Sunday, January 04, 2009

Taking a Stroll Towards Independence

If you've been following this blog, you know that I was blessed with the opportunity to join the faculty of Lone Star College District. Colleges have always been one of my favorite places to be. And the great thing about this particular college experience is that I'm the prof and not the student. I read papers; I don't have to write them. I compose test; I don't take them. So, the experience has been a great deal less stressful than it is when you're a student. And I love that!

One aspect of college that I love so much is that the environment encourages free thought and pushes the students to broaden their paradigms. My philosophy as an instructor is to design and facilitate a learning experience that will encourage the students to challenge the social norms that have been passed to them by their families and conventional society. I want my students to not become masters at memorizing large amounts of information, just so they can become intelligent robots. I want them to become thinkers, to explore new possibilities, and to demand truth. Likewise, I want them to realize that every moment prepares them for the next moment. So, by all means, they need to maximize every opportunity to grow, to elevate, to mature, to become free members of society.

When I started working at the college, I had no idea what the campus looked like, how to get around it, or when I would get a chance to learn how to get around it. I called the Division for Blind Services, here in Texas, and requested training to learn how to navigate through the campus. Well, anyone that knows anything about social services knows that it often takes an unreasonable amount of time to get the services you need. So, even though I started working for the college in July, and I called the DBS office in July, I didn't get mobility training until last week. How many months did I have to wait? Five long months... Five months of my sisters giving me sighted guide on the campus, making it look like I was a blind person that was either too scared or too incompetent to travel throughout the campus independently.

So, last week, I pulled out my folding cane and headed out to the campus with my instructor. A campus that seemed to be beyond my independent reach became increasingly familiar to me with ever step I took. My cane extended in front of me, and suddenly a place that I had only walked on with sighted help transformed into a place that I could conquer, could travel alone. Although there were a couple of times that I was unsure of myself, and a couple of times that my foot would slip off the edge of the sidewalk, I walked with pride and with full confidence in my future.

I remember a time in my life when I thought of a white cane as an object of embarrassment, a signal to the world that I was different, that I was disabled. I hated to carry it. And I sure in the hell hated to use it. I felt that extending a cane in front of me only solidified my permanent status as a blind girl. And because I wanted to be anything but a blind girl, I hated that damn cane so much.

But as I matured, and as I wanted to travel places that sighted help could not or would not take me, the cane became a tool of independence, a tool of liberation. My cane helped me graduate from University of North Texas in 1997. My cane helped me be successful at my first job, where I served a local school district as an educational consultant. My cane, which was once an object of shame, is now the tool that has helped me find independence and freedom from the restrictions placed on me by my blindness.

Don't get it twisted... Sometimes it's tough to put myself out there, to be all on display for all you sighted folks to gawk at. But I rather people take a look at a blind woman doing her thing, making the best out of life, than to be looking at a blind woman fumbling and tripping over the curbs of life. I would much rather be out and about, walking towards freedom, than to be at home, dying in a cell of dependence and restriction. I would much rather be out and about, living my life, than to be at home, waiting to die.

So, this day, this very moment, I raise my cane high in the sky and celebrate my victory over the darkness.

I am not bound by the darkness that surrounds me!

I am not a slave to my disability!

I am a free woman! Free to travel where ever I wish to go... Free to be who I want to be... Free to achieve what I wish to achieve...

**If there's something that is holding you back from finding independence and freedom, free yourself of whatever has you bound. If there is something that you need to pick up in order to help you achieve greatness, pick it up. Don't be ashamed... Don't be reluctant to do whatever it takes to become free.**

Angela L. Braden
Author of NuVision for a NuDay
Finalist for the 2008 Weblog Awards

7 comments:

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hi there!

I am so very happy to read this post!

It is just such a gust of wind beneath my feet!!

The voting for the Weblog Awards begins at midnight so I have a list in my sidebar of the finalists that my blog guests should be aware of! Of course, your blog is in that list! (smiles)

There is a blogger you may not be aware of who was a guest blogger in 2008 at my think tank...Ginny of the blog Ginny's Thoughts. She is an anti-racist online activist who is married interracially.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa

The Urban Scientist said...

Thanks for sharing and I completely share your teaching philosophy. best of luck with everything.

Chi-Chi said...

I voted Angie.

I can't tell you how much I love to read your blog. You are such an encouragement to my soul.

"Don't be reluctant to do whatever it takes to become free." Amen.

Nicole henry said...

I ....am......Superwoman.....yes I am!!

Melinda Patton ~ said...

Angie,

I love your independence! The line "free yourself of whatever has you bound" speaks volumes to me, as it seems most of my life I have let fear bind me, and keep me from being my true self. It is women like you who can pave the way for others to have the courage to actually live their lives.

Thank you for being you!

Melinda

Hey, I have to say it was quite an honor to have your comment on my blog. Thank you so much.

Angie-Nuvision said...

Wow! Thanks so much to everyone that's commented o this post. Your kind words are appreciated.

To Lisa, the Urban Scientist, Nicole, Melinda, and Chi-Chi: Please come back. You're such an encouragement to me.

And Chi-Chi, more specifically, you just make my day. You're so sincere and caring. Thanks for letting your light shine.

Jenny said...

I only just found your blog, via Jon Swift. The part about how you hated your cane struck a chord in me. I'm sighted, but I have chronic pain and I can't stand up for too long, or walk to far, without a cane. When I first got it I only used it where noone I knew was likely to see me. I didn't bring it into work; I got a folding one that I could hide.

Now I use it as a matter of course. As you said, it gives me more freedom to do what I want, and at a lower cost than painkillers which is the alternative.

I've been telling people that there are three things the cane is good for. First, it gives me support when I need it. Second, it shows the world that I do need some extra space and there's a reason I walk slowly or sit in the seat for elderly/disabled even though I'm not yet forty. Thirdly, if people still don't get it, I can whack them with the cane until they shut up.

And with all that, I'm still a bit embarrassed when someone I've met sees me with the cane for the first time. Stupid, but true.