There comes a time in life when we have a clear idea of where we’re going and what we want. We might have started down the path we thought was going to lead us to The Promise Land. We might even think our current situation – whatever it might be – is as good as it’s going to get.
When we stop and look around, however, we see there’s more work to be done. Obtaining the things we truly want always takes more blood, sweat, and tears than we initially anticipate. We may travel other roads on our way to doing so – not because it’s necessarily the best path to take. Nor because we’ve been advised to go that way.
Sometimes we have to pass by dark places on the way to getting what we want. As I would find out, though, we don’t have to stay there.
I was at a strange place in my life by the end of 2012. I had everything I wanted as I was building my career, but I was empty and broken inside. The voices who once bellowed, “My granddaughter is the best writer in the world!” were gone, I had to push the sense of loss down into the pit of my stomach while I watched my readership at The Good Men Project grow. The fact I was now in a position where my work was being read by everyone made me feel I was doing something right.
My work was no longer just for me, or the locals who read my column in Altoona. It was now accessible to anyone who took the time to read it. Most importantly, I tried to write from a genuinely inclusive perspective – which developed naturally. I think Cameron saw in my writing something he felt was missing at The Good Men Project.
I was motivated to keep the momentum with a feeling of immense gratitude. He had hired me on no other basis except for the quality of my work. I got the feeling Cameron knew I wasn’t trying to be something I wasn’t. I wouldn’t randomly put an article together simply because I was happy to finally be writing on a national level.
I think Cameron knew the quality of my work matched my integrity with every article I wrote. I wasn’t going to give him anything less than my best, and he didn’t expect anything less in return. This was a beautiful, important moment because no one truly expected anything from me. Anyone who crossed paths with me up until this point knew I gave my heart and soul every time I set my mind on doing something.
People knew I was going to finish whatever I started, but the certainty always came with some degree of convincing on my part. Not with Cameron and the rest of the editorial staff at The Good Men Project. It felt great knowing there was a group of people out there who believed in my work as much as I did. Having Cameron as my Editor helped me tremendously because he was open to any ideas I had, and constantly offered his own ideas about how to expand on them. He had confidence in my work and allowed me the freedom to do my own ‘thing’.
The overwhelming sense I had to live the best life I could possibly live rushed me. It wasn’t because I felt old or thought I should have been doing something else other than writing. It was rather because I knew I could comfortably put my cerebral palsy to the side without feeling guilty or ashamed.
I wasn’t going to forget about it or ignore it. Nor was I going to pretend that being a writer with a disability automatically gave me a pass to say what I wanted, however, I wanted to say it. Getting hired at my first national writing job – much less getting hired anywhere – wasn’t about having the opportunity to ramble on about how difficult my life is. Or to give readers a reason to feel bad for me. I understood The Good Men Project was a platform with a diverse blend of opinions and perspectives. If I was going to continue to add mine, I’d have to make smart choices.
I had to learn how to effectively weave my disability into my writing. It was an extremely valuable lesson I don’t think I could have learned anywhere else, in any other way. It felt like the more I wrote, the more preparation I had for the next opportunity to came my way. Little did I know. the next thing that happened would be one of the biggest steps in my life.
One thing always leads to another. You may not realize it at first, but you’ll know when the stars begin to align. When they don’t align, question it, smile, and know it happened. Most importantly though, simply be grateful.
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