I define a glass ceiling as any roadblock that keeps us from achieving our desired success. My diagnosis with a degenerative condition leading to blindness could have been that insurmountable obstacle, but I found a resilience I didn’t know I had. Unlocking that window of opportunity taught me something life-changing — there is no glass ceiling.
Think about it this way: If you put your hand in the air, can you feel a ceiling? Does the sky have a barrier you can touch? No way! And if we can’t sense the obstacle, nothing can truly stop us. We all have the power to break through the glass ceiling.
When I was sixteen, I was sitting in the dark of an ophthalmologist’s office as he flashed a light in my eyes, and I heard the words, “retinitis pigmentosa.” At that moment, my dreams of driving a convertible and wearing designer fashion faded as he explained that I would likely be blind by age 40.
As he predicted, my vision worsened every few years. As terrified as I was, I found an inner strength I had never used before. I discovered that I had choices. I was in control of my story.
I Found My Inner Compass
When I was ten, I would run home from school to catch the Oprah Winfrey Show. I loved her energy and often thought, “How do I get a job like that?” That was the spark that defined my life’s mission. What inspired me about Oprah was the connection she developed with her audience. I loved how honest guests were about their insecurities and how sharing solutions created a bond. That process helped me understand my gift.
I Started to Feel Comfortable in my Skin
As I drew closer to my dream career in talk radio, I felt pressured to compare myself to other show hosts. What was my appeal as a personality? Did the world need another Barbara Walters? Another Oprah? While both women had earned their places in broadcast history, I knew the door was open to creating who Nancy would be. Once I found my niche, I shattered the expectation that I had to fit a particular mold to be successful.
Life has a way of teaching us the direction we’re meant to follow. By trusting that intuition, I gained broadcasting experience and earned a life coaching degree. I now have a nationwide radio show. My gift opened a world of opportunities to make my lane and be myself.
There is no Glass Ceiling
During my 20’s and 30s, increasing limitations sometimes gave me “Aha” moments that forced big decisions, often after some of the lowest points in my life. I learned to see these moments as opportunities to get creative.
My vision loss worsened during my time as a real estate agent. One day, while driving, the lines on the road started to disappear, and I had an accident.
Two men, fighting behind a van, suddenly lurched into traffic, right into my path. While the police said it was not my fault, I second-guessed myself: Did I not see them because of my blindness? Would a normal person have seen them? Both men were okay, but I took this event as a sign. With tears rolling down my face, I placed the car keys in the drawer and never drove again. I reluctantly accepted this change in my life.
As it turned out, there were a variety of options. I hired an assistant to help me in my real estate business, and she often drove me along with clients to showings. And on days I didn’t have her, I asked my clients to drive: “After all,” I told them, “It’s the best way to get to know the neighborhood.”
I became an expert at using available resources and often took multiple buses to open houses. Dressed up for work with my arms full of open house signs, I walked the neighborhood early in the morning, placing the signs to point the way. Afterward, I spent two to three hours picking up the signs again and took the bus home. It was a huge hurdle, but I soon realized I could be creative and adapt to almost any challenge.
I Overcame the Fear of the Unknown
I pursued each career goal passionately, but my life took a significant turn when I decided I wanted a career that worked with rather than against my blindness.
Today, I don’t need eyes to host my radio show. As a nationally renowned speaker, I can motivate a crowd even if I can’t see their faces. As a regular contributor to several national publications, I don’t depend on my sense of sight to create content.
Despite my progressive blindness, my confidence surged, and in 2015, I was the first blind person ever to host a live-streamed talk show. The uniqueness of that was my ability to memorize information since I could not read a teleprompter, yet I hit all my cues. In the end, a disability many would label “career-ending” opened new ways of thinking. Instead of a glass ceiling, I found an open door.
I Changed How I Perceived the World
As a legally blind woman, I don’t see a person’s class or race when I meet them. I’m focused on the tone of their voice and the warmth of their laughter. I find myself connecting with people in a more meaningful way. This shift in perception extends to all aspects of my business – and my relationships.
My focus has moved to listening. As a visually impaired CEO, I’m more aware of my need for a strong team to be my eyes, hands, and feet to extend beyond my limitations. For some, the glass ceiling is the lie that “I can do it alone.” This change in perspective removed boundaries and helped me see the potential in myself and others.
Today, I see with my mind, heart, and fearlessness. I don’t need to see the stage to sing karaoke. Just tell me where the audience is seated; I don’t want to belt Britney Spears to the empty chairs. And while meeting a Bumble match in person is intimidating for anyone, I make sure to put my humor in my purse, and I remember that every date is a blind date.
I’m proud of myself in every situation for living my life without restraints or comparisons. I am always game to try new activities. With every experience — good or bad — it’s worth it. I’m usually glad I went. The secret is engaging in life with an open mind and a grateful heart. We need nothing else to become an unstoppable force of infinite possibility.
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Photo Credit: @joshuaearle on Unsplash