As a parent of a child with special needs there is no doubt that I shouldered much of the responsibility for just about everything in raising my son. I was constantly taking him to specialists trying to find answers. I become teacher, lawyer, advocate, therapist, etc. and the list goes on. As a result, my life was in constant turmoil as I faced the daily conflict of helping my son at the expense of my own life and dreams. It often left me torn inside and ridden with guilt. I had the dream of getting my doctorate and becoming a college professor but when disability entered my life, I thought that dream was over. How was I ever going to find the time or energy to reach my dream, while at the same time, trying to help my son achieve his?
Life is Never All or Nothing
The first thing I began to understand was that my life had changed drastically, but it was not over. There were plenty of sacrifices that I had to make in order to meet my son’s needs, but it did not mean I had to completely neglect my own needs and dreams. I found that had to change my attitude that life was not all or nothing. I had to realize that life was filled with gray areas and that I could not do EVERYTHING but that I could do SOMETHING. Having a child with disabilities did not mean I had to quit or that my life was over. I had to become more flexible with my timelines and become creative and intentional when it came to organizing my time and family.
Progress or Perfection?
One of my biggest struggles was shooting for perfection not progress. I had envisioned that I would not only finish my doctorate within a few years, but do it with a perfect GPA. It quickly became apparent that if I was going to target perfection, the stress and anxiety would become far too great. I had to change my expectations. Instead of taking two college level courses, I took one. I spread out the journey toward my doctorate over more years and began to appreciate and celebrate whatever progress I made; no matter how small.
Give yourself Grace: Try Your Best
Finally, I had to give myself a lot of grace. I stopped feeling ashamed at how little progress I made. Instead, I became proud of the tremendous effort I gave in trying to live my life to its fullest while meeting my family’s needs. I tried my best and forgave myself for the many imperfections and obstacles I encountered along the way. Instead of focusing on the small things that I failed at, I focused on the overall outcomes and refused to give up hope. I realized it was not about the magnitude of what I accomplished but who I was trying to become.
After years of blood, sweat and tears, I finally did get my doctorate and became a college professor. It was never easy and there were days when I literally crawled toward the finish line. My journey wasn’t pretty and was filled with obstacles. As Muhammad Ali once said, “It isn’t the mountains that wear you out, it’s the little pebble in your shoe.” As hard as it becomes, keep your focus on the your dreams not the pebbles!
Share your experiences below and how you have dealt with your journey to reaching your dreams!
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