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How My Clients With Disabilities Remind Me Who I Am

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Somewhere along the lines, I lost myself. For two years I traveled by myself, made friends with strangers, made a ton of mistakes, and started a business. That person was not me. I was the scared girl who never wanted to experience anything because sometimes experiences are awkward and hurtful, and I did not want to feel either one of those things.  I think when you lose yourself you are always on the search to figure out where the old you went. It never occurred to me that I might not need to find her.

You would think as a Life Skills Trainer I would be able to help myself out, but in my experience, that’s not how life teaches you lessons. Instead, it brings in someone to open your eyes when you least expect it. I was recently working with a client, a young woman with Down syndrome when she taught me the lesson I did not know I needed to learn. We were talking about what it means to be kind to yourself and others when she said: “Sometimes I’m not kind to myself, and then I wonder ‘who is that person?’” I reassured her that sometimes I did not know myself either. She sweetly smiled at me and said: “Nah, you are exactly who you are supposed to be now. You found yourself, but I’ve always known you like this.”

I did not tell her I had felt lost, and that maybe I had changed too much. I did not tell her that I had spent the last month questioning every decision I made. She just knew what I needed to hear. We did not have a conversation about it; she stated that one small thing and then we went on to talk about other things. It took me a couple of days before her words resonated with me. I found myself.

It is those tiny magical moments that keep me doing what I do.  Do I want the world to see everything those with disabilities can do? Yes. But more than anything, I want the world to open up to the possibility of learning from someone who has a different worldview.

Someone asked me who teaches more; me to my clients, or my clients to me? Without hesitation, I will always answer that my clients teach me.  Every day I am informed of a new way to look at the world. I watch people overcome their greatest fears and do it with a smile on their faces. I get to be a part of a world that is full of love and endless possibilities. I have realized all of this in the most simple ways, whether sitting in a living room writing schedules for the week, or in a smoothie shop talking about kindness.

I have seen that judgment is never an option. That humans make mistakes, and you have to forgive. I believe friendship and love should be your guiding force when interacting with anyone. Different is what makes this world so amazing, and maybe you aren’t lost at all. Maybe you are exactly who you are supposed to be.

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Originally published: July 24, 2017
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