Hello and welcome back to Second Chance to Live my friend. I am happy to have you around my table. In today’s article, I would like to share more about my process and journey with you. My motivation in sharing the below detail is to encourage you to not give up on your course. Run your race.
Something that I have learned is that life is like a jigsaw puzzle. Individually the pieces seem to make little sense but collectively form a vivid picture. Something else that I have learned, is that life many times can only be understood one puzzle piece at a time. Each puzzle piece reveals itself in hindsight after I have learned the lesson. Sometimes the meaning of each puzzle pieces has made little sense to me until many years after the lesson has been birthed. In this article, I am going to share the puzzle pieces that became apparent to me through my pursuit and engagement in my academic studies. I am going to share my experiences with you — in detail — to encourage you to not give up on your learning process.
Let the pieces of your learning process birth new dreams. Let your journey in learning give you the tools to pursue your gifts, talents, and abilities in ways that work for you. Let them manifest in time. Living with an invisible disability, from a brain injury or some other condition; does not have to limit us. Only we can limit us if we buy into our or someone else’s belief that we can’t.
In my experience, I have come to realize that my life can better be understood as I examine inventories. Inventories from different time periods in my life and the activities that I engaged in during those time periods. By doing so I am able to better see and understand the different puzzle pieces have connected during my journey. In my experience, as I have examined time periods and activities; what previously made little sense have context. In previous parts of this inventory I have shared about my growing up years, what happened when I was 10 and learning to walk again. The context and the time period of my life that I would like to share today is the educational pieces of my journey. So let me begin in context my living with an invisible disability. Following the accident and once I was transferred home from the hospital, my 5th-grade teacher came to the house to tutor me.
I was fortunate to have not missed a grade because of the car accident that occurred on August 11, 1967. After being tutored at home during my 5th grade I was mainstreamed back into elementary school. I resumed attending classes in the 6th grade.
After completing the 6th grade, I entered junior high and then into the 9th grade to begin high school. I was considered a nerd during high school, but I really did not fit in any social groups. I had no idea how my traumatic brain injury was impacting my interactions, other than I was picked on and bullied. In the 8th grade, my parents took me to a judo school where I took classes for several months. In 1oth grade I stood up to a bully and prevailed. As a result, no one continued to bully me. Nevertheless, I was teased and made fun of throughout high school. I had one friend, who was also a nerd and shunned by the “freaks” and the “jocks”. These were the other 3 social groups that people identified with during high school, as portrayed by the classic movie, The Breakfast Club. I did not have a girl friend or a “steady” to go with during high school, as all interested girls were discouraged.
Discouraged by peer pressure from dating me. Looking back on my non-existent dating life during high school, I see how God was doing for me what I could not do for myself. I now believe that I was being protected from what could and would have altered my path, process, and journey in my life.
So, in my senior year of high school I started applying to colleges and universities. Because I had enjoyed spending time in nature and the outdoors, my Dad suggested that Geology would be a good major for me. I had no previous experience rocks or an interest with related topics, but my Dad thought that would be a good major for me. So I applied to the University of Arizona and selected geology as my major. The admissions depart received my application and sent me a letter telling me that I had been accepted to begin my studies at the University of Arizona. So after graduating with my senior class in August of 1975 I flew out to Arizona with my Mom and Dad to begin my university studies. After getting me settled in the dorm and on campus, my parents flew back home and I went through the process of registering for and then attending prerequisite classes in liberal studies.
One of these classes was Algebra, which I took and failed 3 times. Was not for trying, because I spent hours on hours during the semester, in summer school and working with a tutor, to no avail. In my sophomore year I took an introductory class in mineralogy, which also did not work out well for me. The writing on the wall was becoming more obvious to me. Math was not my forte and neither was my ability to comprehend the spatial relationships and physical properties of different kinds of minerals. With my awareness, I decided to change my major to physical education, being that I had an interest in physical fitness. So the second semester of my sophomore year I transferred majors. After my sophomore year at U of A, I made the decision to transfer to and begin taking classes at junior college near Tucson. After several semesters, I then decided to apply for the LPN program.
The LPN (licensed practical nursing) program, which I found required applying to and completing the nursing assistant program. After completing the nursing assistant program with high grades I found myself being placed on a list of people waiting to begin the LPN program. During this waiting period, I took classes to become an emergency medical technician. I passed the class, but failed the practical test the 1st time. I reapplied, took the class over and passed the practical test on the 2nd attempt. I was then accepted into the LPN program. The LPN program involved taking classes and completing 6 practical rotations. Practical rotations working in different hospital settings. As with the nursing assistant program, I did well in my class work during the LPN program, however unlike the nursing assistant program I ran into difficulties during several of my hospital rotations.
The result was my being asked to withdraw from the LPN. My being asked to leave the program was another disappointment, as I worked hard to succeed. Several months after being asked to leave the LPN program I traveled from Tucson, Arizona with members of a church to visit Rhema Bible college in Tulsa, Oklahoma. During my visit to Tulsa, OK I was able to visit Oral Roberts University. Although I had packed my bags to stay and live there in Tulsa, I decided to travel back to Tucson with the group. Several weeks later I made the decision to leave Tucson via a Greyhound Bus to stay with my parents and brother in El Paso, Texas until I decided whether to attend Rhema Bible College or Oral Roberts University. After arriving in El Paso and speaking with my parents, I decided to apply to attend ORU. I applied and was accepted to begin classes in August 1982.
I declared my major in Theology / English Bible with a minor in Physical Education. Because I had completed required work and per-requisites at the University of Arizona and the junior college, many hours of course work transferred to ORU. As a result, I was able to focus on completing course work in my declared major and minor. During my time at the university I “ran” into some difficulties which resulted in my parents being asked to travel from El Paso to Tulsa to meet with the dean of the program of Theology. I am not sure what was the result of this meeting, but I graduated in May of 1985. After graduation, I applied to and was accepted to begin attending Asbury Theological Seminary (ATS) in Wilmore, Kentucky the next fall. I later found out from one of my professors that my application had been approved, that I had been placed on probation, because of a letter from ORU.
Apparently, one of my professors at ORU, that I had asked for a letter of endorsement to accompany my application to ATS, had shared some concerns. Concerns that I knew nothing about as the professor at ORU had not shared them with me. Several months before I was to begin taking classes at ATS, I feel down a flight of stairs and broke my left foot. For the next month or so I stayed with my parents and then flew to Lexington, Kentucky to be picked up and taken to ATS. I began attending classes while on crutches. Classes seemed to go well, however, had some difficulties with classmates. My difficulties were compounded completing what was called a J-term (during the month of January between semesters) when I worked as a student chaplain at a Baptist Hospital. The hospital chaplain gave me a bad evaluation, which resulted in my not passing the J-term class.
The result of not passing the J-term resulted in being asked to meet with the dean of students at Asbury Theological Seminary. The dean of students recommended and required me to attend counseling during the spring semester. At the end of the spring semester, the dean asked me to meet with him. He told me that a committee would meet at the end of the summer and as part of that meeting they would decide whether I would be allowed to continue studying at the Seminary. So I waited to hear from him. Later that summer, while staying with my parents I received a call from the dean, who told me that I would not be able to continue taking classes at the seminary until I completed a year of counseling. I was also told that I needed to come to remove my belongings from the basement of the dorm in which I had been residing. So, I traveled from Tyler, Texas back to ATS.
The dean of students during the conversation telling me I was not welcome back told me that I could stay at the nearby grounds where camp meetings were held for 3 weeks. The campgrounds, that the seminary owned; and where revivals and summer camps were held by the Methodist churches.
During the 3 weeks I was allotted to stay at the campgrounds I found a place to move into and made the transition. During the next several months I worked in a car dealership and then began working in the cemetery business. Through a series of events, I applied to and was accepted to begin taking classes at the University of Kentucky in the graduate program of rehabilitation counseling. Class work went well and I got good grades, however again had difficulties in practical settings. During my practicum at a State, I had difficulties writing plans and 6 weeks into the 7-week practicum the practicum supervisor told the dean of the graduate program. The result was that I met with the dean and was removed from the practicum. During the meeting, he dean of the graduate program in rehabilitation program told me that he would give me another chance.
He told me that if I did not pass the 2nd practicum that I would be terminated from the graduate program. Thankfully the supervisor of the 2nd practicum worked with me and I had a successful outcome. With this outcome, I was allowed to continue in the graduate program. And all seemed to be going well until the end of my internship. While attending classes in the graduate program at the University of Kentucky I worked on the weekends as a mental health tech at a 28-day residential program. A 28-day residential program for individuals with substance abuse and mental health challenges. I worked primarily on the weekends and was able to complete my internship working at the chemical dependency center I worked 16 hours on the weekend and made up the balance of the 40 hour a week internship requirement during the week.
During the internship, I had some difficulties which resulted in receiving a poor evaluation for my internship from the manager of the 28-day residential program. As a result, the dean of the graduate program told me that he did not know if he would allow me to graduate. That I would have to wait until an hour before graduation. So I dressed for graduation and showed up at the pre-graduation coffee reception. I showed up not knowing whether or not the dean would allow me to graduate. After arriving at the coffee, I waited for the dean to arrive to hear his decision. Thankfully he said he would allow me to graduate with the other students and receive my master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. When I heard that he was going to allow me to graduate, I called my Mom. During our conversation, she told me the results of the test that were completed when I as 11 years of age.
The results from the 2 EEG’s and the battery of cognitive and psycho/social testing that I had been given to determine the extent of damage done to my brain. Damage the occurred to my brain from the open skull fracture, the right frontal lobe damage, and severe brain bruise. The results from the tests that showed I was not expected to succeed academically beyond high school. She told me that “you proved them wrong”. And she was right.
Not understanding the impact of my invisible disability. Not understanding that it was not my fault, nor anyone else’ fault. Not my or anyone else’ fault for the difficulties that I experienced along the way. I just did not know and other people had no idea. This lack of knowing, once my external wounds healed and I looked normal. The lack of understanding how my life would be the impacted by my open skull fracture, right frontal lobe damage, and severe brain bruise. The lack of knowing how to best navigate through life with an invisible disability. The lack of realizing how much of a gift I had been given. The realization of the gift that I had been given to be able to use my gifts, talents, and abilities in ways that would work for me. The gift to be able to encourage people living with invisible disabilities to not give up on their process, their journeys, a loving God or themselves.
The gift to be able to share what I learned in knowing how to be aware and navigate through life while living with an invisible disability. The gift to be able to encourage, motivate and empower people living with invisible disabilities to realize that they could dream again. The gift to be able to realize that I could actively participate in the creation of hope in my life, by staying committed to my course. By continuing to run my race. The gift that I could encourage people living with brain injuries to realize they could also participate in the creation of hope in their lives. The gift to realize that more would be revealed in time. The gift to be able to not give up on hopes or dreams. The gift to be able to move forward with our lives. The gift to realize that we could enhance our lives, by growing in acceptance. The gift to realize that we can fulfill our destinies, by getting into action. The gift to realize that I could make other choices than staying stuck.
To read Part 5 of this series, please click on this link: Part 5
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