I have two young daughters. Every possible opportunity I have, I tell them the career options open to them are limitless. If they want to be a nurse or a teacher, that is possible. If they want to be a doctor or a fighter pilot, they can do it. I will help them work hard to achieve their dream of flying to the moon if that is what they want to spend their lives doing. I tell them they are lucky to be living in a world where the only thing which will hamper their accomplishments is their own drive. If they work really hard in school and in life, they can be anything they want to be when they grow up! Yet, I feel kind of silly saying these words. I feel slightly dishonest in what is generally a very honest relationship. Does it really matter how hard you work in the long run? I know, unfortunately, some things will hold you back regardless of how much effort you apply in your life. I know I have hit my head often on the ceilings made of glass that other people may have trouble seeing.
My dream job? When I grow up, I would love to be an EEG technician. Those are the people who play with glue and stick electrodes to patients’ heads to record and monitor brain waves. I have been the recipient of many EEG’s. I even went to school for this line of work. However, after a year into this two-year program, Uncle Sam called my husband (and therefore my family) and told him he had two weeks to leave Iowa and report to Naval Station San Diego. I gave up that career dream. I packed our bags. We moved together as a family.
This was my second time attempting this line of work. The first time was when I was seventeen and just starting college. Reality hit hard and quick though. I realized it would be unrealistic to apply to this particular program. I had epilepsy at that time. How could I use a strobe light to induce seizures in clients when it would cause me to seize right alongside them? I knew better. I picked psychology instead. With years of holding onto the dream of being an EEG tech, I was extremely excited to actually begin the program some ten years later free of the complications my own seizures had provided. The sky was the limit.
Since ending the EEG program, I have been known to quietly blame my husband’s job, but in retrospect I think it was for the best. I have learned a lot about myself and the current conditions I have been left with. I have greater understanding of my limitations than I had when attending school. What I am certain of is that I had a tremendous amount of trouble finding a distinction between the different brain waves. Now I understand why. My visual memory is lacking. I probably would never have been able to decipher what was an alpha wave and what was a theta wave. Sure, I can recognize difference when I have a chart beside me, but identifying and naming these waves as they are displayed quickly on a screen would probably have been beyond my abilities regardless of how hard I tried to memorize the information. I was great at measuring and placing electrodes. I was terrific with offering patients support and information, yet the most important part of the job never would have been obtainable even if I had been granted the opportunity to complete the program.
And so the search continues. What is it that I would want to be when I grow up? Right now I am a full-time mom, author and speaker, but what happens when the mom role is no longer needed so extensively? A teacher would be a difficult role. I currently help in classrooms but refuse to go on field trips due to prosopagnosia (aka face blindness). I would not be able to recognize which children were my responsibility getting onto the bus or roaming through museums. I have trouble with working in a store when customers’ appearances cannot be recalled. I have a realistic fear; I may not drive much longer. How do I commute to work? How can I find someone to pick me up each day? We have moved into a community with very limited public transportation. Someday I will find a dream job that fits just for me. Thankfully, I am not grown up yet. I still have quite some time to think about what I want to do when I am all grown-up. Until then, I am lucky enough to spend every day being the best mom possible for my children!
This post is not written for pity. It is not written for people to give suggestions thinking they can find me a job a person with my limitations can hold. Rather, I chose to write on this subject to gently remind people that glass ceilings still do exist. They are not bound to gender any longer. Now, they are more specific to individuals. However, if you do have a job applicant with a disability, take a second look at their file before you pass over it. Usually if an individual has a limitation and is seeking employment regardless of their difficulties, that individual is hopeful and hard-working. They overcame a great deal to be where they are. I wish every one could see the problem solving abilities that are never taught in books but learned only through experiences a life involving limitations can provide. Help remove the glass ceilings and remember to open the doors for the abilities a disabled person has to offer.