It's a challenge, which is probably fairly obvious.
I go through this cycle sometimes, and it happened again today. I hear about a job, or in this case it was actually a volunteer position, and it really sparks my interest and I start thinking of all the reasons it's perfect for me and how much I would love to do it. And I start feeling this hopefulness and excitement and like my passion has been ignited in a way, and I feel it in my heart, my gut.
And then, along with that at a very slight delay, is the maelstrom of crappy feelings, all the worry that even if I get an interview, I'll never be picked, because of my disability, because even if I know I can do the job I won't be able to convince the person doing the hiring that I can. They'll have too many questions. And then there's the fact that deep down, I have my own worries that maybe they're right. So it starts to feel like this impossible wanting, like I really want the job or opportunity but I'll never be chosen. It sucks.
I've had some weird job interviews. I usually try to at least somewhat address my visual impairment because I know they are wondering about it. My eyes move. I don't really make eye contact. It's not like I can hide it. It's obvious. And if I bring it up, it usually makes the other person uncomfortable or they get quiet or a seemingly good interview seems to take a turn in the wrong direction. And sometimes I can tell that the moment the person realizes I'm visually-impaired, the door is closed. Living with something like this all your life, it gets so you can tell when a person is reacting to that, when they're uncomfortable, when they start talking to you like you might be mentally retarded, or fifteen years younger than you are. You can tell when they don't really believe you can do it.
It's grueling. I hate applying for jobs (doesn't everyone?) partly because I just don't want to deal with people's shitty attitudes and the uncomfortable situations and all the rejection.
The thing is, I've had a lot of jobs. In my life, I've worked in a kitchen, as an environmental education instructor, as a camp counselor at two very different camps, at a bookstore, a department store, a movie theater and for a short while, at a library. And I've worked as a self-employed editor/writing coach/transcriber and taught a writing class. It's not like I don't have a good track record. But none of that seems to matter, most of the time.
And the hardest part is knowing what to say and when. When I was younger, I basically just didn't address it. I didn't really even want to admit it to myself so I didn't talk about that with employers, but as I said, it is obvious, so, they knew. And as far as how that worked out - hard to say. I got some jobs, didn't get others, and some of my job experience was with the visually-impaired community, so maybe that made it easier.
As I got older I wanted to be more direct, as I've often found that not doing that is a disadvantage, leaves people with questions they feel they can't ask, etc. And that worked out...okayish. I mean, I got jobs, but it was often after months of looking.
And then I moved to Portland. Now, I was admittedly, out of practice. I'd had the same job for six years. I hadn't applied for a job in a long time. I decided to be even more open and usually mentioned my visual-impairment in my cover letter, in passing, assuring them that it would not affect my ability to do the job.
Well, I have not even gotten an interview. And yeah, it's hard to find jobs in Portland. Unemployment is at a real high, and you hear all kinds of stories about people with advanced degrees working at coffee shops with no benefits, that sort of thing. So, it's hard for everyone, and there is the factor that I am entering a different field (science) but I can't help wondering if my openness about my disability plays a part in the fact that I'm not getting asked to interviews.
70-75% of blind and visually-impaired people are unemployed. That number is STAGGERING, especially because there are so many gifted, brilliant and talented blind people who could do any number of jobs. A lot of the people who are employed are under-employed, or work in the visual-impairment field, which is great for those that are really into it, but it's not my personal calling.
I went to my school's career center a few months ago and this woman there looked over my resume and cover letter. She had almost no corrections. A little changing of this and that around, really like three comments in total. She didn't think that was the problem, at all. But she did tell me to take out everything that referenced my disability. Her advice was to leave no trace of that fact in my resume or cover letter (which feels a little...dishonest), and to wait until I get called for an interview and then mention it, somehow, after they ask but before I arrive. Because if I just show up all visually-impaired without giving them any indication they'll feel like I've tried to pull one over on them.
In the last few months, I've heard the same advice from other people as well. Still, it feels weird and awkward to deal with. I think the fact that I am now not putting anything like that on my application materials makes me feel a little dishonest and guilty. I dread the thought of going to those interviews, with people who probably will wish, after they invite me to go to one and I tell them I'm visually-impaired, that they could take the invite back.
So I've put off applying to this one job I REALLY want for awhile. I just don't want to get rejected! It is a job I KNOW I could do, one that totally fits my skills and strengths and interests but I don't know, I get scared. I just kinda don't want to deal. And then today I found out about a volunteer opportunity that is also kinda perfect, totally related to two different things I'm interested in, is only two hours a week (so I could potentially do the job and the volunteer thing and school - I'm at my best when I have a lot going on) would be an amazing opportunity and I have such genuine interest. And it's really close to where I live. And it would just be so, so awesome, and I find myself wanting to put off applying for that too b/c of the same shit.
I realize at this point that I am standing in my own way! If I don't jump on this, others will. It just sucks so much sometimes to get all excited and then there's the let down. It is just hard sometimes to want to face dealing with all the rest of everything. I get all nervous and immobilized and that just isn't helping the situation any. It just sucks sometimes and it can be hard to feel motivated to face the suckiness and awkwardness and the dilemma of how much do I say or not say and what's right and what's not and dealing with the other person's discomfort. Ugh.
But if I really want these opportunities, I've gotta grab 'em. So I think that'll be my mission for this weekend - get some of this shit done. Get out of my personal molasses and give it my best shot. Not really feeling the motivation to do it but I think I'll try to push through that and do it anyway!
"Duet" - Rachael Yamagata and Ray Lamontagne
Oh Lover, hold on
'till I come back again
For these arms are growin' tired,
And my tales are wearing thin
If you're patient I will surprise,
When you wake up i'll have come
All the angerwill settle down
And we'll go do all the things we should have done
Yes I remember what we said
As we lay down to bed
I'll be here if you will only come back home
Oh lover, i'm lost
Because the road i've chosen beckens me away
Oh lover, don't you rome
Now i'm fighting words I never thought i'd say
But I remember what we said
As we lay down to bed
I'll forgive you oh
If you just come back home
Oh lover, I'm old
You'll be out there and be thinking just of me
And I will find you down the road
And will return back home to where we're meant to be
'cause I remember what we said
As we lay down to bed
We'll be back soon as we make history.