I am about to graduate from college and move home. Graduation is actually this Friday, and I am super excited about it. But I was at work the other day and I was flooded with a thousand different emotions at once. I work at a bunch of group homes, and I was fixing the lunch plates when I realized that it was my last time doing that for these people. Today was my last shift ever and on Tuesday it will be last day working for this company.
I started thinking about all my lasts that I would experience this week. Giving my last pen of insulin to one client. Helping shower another client for the last time. Cooking a diabetic-friendly dinner for the last time. Driving another client to work for the last time. Watching Family Feud with them. Doing the dishes. Sweeping the floor. Writing the documentation.My first time calming a crisis. Making a client laugh. Answering a thousand emails a day. Needless to say, It was overwhelming.
“Why am I like this?” I asked myself. All these lasts were flooding my vision, like a wave when you’re child at the ocean for the first time. It was in my mouth and pouring out of nose, filling my lungs. I got caught up in thinking about the end that I forgot about where I started and my journey getting here.
I started this job a year ago on May 6, 2017. I remember doing the interview. I was so nervous. I wore the most perfected outfit that I could put together. I even shaved my legs, and to be honest, I rarely ever shave my legs. Not for anyone. Everyone thought I was perfect for the job, but I remember not knowing why they thought that. But I got the job about ten minutes into the interview. The questions they asked me reminded me of an oral final exam.
“What is mental health?” The older lady asked me.
“Well, to me it is any mental or emotional problem one has that impairs daily functioning.” I replied.
“What is an intellectual disability?”
“It is very similar to a mental illness, but it affects one’s ability to learn new things are do every day activities. Usually it is a difficulty understanding. It usually involves those over the age of eighteen, but I don’t really know why.” I said.
Completing all the trainings came next, and that just another level in the anxiety train. When I completed by first training, I felt like the most confident person in the world, but I also felt like I could easily mess something up. But with each training that I completed, the more confident I felt about the career path I had chosen for myself.
The first time I walked into the house to shadow the DSPs working that day, I was terrified. I was afraid I would say the wrong thing or do something triggering for the clients who lived there. I thought of them as these fragile beings. I felt I had to walk on eggshells just to help them through the day. And this feeling continued for another month or two after I began actually working at the home.
But I also remember the first time one of the clients hugged me. He was upset about something, so I offered a hug, and he agreed. The next thing I knew, he was hugging me and smiling. This was a big step for the relationships I built at this house. I felt all the fear slowly drip away as each day went by. Soon after that moment, it felt like I knew what I was doing when it came to forming relationships with adults with disabilities. They all began laughing at my jokes and letting me help them with tasks they usually avoided when I was working.
Now it has been a year, and I look back at those first moments and wonder what I was so darn afraid of. I had a bias about those considered “not normal”, but I sit here with you all and can honestly say that I feel we have this stereotype all wrong. The adults I worked with are honest, kind, and smarter than most of the students I went to college with to be honest. They are funnier than most comedians and more understanding than anyone I know.
My shift ends at 10:00 PM tonight and it is currently 9:22 PM, but I am going home feeling like I have learned lessons I want to teach to others. There is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to working with or even just passing by adults who have intellectual disabilities. So, while all the lasts are sad, I think back on all of these first and realize that I have grown so much more than I realize. And that makes me happy.
Do you have a job that you are happy about? Have you had any experiences with this population you can share? Comment below. Or message me. I would love to hear from you.