasn’t looking for input from others so it didn’t matter and she is fiercely independent and self assured…which I absolutely LOVE seeing! My favorite part of that experience was when she asked me the lyrics to a song, I sang about 3 words, she turned and looked at me very seriously and said, “ok. That’s enough.” I laughed but explained I wasn’t laughing at her, it was her sheer honesty that made me really happy and I agreed with her that I did not have the best singing voice! 🙂

Be good to each other. Step outside your comfort zone

When God calls us

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I work retail and therefore it a rarity that I get a Sunday off; luckily today I am not working and was able to attend church with my family. I think church is important but at the same time I feel God is everywhere and I don’t need to go to church in order to follow his word. But today being at church  was especially important; the church I attended is very active in helping the community and there is a program that helps both children and adults with disabilities. I talk a lot about getting into the disability field on my blog; it is something I am very passionate about; I prayed for God to give me the opportunity to help with those who have disabilities in any way I could and this is my chance. After the service I talked to one of the volunteers and gave him my contact information; I hope to be able to part of this very special ministry that helps the disabled.  I think God gives us all gifts and I feel like his gift for me is sensitivity towards others and a desire to help people in need; I have gone most of my life not using my gift but it is better late than never. I feel this is God’s calling for me. I find when I listen to God my life changes in miraculous ways for the better.  When you volunteer and be of service to others; you not only help others but you help yourself as well. I used to be in 12 steps and the one thing people would say to me is to get out of self centered thinking is to help another person. I am no longer in 12 steps but I did take that concept to heart. When you focus on ourselves we don’t do anyone any good.  Helping others helps us grow as people and become closer to God and that is where I want to be at this point in my life.

I also feel God is calling me in other ways.  I was driving home from church and thinking about visiting my friend and reading her daughter’s writings who is about 16. I thought about the poetry reading I went to where the best poem was read by teens; young people who spoke from their heart and had a lot to say. I think of myself at that time; I was a troubled teen. I acted out; got kick out of school, had lost my brother and was having a lot of issues. Regardless of circumstances it is really tough to be a teenager these days; they have a lot of feelings they can’t express; they feel unheard; and think they oftentimes feel alone ( even though they aren’t).  A part of me would in some way help young people; maybe teach them ways to cope.  I am not sure how I would achieve this or if it will ever happen but I think I have a lot to offer; a lot of experience given how I struggled at their age.  To me nothing happens by accident and I was at my friend’s house, at church today and at the poetry reading for a reason; there was a message I supposed to be hearing.

When I think about how my life has taken such a different trajectory in such a positive direction is a miracle and it can’t be explained in any other way except that God is working in my life. And when I talk about God; I don’t talk about religious doctrine or even church; I am not here to point the finger, judge, evangelize, convert, or stand on a soap box and preach morality. People are free to behave and say whatever they want; for me God is more about have compassion for others; learning to forgive; and that God put us on this Earth to help others because that is what gives him joy. So I feel blessed and will continue to walk down this path that God has layed out for me; he has yet to steer me wrong.

Dave

How I measure success?

I often time beat myself up because I am not as far a long as I would like to be in life. I am not in a relationship; I don’t have a family or kids; I don’t have an exciting career; I am not even living on my own; I feel left behind. I compare myself to the people I had grown up with and all the achievements they have made; while I sometimes feel like a failure. But then I remember all the obstacles that came my way; I remember difficulties in school due to learning disabilities; I was very smart but the mainstream way of teaching was not getting through to me; I felt left behind and it is because I have my own style of learning things and I have learned to adapt over the years. It’s probably why I struggled in high school yet thrived in college; for example I would get lost if I was trying to take notes during a lecture; I couldn’t keep up with the professor; my handwriting was illegible and I didn’t learn a thing. It wasn’t until I just listened to the lecture and studied twice as hard before a test; that I was able to do well at college. To me since I do have learning disabilities; just functioning in a classroom and getting passing grades to me is a success; it may seem small to someone else but to me it is a big deal because I never thought I’d be doing so well in school or getting so close to a degree; it was a nice pipe dream but I didn’t think it would actually happen ( although it has taken me many years)

I think back to the emotional difficulties I faced as a kid and how difficult it was to make friends. I just had such trouble relating to others; being able to hold a conversation; managing my feelings appropriately; all of this was extremely difficult for me. I used to act in anger all the time ( I have my moments but I have improved) and it got me kicked out of many schools and sent away to treatment centers and I look back and wish that if I had just controlled my anger; I could have stayed in regular high school and maybe been more successful. I look at myself and I am a lot calmer than I used to; I handle situations a hell of of lot better than in the past. I manage my anxiety by writing; working out and reaching out to my friends ; I don’t have to act out anymore. Writing has been my saving grace and has allowed me to make sense of all these complex emotions I face on the daily. While I still have trouble making friends; I put myself out there more; I am more involved in helping others; I try to meet other people who share my interests. I am actually going to a poetry reading tonight for the first time and I’m pretty excited and a little nervous ( although I won’t share) but these are things are I never did before because I was fearful. I face my fears these days and you can’t be successful if you are under constant fear and afraid to take risks; you can’t have success without risk.

For most people having a job is something you just do; you get up; get ready for work and put in your 8 hour/40 hr a week a job; they don’t realize that for some people going to work can be very difficult; both on a emotional and a physical level. I, like so many other Americans suffer from a number of disabilities and working has always been difficult for me. For me being on my feet 8 hours a way; dealing with a bad stomach and co-workers and bosses that don’t seem to give a shit can make the work day seem impossible; those 8 hours can be daunting. But I have gotten to a point ( believe or not) where I get up everyday; I get ready; out the door without any complaints; I just do it because it needs to get done. I hate working but I can’t expect anyone to carry me financially; I have bills that need to be paid and as far as I know working is the only way to make money ( legally at least) Today I manage to be as productive as possible and stay out of everyone’s way; I don’t talk about anyone or antagonize my co-workers; I ignore the bullshit and the gossiping because I want make my day as productive as possible. So I try to keep my emotions in check and that is very hard when you have a controlling store manager or backstabbing co-workers but I tell myself this is temporary and soon I will be on to bigger and better things; no need to be negative; this was not happening in the past. I was such a miserable person to be around in my previous job; I was spiteful and was the biggest shit talker you’ve ever met; I was in physical pain and I took it out on anyone I could find; I am truly ashamed of my behavior and wish I could take it back. At that time my stress was through the roof and every workday was an ordeal. I remember at my old job there was this new guy and he was pretty extroverted and able to make friends with everyone pretty quickly. He came back to me one day and she said some girl there told him that all I did was talk bad about people; I felt hurt at my behavior. Nowadays I don’t act that way at all; I respect others; I don’t complain; I do my stint at work and I go home; like everyone else. I am proud of the worker I am today and I would call that success. It may not be financial success but I have a steady income; work more hours; havE better relationships with my co-workers. Sometimes I can’t believe how much things have changed. I feel the person I was 7 or 8 years ago no longer exists; but it took a lot of work to get here; it didn’t happen overnight. But nonetheless the last two years of employment have been a success in my book.

This blog isn’t all about me though; success is subjective;dependent upon your situation. I also don’t want this post to seem self centered or self pitying; I hope someone can read it and feel inspired by it and strive for their own successes. There may be someone reading this that has such severe depression they can’t get out of bed. They may spend most of those days sleeping or lost in their sadness; unable to get off the couch. Success to them may mean meeting a friend for lunch or joining a class. Success may mean going back into to therapy and having that safe place to express their feelings. Or someone could have a physical disability and they managed to get in their wheelchair and go to the grocery store or the park and that is success. Someone may have stomach problems like me and they finally managed to find a diet that works and go a day without being sick and that is a huge success for them. Or how about someone is bi-polar who manages to get hired at their first job and the pride that comes with getting that first paycheck after being broke for so many years. Most people without difficulties don’t look at these things as achievements because they take their health for granted. They figure I can work 40 hours a week; why can’t they?. Success is a personal thing and is not always measured in terms of money, huge achievements or relationships; it’s the little things. Am I a better person than I used to be? Do I handle situations better than in the past? Have I learned to take care of myself both emotionally or physically? Some of us face so many obstacles but we can’t give up and we can’t let the world dictate to us what success means. We have to strive for success on our own terms and be proud of our achievements; even if it just means getting out of bed today. So thank you for as always for taking the time to read my blog and take care of yourselves.

Dave

 

 

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Why do we judge the disabled so harshly

There is an internet figure or should I say meme based on a man named Chris Chan who has autism; he has been cyber bullied for years; the cruelness is beyond comprehension.  This man has been trolled by hundreds of people over the course of 10 years. . There are documentaries on this guy, countless memes, thousands of videos mocking this guy; getting him to do disgusting things and leaking it to the internet; there is whole wiki site based on him and of course its in a mocking tone; I don’t even know why I even look at it. A part of me is scared by this since I am on the autism spectrum; although I can work, maintain friendships, attend college;  I struggle socially; I think to myself this could be me. They are laughing at people like me.

I looked at the page today and one section was about Chris’s ego and how he is enabled and has a sense of entitlement. Something I read really bothered me. They said no one over 30 should live with their parents regardless of disability; I thought that was harsh, incredibly judgmental and ignorant about the economic system in which we live. If these ignorant fools bothered to read the facts they’d realize that the employment rate for the disabled ( autism included) is about 10% ;about twice the amount for non disabled people.  Jobs are scarce for the disabled and all are low paying. No one disabled or otherwise could survive on these wages; it isn’t fair; in fact its downright cruel. A living wage is the least they can do for the disabled ;but that will never happen at least in this country. I for one live my parents and it isn’t because I enjoy their company; I have no choice. Not only do I have emotional issues along with being on the spectrum; I suffer from physical issues as well. It’s so bad that I cant stand in the same place for more than 15 minutes without running to the bathroom; it disrupts my whole life; so independence is something that seems out of reach. I am always conscious that there is a segment of society that is judging me ( and others like me) because I still with my parents; probably the same people who call welfare handouts. Here’s the thing: I love my parents (although it can be tense at times) but I would give anything to be on my own. I pay most of my bills aside from the medical portion but there are just so many obstacles and you know no matter how hard you try you can’t survive because someone who does have wealth and power won’t let you because he doesn’t want to give a small part of what he has; so you can have your basic needs met.

It just saddens me that we judge people when they don’t know their circumstances. Maybe Chris ( its Christine now sorry)is low on the spectrum and can’t possibly hold down a job. Maybe she cant live on her own; maintain an apartment, cook for herself, pay bills or manage her health. I mean who are we to judge someone we don’t know. There is so much stigma of the disabled particular those with mental and emotional issues; we have ridiculous high standards for them that maybe they can never achieve. The average person may say  ” Hey, I work 2 jobs; 60 hrs a week; why can’t they”. People speak out of ignorance and cruelty and its obvious they never suffered in life and have had all the breaks in life. The rest of us struggle to survive; on our feet 8 hours a day         ( when its physically difficult) living paycheck to paycheck and we’ll still can’t achieve independence. If you sense an angry tone; you are right; I am angry. The disabled deserve better; they deserve to work and live independently like everyone else; I see it as a human right. It hurts to see another human being trolled by millions ( yes millions of people) Its despicable and that is all I have left to say.  That is it for my blog but I will leave you with this. As the bible states Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judgeye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you – Matthews 7:2.  Remember it

Dave

 

Doing Church Mission Trips (ASP)

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When I was younger I spent a lot of my time in my church community; I grew to really care about the people there; and they showed me a lot of love. I remember that not only did we have activities at church but we also went on trips; retreats; ski trips; trips the mountains; but the trips that were the most important to me was the Appalachian Service Project ( ASP). This was a mission trip where the church would travel to remote areas in Appalachian areas and help repair homes that were damaged in impoverished communities; I went on ASP about 2 times when I was about 17 or 18. I grew up in a community that was a bubble; most people were well off and I know for me; I wasn’t exposed to extreme poverty; I had never traveled much and had never been to the mountains. I was told we would be there for about a week; I was nervous because I hadn’t been that far away for so long without my family before; I sat on the bus in the parking wondering if this was a good idea. My health problems were starting then but I didn’t tell anyone; my stomach hurt really bad and I just felt uncomfortable. I was worried that everything I would eat would make me sick and I couldn’t run home for comfort; once that bus left; it was out my hands. It could have been nerves as well but I felt like this on most trips with the group; I chose to stay silent because I didn’t want anyone to worry. I remember getting there and we arrived at a high school; but it was much smaller than the one I had gone to and it was in the middle of A valley; a really small town; with a burger king, I think; and a little hardware store; I think there was a gas station next to the school; that was it. I was concerned because we slept in a gym and the facilities weren’t great. I was uncomfortable about sleeping on the floor with all of these people in a gym but I tried to be positive. I told myself that I was here to help a needy family and that i was willing to make a sacrifice; I felt i was doing a good thing. It took some time to get adjusted but eventually I did and the next day; we started to go to the home to help repair it. I was so embarrassed because I knew nothing about tools or building anything; I was clumsy and I never felt good enough compared to the rest of them; I didn’t fit. Most of the time I just kept to myself because I guess I was anxious. But people were nice and I never felt pushed aside; people understood that I struggled. The two trips may be merging together but I remember being on a roof and it was so hot; the midday sun was just burning; I was laying tar or something. I was just struggling; couldn’t hammer a nail to save my life; coordination was terrible but all that aside I was happy that I was there in the first place and I could be of help. It was a lot of hard work and at the end of the day I was exhausted; as was everyone else; just so sore and all I could do was sit down. But the working was not the highlight of the trip; the highlight was to meet the families; to know we were making a difference; doing what God would wanted us to do; we were supporting the families and each other; it was beautiful. I felt God spoke to me on those trips; I remember one of the families had a little girl; she was maybe 5 or 6; she was so friendly and was always interested in what we were doing; she was deaf. And when I heard her family talk about their situation; something in me changed. They talked about how they had no programs in school for the deaf; none; which coming from a wealthy county was something I had never even thought of; I always thought the deaf had schools to go to. Since they couldn’t place her in a deaf program; they placed her a special education program; which saddened me; because to me she seemed like any other little girl; aside from that fact that she couldn’t hear. When I was a kid I was in special education so something about that affected me; and here I am here 20 years later working to get a degree in the disability field; I am believer that everything happens for a reason in God’s timeline. There was another family we visited; actually it was two families. One family had two sons that I think had down syndrome; they were forced to live in the adjacent house ( which was right next to a railroad track); the family told the sons that if they crossed into the property they would be shot; I was shocked. We walked into their house ( the brothers) and you could tell they had difficulties taken care of themselves; there was trash and food everywhere; and you could tell life was difficult; it broke my heart; it really did. There is a reason I saw that; God was speaking to me; preparing me to make a difference in a disabled person’s life; it was one of those life changing moments where you now knew your purpose. Those trips meant a lot to me; the bonds I made with my friends; doing God’s work; feeling of use; helping families and seeing the smiles on their faces when we finished; I was honored to be a part of those trips. I later recalled those memories in front of the congregation; and I was nervous wreck; I had trouble fully explaining everything I was thinking and feeling at the time; so this is my chance 20 years later to say exactly how I felt. I hope someday I can go on another mission trip as an adult; and see young kids make a difference in other’s lives; just like we did. It is such a blessing that ASP exists; for everyone involved. Someone once told me that God put on these earth to help others and that couldn’t be more true.

 

Note- I am the kid with the Dare T-shirt