How it All Comes Full Circle
by Stacy Kaye
On the way home from a career networking luncheon earlier this week, I began to think about the personal importance of belonging to organizations and associations with a shared identity. Certainly the older I get, the more I value the insights, connections, and relationships I’ve gained from my academic, career, social, and religious affiliations.
Of course then, there is the precarious distinction of belonging to a group that its hard for me to believe I once knew little to nothing about, never applied to be part of, and didn’t receive an invitation from before being indoctrinated.
Certainly if you’re reading this you, or perhaps a family member, are directly part of the more than 28 million American women, and countless millions more worldwide, considered to have some form of disability. Whether by birth, disease--or in my case injury--we are now all united by the personal knowledge of thriving, often in spite of real challenge.
In so many ways we are part of a sorority of women who know truths and secrets about society. We know, or have come to accept, that right now even the finest doctors, equipped with the luxuries of modern modalities and medicine, cannot fix all medical problems. We also know that while society preaches civil rights and tolerance for all, there is still a huge disconnect between people knowing the right thing to do, and doing the right thing.
Yet we also know, perhaps more than most, the joys that come just being able to live our lives like everyone else.
I say this all with the great humility of knowing that this April, I will begin the eleventh year of using a wheelchair for my daily mobility. In that time I’ve had the privilege of meeting some amazingly determined women who would not accept disability as their defeat. It’s been a learning curve like no other.
Over the years I’ve seen mobileWOMEN.org become a vital part of that very learning curve, allowing women to share the truths and experiences that come from the heart.
I believe in the power of MW so strongly because I’ve had the good fortune to meet both the founder Wendy Crawford, and editor Cheryl Price, several years back at a pivotal time in my life. It’s not an understatement to say that both women gave me the courage to emotionally persevere during times when I had real doubts about how I would successfully mesh my life pre-and post-injury. It/s not an understatement to say they were real role model.
Now with the future very much ahead, it is only fitting to acknowledge that life comes full circle and, as they say, Pay It Forward!
There have been hundreds of times in the last ten years when I said to myself, “If I knew then, what I know now…”
Most recently I was asked by SHAPE Magazine to be in their 2011 Role Model edition. The premise was that they were highlighting women of all ages and professions who would be testaments to healthy living and body confidence. Once I agreed to this, I knew two things: (1) the magazine has a circulation of over 1.6 million people, (2) any friends or colleagues that didn’t know I had an injury would certainly know now. The only reason the second factor merited thought was because, as a journalist, I’ve always been taught to never make yourself part of a story. I worried briefly that potential employers might not call me for an assignment because they would think I would have a particular bias. However that thought quickly left my mind once I remembered how few positive reflections there are of women with disabilities in mainstream media. The opportunity to state unequivocally that a disabled woman could live a healthy lifestyle, be physically fit, and happy, was an opportunity I could simply not pass up.
Then I began thinking about what it would have been like if I were injured while in my early teenage years; the years already filled with body conscious issues. Perhaps a teenage girl or her mother might randomly come upon this magazine in a hair or nail salon and find some comfort in seeing a picture of a nameless girl in a mainstream women’s magazine. That vision alone sealed the deal for me.
In many ways being in the magazine marked a very personal journey. It allowed me to emotionally take all physical hurt and emotional trauma experienced during the first decade of injury and turn it into something very positive for both myself and hopefully others.
I really do believe that just as with any group of people, the positive images we leave on society will help in both our civil discourse and civil rights. America already has the blueprint for such actions. So every time a disabled woman becomes the head of a company, participates in government, teaches children in a classroom, provides countless other jobs in the workforce, or simply takes times to talk with her friends and family who are not disabled, we defy stereotypes and gain respect.
While it is my hope to share upcoming stories and insights that enlighten the reader, I’m confident I will come away the richer, having learned far more from fellow contributors and readers.