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The Power of 10 in My Life With a Nonverbal Learning Disability

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This year is a milestone year in many ways for me, and the number 10 appears to be a significant one. Why is that, you might ask? It all boils down to two things — 10 years ago I graduated high school, and 10 years ago I began working at my current employer, Kohl’s. In retrospect I have to admit the girl I was 10 years ago and the woman I am today appear to be polar opposites.

When I was 18 I was cocky, somewhat obnoxious, and desperate for friends no matter how toxic those friendships could be. Ten years later, approaching the end of my 20s, I am actually more socially awkward and starting to like myself as a person more. The person I am today has been shaped by the events of the past ten years and I feel like 2008 was an entire lifetime ago in terms of personal growth and maturity.

I wish that I could tell that 18-year-old that sometimes not fitting in is OK, and you don’t have to try so hard to make friends. I look at that girl in pictures and see someone who was trying too hard to be cool when in reality it was all an act. I see myself today and know I am more self-assured and comfortable with the core group of people with whom I surround myself.

I know much more about life and adulting then I did 10 years ago. I pay a lot of my own bills, have my own dental and vision insurance, know how to save and budget my money, and have even paid off one of my student loans. Success for me comes in increments due to the fact that I have a nonverbal learning disability and a chromosomal abnormality. My nonverbal learning disability affects every aspect of my life including my visual-spatial skills, my ability to navigate spaces, my coping mechanisms, and my ability to develop a social life. The only friends I have are my family members and my co-workers. I have no friends my own age and the only friends close to my age are online and live far away from me.

Despite all of this, I feel I am very fortunate. I have a supportive and loving family who provides encouragement and can take me to all of the places I need to or want to go. I literally work five minutes away from my house in a store where I am loved and respected by co-workers, managers and supervisors. I have been the recipient of accolades from customers and my employer including winning associate of the month twice in my 10-year tenure at my store. Did I ever anticipate this 10 years ago when I first started working there? No, I must admit I did not. I had unrealistic aspirations that I was going to go away to college after two years of community college. I now realize this would have been a mistake because I am in no way, shape, or form prepared for independent living.

When I look at my high school classmates on social media, I see engagements, weddings, children, expensive vacations, and their own homes. Do I want that kind of life? I do not, because I like the feeling of being able to live my life on my own terms. I am still a person in a cycle of growth and learning and living a life where I am not judged or ridiculed for any flaws I may have. I am no longer that young girl starving for attention; instead, I am a woman who knows attention is earned by the successes in one’s personal and professional lives. I may not work in a job where I am utilizing the skills I learned in college, but I am working towards a goal of finding that right job. Right now, I am in a good place where I do not have nasty supervisors and managers and know I can always address any issues I have at work with them and have them resolved in a manner where I am not degraded or reprimanded by anyone.

The power of 10 is significant in my life. It represents overcoming challenges both personally and professionally and continually learning the skills I need to succeed in all aspects of my life. It means I have accumulated a wealth of experiences and wisdom that I can transfer to my next employer, whenever that may be. I look at the stressful work lives of my family and am slowly realizing I have a job that overall is not overly stressful; instead, it is a routine job where I know what to do and how to proactively resolve any issues I may encounter. It is a job where I am valued and constantly reminded of that by co-workers and upper management.

Life is a series of changes and challenges, but for now my life is fulfilling, educational, enriching, and so many other positive descriptors. A decade is a long time, and I hope the next decade brings even greater rewards and accomplishments in my life and the lives of my family members.

Photo provided by contributor.
Originally published: February 26, 2018
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