Society has a way of manipulating us into thinking we have to be a certain way, but it’s not always how we see ourselves. Or how we want to be perceived by others.
Sometimes it’s necessary to break away from the labels or roles we’ve been given. We have to see if there’s something bigger waiting to be painted. If there isn’t, we must learn to be happy living in between the lines society has created for us.
If there is indeed a bigger picture, however, there’s an opportunity to do something bigger than ourselves. That’s the moment when we control what we become – and do what needs to be done to ensure it aligns with who we are.
I’ve always wanted to be something bigger than myself. I watched my two brothers excel in karate class when we were growing up, as they both climbed the ladder to becoming black belts. I wanted to be part of a group as they were. I asked myself, ‘What if I could do something important?’ and ‘If I could be part of something bigger than myself, what would it mean in the long run?’
I didn’t feel left out, but I thought I could find meaning in my life if I could be something bigger than my cerebral palsy. The sense of inclusiveness and belonging had been missing, although I never told anyone. I didn’t like it, and wanted to change the way I felt. I thought it was just a phase I was going through and it would pass.
I didn’t want to cause any trouble. Nor did I want to call any more attention to myself than my disability already caused. I was simply looking for some sort of validation that I belonged somewhere – and I was capable of contributing to something. Several years went by and I was still watching my brothers climb the ladder at karate class – surrounded by their group of people.
I finally gathered the courage to tell my parents, ‘I want to be something! It took them some time to realize I wasn’t talking about “becoming” anything. they slowly figured out I was looking for something much deeper.
I carried this mindset into my personal and professional life. It also meant, however, it affected my adulthood. It was just there at first, like a traffic light or a fly on the wall. It occurred to me I needed to find out if this actually had a place in my life – or if it was extra baggage. I knew if I dealt with this in a positive way, my decision to become a writer would mean even more.
I blinked and suddenly found myself in the final weeks of 2014. Things were going well with my career, and I was having more articles published by mainstream publications like Upworthy and XoJane. All those years of wanting to be involved in something big and important were coming full circle, but there was another vital piece to this puzzle.
I still had the opportunity to become the Social Justice Editor at The Good Men Project. It was a position my Editor and predecessor, Cameron Conaway, had brought relevancy and respect to. I wanted to make sure I did the same if I was going to even attempt to fill his shoes. I wasn’t thinking about anything else as I replied to the e-mail regarding his resignation.
“It would be an honor to be considered for this,” I wrote. “However, I understand if you have someone else in mind for the position.”
I received a reply from the editing staff within hours, which stated they appreciated my willingness to step up. And the position was still open if I were to accept it. I wish I could say I wasn’t taken aback, that I wasn’t at a loss for words. Again, I was aware of the magnitude of this opportunity, but I didn’t think my name would be on the list of those who could possibly do what Cameron did, in the manner in which he did it.
I accepted the job with open eyes and a grateful heart. I understood how monumental this decision was – not only for me, but for the staff at The Good Men Project. I also understood this said something major about the way the staff handled business as an organization. My only goal at this point was to not let anyone down because I was finally part of a team. Even though I had been working at The Altoona Mirror for several years, my personal column did not give me the team approach I was looking for.
There may be times when it seems like your moment will never come. A moment when you can breathe a sigh of relief in preparation for the task ahead. You might work hard and think no one notices – until they do. When that happens, it’s your time to shine brighter than you ever have before.
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