Listening

Exactly twenty years ago, I was in community college, and I was in my first official funk.  At that age any funk is devastating, and you think it is the end of the world. I must admit that I thought this funk which seems so small now seemed like a serious crisis to my twenty-year -old self.

For the first time I wondered if my disability was a hindrance to my dreams.  Here I was witnessing friends and other people my age, transition into adulthood.  They were experiencing new freedoms such as driving a car, working, dating, and traveling without your parents.  

And me?  Well, I made a limiting assumption that I could not move out of my parents’ house or partake in other activities associated with people in their early twenties because I could not ask other people to help me. I did not just let my fears stop there.  Oh no, I extrapolated these fears onto my entire life. Would I ever get married? Would I ever work? Would I ever be able to live like other people? I had so many questions and so few answers.

I witnessed a good friend of mine get ready for USC.  I imagined that if I was in his body that I would accomplish similar feats.

In the fall of 1998, while I was in the middle of this funk I decided to engage my professor, Jerry Fecht.  To this day, he is one of the smartest people that I have ever met. I guess you could say he is kind of like my Yoda. Anyways, we had been talking about life since the previous semester.  I explained to him that I was tired of being scared. I was tired of watching others live. I wanted to live too.

So, here is the story of me and my Yoda as he spouts wisdom in an attempt to get me to go on my quest and live my life.

It was a fall day, right before Labor Day weekend.  Since it was Southern California the weather was hot.  It was really hot. I approached Jerry’s office. Yes, I was slightly anxious. But, I was looking forward to the conversation and the air conditioning.  I thoughtfully asked him about my future. I received a completely unexpected response.

Out of the blue he said, “you should go to USC.”

I told him, “I can’t go.”  

He asked, “why not?”

“Because I need help,” I said.

He quipped back, “get help.”

My Yoda did not understand my life.  He did not understand my morning routine.  He didn’t understand how embarrassing it was for me to ask for help.  It turned out that I didn’t understand my capabilities. I was not listening to what he was saying.  I was hearing him, but I was not listening and trying to understand what he was saying.

For a couple of days his words kept creeping up until my friend called and told me how much he enjoyed USC.  I told my friend that I was happy for him, but the conversation was eating me up. As I hung up the phone tears were rolling down my cheeks.  My dad wanted to know what was wrong. All I could say was that I was going to USC. I did not say I wish I could go to USC or I wonder if I could go to USC.  Those days were over. Less than a year later, I went to USC.

Often times we are so busy looking at what can get in the way of life that we don’t see what can happen.  We are so sure that we know everything that we are unwilling to listen to others. Yes, Jerry did not understand my circumstances.  However, I was so hyper focused on my limitations and how they got in the way of my amazing success that I was not focused on the possibilities.

 I have been doing a lot of reading about positive psychology and happiness.  The more I read, the more I understand that in order to reach amazing success we need to listen mostly to optimism and positivity.  We must listen to the voices of dreamers and doers while understanding what can get in the way of amazing success. We need to listen to voices who don’t see the negative narratives we create in our minds.

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