a life thus far lesson

Transitions in our lives extract us from the everyday unconscious motion and routine and offer opportunities for reflective resets. I happen to currently be in the process of transitioning jobs (which accounts for some inconsistency in my posting lately and foreseeably); and for these first two months of the year, I’ve got a foot in both places, assisting with the transition out of my old job, and on a part-time basis trying to get myself up to speed in the new. My writing in this space has drawn mostly from insights and perspective drawn from my journey as a mom after losing Adam, and not focused much on my professional life or experiences at all. But this transition time in two jobs has been pretty all-consuming, and my head has not had room for anything outside of work. It’s been intense, but thrilling on both the old and new fronts, and the process has percolated some valuable insight that I am taking into my next phase. 

Much of my career focus has been upon self-determination and self-advocacy for people with disabilities, and it’s absolutely primary in the next gig. Over the last few years, through collaboration with some amazing people in my organization and network, we’ve scaled up the work of my department in this area and built a comprehensive array of programming to support the self-advocacy, inclusion, and empowerment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism, led mostly by those individuals themselves. My passion, and subsequent expertise, was developed initially from my personal experiences as a mom, witnessing how when my kids with special education IEPs were involved in their own planning and decision-making about the support that could help them, and the coursework and classes in which they enrolled, how much more successful they were. The impact was real – visible and measurable – success above my expectations, and because I’d imposed mine onto them, even their own. 

It was an unexpected lesson learning to listen to my kids and involve them in the decisions towards their school success, and (though it probably should not have needed to be) what I’ve learned in my work from some young adults with very significant disabilities has been surprising too. I’ve been struck by very powerful insights in the forums we’ve created. Just last week, in a session that I was invited to present to one of the groups on disability history, I was aware of consciously stopping myself from imposing my words, which might come out quicker or easier, in order to hear theirs. The content of my presentation, which I also happen to teach on a graduate level, had never been so real and alive, even for me. As they shared their experiences, desires, and viewpoints, the history took on very real, dynamic, and emotional meaning. I understood it in ways I’d never before even as the instructor.

The experiences with my kids and my career thus far have taught me something more critically important and valuable as I move forward than any of my degrees: the genuine appreciation for the dignity of each person. I know, sounds sweet, lofty and flighty, but what does that really mean? Well, to start, I no longer see my work as doing good, helping others who are somehow less, limited, beneath me in their need in some way. Instead, I consider my professional efforts and achievements thus far to be the creation of a space or platform facilitating people with a powerful unheard message to share it. I’ve also learned to listen, actively listen, sometimes patiently listen, to what the person who’s speaking is trying to say (even if it comes out slower, or in slightly different or less fancy words than I’d use). 

And, as I’m walking into this next stage of my career, I’ve seen very clearly already how that ability to listen, to actually hear what others are saying, makes me better and smarter, and will enable me to learn all that I’m going to need to (even stuff that I didn’t think I needed to) that much quicker. 


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Read previous Finding Adamsworld posts.

4 thoughts on “a life thus far lesson

  1. Wishing you peace and success and accomplishment on this next chapter of your journey. It is no coincidence that this week we read in the Old Testament that Moses complains, I have an impediment of speech, they (the people and the power) will not hear me and then later he complains they do not listen. To speak, one must be heard. To truly listen is a blessing. You have been that blessing to so many, you have given voice to those who many do not always listen to. Take my appreciation and friendship and admiration for you, your ability to find the words so we can hear and the blessing of the ability to truly listen as you set out on this next professional journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “I believe, as I did, as a child; that life has meaning, a direction, a value. No tear is lost; each suffering counts; each drop of blood. The secret of the Universe lies in Deo Caritas Est…God is Love.”
    Francois Mauriac

    I read this message, etched on the portal of a Convent in Lourdes and the words gave me comfort and new insights. Thank you Naomi for your words and ability to share.

    Liked by 1 person

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