What does making a difference mean? I mean, I know that I want to make a difference in people's lives, but what does that really mean? And what kind of a difference can I make? I want so badly to help others. I always have. My parents say that even when I was teeny tiny I was doing things to help others. I also want to give back to the world what I have received from so many people along the way. Yes, I have been discriminated against, and stigmatized, but so too have I had people help me along the way. Often I have sought out that help, but it has been given. I want to be able to help others, too. I want to be one of those individuals who change the course of peoples' lives, and most of them may not know my name or that I even exist, and that is perfectly fine with me, as long as their lives are better.
For a long time I though I would make a difference through counseling, and don't get me wrong, I loved the counseling part, I did not like the hours of my previous job that had me doing counseling. I was working all the time, and I was having difficulty separating my life from work life, when most of my life was work life and yet I couldn't share that life with my family. I had to keep confidentiality (which I totally believe in), but it mean that I was losing a big part of me, because I was losing that family part.
I decided there was more that I could do at a macro level. I figured that I could touch more peoples' lives by doing policy and advocacy work than I could doing therapy at a community level where I was starting to feel miserable. I decided that my stage needed to be bigger. I have been learning about disability at a global level. I have been learning how people are treated around the world. I cannot sit back and let the things happen that I have learned about. If I do not try to do something about them, I do not know how I could live with myself. I have to at least try to get things changed, even if I can only make small changes.
Small changes is what I need to remind myself of when I get frustrated or concerned that I am not making a difference. I have been upset recently, thinking that I have not been making a difference with my time here in D.C. and Dana asked me to rethink that a little bit. She is right. I came to D.C. from Iowa, where I had been almost totally isolated from the disability advocacy world. That does not mean that it is non-existent there, it means I did not know how to access it there. I have met so many people and made so many connections while I have been here. I now know more people in the disability world. I need to remind myself of that and to take more advantage of those connections. That is really what I came to D.C. to do. I wanted to learn more about the advocacy world, to get connected, to see what it is all about. I wanted to see if I thought this really was the right field for me. I think that advocacy really is. Maybe next week I will write about the big project I am working on. It is in its infancy, but I have made some steps and that is a lot more than I could say a month ago.