Not too long after graduation I went to New York City for an interview. It was one of the hottest days, if not the hottest, I’ve ever spent in the city, ever. Typically, I would’ve stayed home blasting the air conditioning, but I had ulterior motive.
I wanted a position.
I found a small volunteer program that I wanted to be a part of and they had invited me to the city for an interview. I decided to ask my best friend to come with me and make a day out of the whole thing, because spending 4 hours on a train for a 1-hour interview didn’t make much sense.
My interview was with 3 people, the recruiter and 2 of the people I would be working with if I was accepted, and it lasted over 2 hours.
I had this thing in the bag. Why else would they keep me for 2 hours if there wasn’t some interest?
A week went by and there was no news. Then there was a rejection letter waiting for me, a hard copy, not the email I was expecting.
It took me a while to figure out where things went south. It took me even longer to know that there was nothing I could’ve done to change the outcome.
During the interview the recruiter kept mentioning how hard it would be to insure me due to my disability. I kept reassuring him that it would be illegal if an insurance company refused to insure me.
Something tells me that this was the reason why I didn’t get the position, although one can never be completely certain.
Over a year later I was sitting in a mentor’s office with my area director for the first of three area director visits, a requirement for the service program that welcomed me with open arms.
During that meeting I remembered that first interview. I saw then what a bad fit that would’ve been for me. I was exactly where I needed to be, even if the journey there wasn’t what I had in mind.
For a long time, I saw having Cerebral Palsy as a barrier that I had to overcome (and even hide) when I should’ve seen it as an asset; it took meeting with my mentor and area director to realize that it could be considered an asset, because that’s what they saw it as.
It’s easy to see CP as a constant barrier. 90% of the focus is on the various potential and actual barriers of living with CP. It’s easy to go with the flow and fall into the negative trap with the majority.
Instead of focusing on what you can’t do or won’t be able to do, shift the focus to the potential gifts of CP. Everyone has limitations AND gifts, CP or no CP so you shouldn’t use CP as an excuse.
Don’t tell people what you can’t do, tell them what you can do, and then show it.
Be honest about your limitations (but don’t downplay them) and highlight your strengths.
Life is too short to waste time trying to please people who see you (or any part of you) as a hindrance.
Surround yourself with people who see you as an asset, not a barrier than needs to be overcome. They’ll make you a better person and you’ll make them better people.
More importantly, see yourself as a valuable asset because that’s what you are.
*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on March 19, 2014