By Ashley Alcantar, Guest Blogger
I thought I was going to be at a completely different stage in my life career-wise than where I am presently, and it is frustrating. It is frustrating because I’m having a “mid-life” crisis at the age of 24 and it’s unfair.
I had always planned to take a short break after I graduated college. I didn’t plan for how long but after about a year of not having much to do, it started to get boring. I was ready to start being busy again.
My fiancé and I planned to get married two years after I graduated from college. One year out of college, on my break, I learned that if I got legally married I would lose all my disability benefits. The reason being is the government assumes that one spouse should be able to provide for the other. In addition to that, if I were to earn an income of more than $2,000 a month, I would also lose my disability benefits. As unbelievable and frustrating as that is, it is the way it is.
I was in a lose-lose situation. I decided I was going to get married regardless, so I put off job hunting for a while longer. Planning my wedding gave me purpose again. It was during that time that I realized that I am my best self when I am busy. I felt amazing about myself.
Since our wedding a few months ago, I haven’t had anything to keep me busy. I feel like I have no purpose again. It is extremely difficult to admit that because I know that I’m not worthless. I know that I’m educated enough, but I also know that I’m missing something critical to push me forward, something to help me be my best self. So I have finally begun to start my job search.
Never in my life have I used my disability as an excuse not to do anything, but I probably won’t find a job as fast as others. There are two reasons for this: my physical disability and my speech impairment. I will need accommodations that allow me to communicate effectively with my coworkers.
While I look for a job, I am also focusing on things that truly matter in life. I’m trying to bring in only positivity. I really miss the person I was in college. I was confident and sure of myself that it radiated all throughout. Now, I try to stay away from social media because it negatively impacts the way I feel about myself. I am focusing on my abilities and searching to find my passion. I realize that I have value even if I am not employed.
I’m also realizing that, in fact, I’m not running out of time in life. At 24, I still have a whole life ahead of me to navigate and get to where I am supposed to be.
This might be one of the hardest journeys of my life, but day by day, I’m getting through it. I like to remind myself that even though no one may understand what I’m going through, it doesn’t mean that my feelings are not valid. If you are on a similar journey, know that you are not alone. We’ve got this.
Ashley Alcantar is a 24-year-old self-advocate with Cerebral Palsy. Her passion is to advocate for the disabled community and share her stories along the way.