When I was teaching, I often found myself having to justify to people why I was in the classroom. I made excuses, talked about giving back, about learning a new skill, and about challenging myself. In retrospect, this is outrageous. I needed no justification for teaching other than that was what I wanted to do. But, because many of my former classmates and colleagues were going on to more "prestigious" jobs (based on societal expectations), I was ashamed.
My complicating factor is my physical disability. As some of you may know, I suffer from a chronic pain condition which relegated me to a wheelchair for half a year, and causes me to still sometimes use a cane today. More so than if I was physically able, I justify my existence in any space I occupy. I feel like I have to work twice as hard and three times as well as anyone else - just to be seen as equally capable to my colleagues without physical disabilities. I find myself pushing through days where I should probably take a break, because I'm terrified of being perceived as lazy or weak.
It's taken me a long time to recognize that, as an individual, I have worth. And, even more radical, I have worth that is not measured by my gender or ability, my race or sexual orientation, my job or my hobbies. I have worth that is independent of any labels I or society place on me.
This isn't a sappy blog post, I promise.
I'm writing this post and these words, because other people need to hear them. It's one of the central messages in my book - that your worth is independent of anything else. As a human being with the capacity to think and care for others, you have value.
That's a really hard thing to internalize - trust me, I'm still working on it.
And that's why it's important to write about. Writing and reading about people dealing with and facing these same challenges helps us feel less alone. It helps us to look at people we can relate to, see their struggles, and understand the flaws in their internal logic - because often, those same flaws apply to our own mental hurdles.
I am far from perfect, but I'm working on being okay with it. And writing about the struggles of having a new job, the challenges of coming home after a long time away, and the complications caused by the way people judge you, has truly helped me. I hope it truly helps you, too.
Bridget is the author of Summer Twilight, available for purchase now!