So it’s hard to believe that almost two months have passed since I graduated. I think the realization finally hit me, looking at the paper as it lay in front of me on my tray. I have finally done it-completed another step on the road toward independence. This paper gave me all of the rights and responsibilities attributed with having a Bachelor of Arts in Communication; but in truth, that experience gave me a whole lot more than that. It gave me the world.
Of course, I had been through the college experience once before. After all, I had earned my associates degree while still living at home. But going away to college with a completely different story. Okay, so it wasn’t “going away” to most people’s standards; but it fit mine just fine. A small christian university not that far away from my home was a easy compromise for a woman looking to spread her wings. My parents wanted to make sure they could always be available if something were to happen. Looking back, I think that was one of the easiest decisions I’ve made. That is, compared to the ones I’m making now. In fact, I’m always afraid I’m making a wrong one lately. But more about that later. Maybe.
Yes, my parents would always be there. But the reality was, I was primarily on my own. I was responsible for the majority of decisions related to my college experience. I had to make sure that all my basic needs were taken care of with the help of personal assistants. These personal assistants came from one of two places. First, it came from a public agency which allowed me hire and fire my own personal assistants that they recommend. Second, during my college experience, I received funding from a variety of agencies which allowed me to hire and fire my own personal assistants privately. Many of these personal assistants were students themselves at the same school and in some cases the same dorm room. This allowed for flexible hours and times. Although the funding from these agencies made everything possible, there are often limitations put on the money. For example, the funding could be used for times where students can help me by organizing my notebook, helping me finish my homework (that is, the homework not adaptable to do by voice.)
As well as being financially responsible for myself, the college experience taught me the importance of patience and persistence on a daily basis. These are vital personality characteristics, especially considering my dependence on other people to succeed a college. Although I am pretty independent, the weather and other aspects sometimes limits my mobility. In those cases, I am dependent on other people to get me to and from classes. I have coordinate schedules and flexibility is often important. Even with the best of intentions, something might go wrong. Working with people made me realize this one simple fact.. Although working towards my independence, my independence depends on working successfully with people.
That’s not to say that I haven’t learned this from my past experiences, but this fact becomes obvious when you’re living on your own 24/7. It’s important to keep in everyone happy, realizing that your success is partially dependent on them working for you. On the one hand, remaining impartial may be helpful in some cases; it’s vital to remember that personal assistants are people too with lives and people they care about. Yes, it’s important that that the disabled client remains assertive on the job, so that the PCA (personal care assistant) know exactly what to do as well as personal expectations. That being said, a sense of understanding and trust is also important. And I’m not just talking about client to employer, but vice versa. As the client, you need to be approachable, someone making come to with scheduling problems and such. That way, the good ones feel as if they can come to you before they feel like they’re getting “burned out”. (That’s personal assistant talk for getting tired, stressed out on the job) I would hate to lose someone, just because they were working too much and it was getting to them.
Living on your own or in any kind of dorm situation, people learn to expect the unexpected. Life doesn’t always turn out as planned or have a happy ending. If I’ve learned anything from my experience at college, it’s that life isn’t perfect. Take for example, the onetime a PCA showed up drunk on campus to put me in bed. Luckily, my friends were around and she was escorted off campus immediately. Yes, stuff like that does happen in real life; it is an important to remain calm and collected during those situations, so you are able to think calmly and rationally.
That being said, I’m not suggesting that you should always be wary or trust someone automatically. More often than not, situations involve a PCA being a little late for work because because of traffic or the weather, leaving you to wait in bed a little longer. At least that was my case because of my disability.
Living on your own has its responsibilities, but it also provides its perks. It was living on my own that I begin to see the reality of my own life. A life that didn’t always have to involve my parents, a life of my own. I was able to come and go as I pleased, (that is, if I had the van at my disposal), organize movie nights with friends and be a normal young woman. Although my parents would always be my primary support system, I began looking at my friends as another source of support. I began to depend on them more and more. Although sometimes I figured out new and different ways to deal with challenges on my own. Thinking outside the bubble when it came to asking for help and things like that.
As you can see, college left its imprint on the me. Not only of its educational challenges, but because it was also a growing experience.