Back to the Working World!
Today I started a new job. I haven’t had a structured job in over two years, and while it is very exciting, it is very intimidating, too. I was hired as a contractor of the State of Michigan to help develop and standardize Crisis Stabilization Units for people in psychiatric crisis. I am one of four people in the state that were hired with “lived experience”. At first, that term was incredibly overwhelming. I am likely going to be the only person who has actually been hospitalized, or at least more than 50 times. I was worried that I would be seen as “less than”. As the token participant, not an equal.
Today we met with the “lived experience” part of the team, and our boss reminded us that we were not just hired for what we have survived, but for our professional experience, too. I was a special education teacher. I have an MEd in Applied Behavior Analysis. I was a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. And I am writing a book, for Heaven’s sake! I am just as much a part of the team as everyone else that will be there.
There are definitely things that I can do to make myself look more professional. My boss helped me find a solid way to prop up my phone so that it doesn’t look like I’m Face Timing. I can “dress for success” so that I both look professional and feel good. I can read all the documents in advance and take notes so that I have an idea about what I want to say during the meetings. I can make myself comfortable so that I’m not twisting and turning during the long meetings. And I can smile. I have a great smile.
This job is going to help me change the world. The projects we are working on speak so intensely to the ideas I have been fighting for since I started my blog. And I get to be a part of it!
When you have a disability, it is really easy to think that you are not as good as everyone else – but you are. You are, and so am I. I am valuable, and smart, and I can do hard things. I am going to be brave enough to speak for people like me, even when no one else understands. I am going to be vulnerable in order to bring up the topics that are difficult to talk about. And if I am triggered or shot down, I am going to debrief with my boss and my team so that I can stand up again the next time and do it all over.
I am so grateful to have this job. I know that I will probably never be able to work full-time again, but this is a start, and it makes me proud to be a part of that world again. The work I have been doing is valuable and life-changing, but it isn’t always accepted as “work”, as sad as that is. This is a job that other people can understand. A job that I can say, man, I need to go to Starbucks, it was a long day! Or count down the days till the weekend 😊 A job that makes me proud of who I am. So, if I could give you any advice, it wouldn’t be to find a job, it would be to find what you love and makes you feel proud. That’s what I did, and I haven’t been this excited in a long time!