Friday, September 18, 2015

This Is Why I Do It

I've had a bit of an emotional few months.  Granted, I am 17 weeks pregnant with my second child, so the hormones are not helping, but things have been difficult lately.

Today, I had the opportunity to speak at my Alma Mater, Eastern Michigan University.  I was asked to speak to a group of grad students going into occupational therapy about what parents of children with special needs would like them to know.

Paris, 1998.  18 Years Old, and of all things in Paris,
 I wanted to see Jim Morrison's Grave.
As I drove on to the campus of good 'ol EMU, I was instantly flooded with memories.   I couldn't help but think of the 18 year old girl with hippie hair down to her waist filled with dreams of being a school teacher.  I found myself lost in glimpses of myself sitting at different spots on campus wondering how I was going to truly make an impact on the world.  As I thought of that girl, that wide-eyed, open-hearted dreamer, I couldn't help but feel like I had let her down a bit.  How did I go from wanting to be a teacher and traveling with Peace Corps in my summers, to working for a major technology conglomerate?  I felt a little bit of sadness amidst my nostalgia as I looked for the classroom I was expected to show up in through the downpour that had suddenly started.

There were probably 50-60 students in the class as I walked in, maybe more, and my presentation was already up on the screen ready for me.  I would love to tell you my nerves perked up here, but they didn't.  If I'm good at anything, it's public speaking.  I'm good with a crowd.  I know how to give a presentation.  I was fine.  The instructor introduced me and handed me the controller for my PowerPoint, and I began.

I wasn't even a slide or two into it when it hit me. These were the people that would be helping new Mamas and Daddies just like me try to help their babies work towards milestones.  These are therapists.  I am speaking to an entire room, a very large room, full of hope for babies with all kinds of special needs.  What hit me at that point was this: "What I say here today matters."  For the first time in a very long time, I had a bit of stage fright.

I cleared the lump that had begun to form in my throat from the realization I just had, and I continued.  I turned off "trainer Jamie", and I just spoke to them.  I was raw, and honest, and I OF COURSE had to throw in a few tasteful jokes here and there.  I mean, come on, it wouldn't be me if I didn't throw in some horrible one-liners.  Let's be real.

When my presentation, which was supposed to be an hour and had stretched to almost two, was finished, I stepped into the hallway for a few moments while they filled out some evaluative surveys on me.  I then went back in, said my Thank You's and Goodbye's, and walked back to my car... surveys in hand.

Of course, I immediately had to look...

These a just a few of the surveys I read as I walked back to my car.  My friends, I am not exaggerating, every single survey was like these.  They were left feeling positive, and moved, and pumped, and I did that today.  I taught them.  I helped.  I am NOT bragging, trust me, I am just floored right now.  I could have walked away telling you a hundred things I could have done better, but these surveys took me to my knees.  

Multiple people, when asked "What key phrases and words caught your ear?", pointed out the moment I talked about the struggle I deal with of whether I am Benny's Mama or Benny's therapist. They remember me saying that their patients are children first.  They often wrote down, "Person First Language".  
When asked, "What could improve this presentation?", many answered with "If we had more time to hear her talk."  I spoke for two hours...and they would have liked to hear more?  That is humbling, and unexpected since I happen to have a tendency to talk too much.  

Of course, they also would have loved it if Benny was with me.  I mean, who wouldn't?!  They also requested even more pictures and videos, on top of the ridiculous amounts I had in my presentation. Never fear, I pointed them towards our Instagram, Facebook, and Blog.  :)

As I'm reading their words and walking back through that campus to my car, I see that wide-eyed little hippie girl again reading her copy of Harry Potter under an oak tree.  However, I feel a little different this time.  

Maybe it wasn't the way I planned, maybe it's not the route I mapped out, but maybe, just maybe, I am making an impact on this world.  I smiled at her, and she smiled back at me with those big blue eyes that reminded me of my beautiful son.  

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Would love to hear your thought, comments, advice, or emotional outbursts!

-xoxo Jamie