I recently started my internship at The Washington Post in Washington, D.C. Getting to this point was a culmination of blood, sweat, and tears throughout all levels of education, and it’s not going to get any easier in the professional world. Establishing myself in the workplace with a disability requires trust, adaptability, and dedication.
It didn’t hit me that I was working at the Post until I drove my power chair into the cavernous, marbled atrium to meet the other interns. From that point on, everything happened quickly. The first day, we trained in the morning and connected with our bosses over a catered lunch. I was in the same room with respected journalists I had learned about at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
In the back of my mind, I wondered how this new internship would work out. It was frankly scary, but I trusted God would provide for my needs and open the hearts of the people around me. Indeed, he did.
I was most worried about the toilet situation. If you’ve been following along in my other columns, you’ll know I have trouble getting off the head. I had to pull aside the managing editor of The Washington Post and ask her how I would be able to use the restroom. I was as polite as possible, but it wasn’t a great icebreaker. Three days after that conversation, they had installed a toilet seat riser so I could use the bathroom without straining myself.
Trusting God and the people around me helped me adjust to a new workplace. I don’t relish sharing that story, but I want to encourage anyone who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and anyone who feels like they can’t speak up. This could easily have been you at your dream job. Yes, you’ll have to go through the same awkward conversations, but it will be worth it. Trust people with your embarrassing needs and see how high you’ll fly.
A week into my new life on the East Coast, I’m learning to adapt. I’m living with a new roommate who, thankfully, is more than willing to help me with my needs. My work shift is different than what I’m used to in the past. As I write this, a firetruck, horns blaring, races down the street. The station is right across from our window, which makes it hard to sleep at night.
There’s plenty that I could complain about, but what’s the point of that? Adaptability is as much about counting your blessings as anything. I could be worse off, and I’m so glad I’ve had people around to support me as I transition into adulthood.
Everything is different in D.C. The friends that I live with at school aren’t here, it’s hot and humid, and there aren’t any palm trees. But I look on the bright side. I have friends here, it’s easy to get around with my power chair, and I work at one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world. The best way to adapt to your surroundings is to move forward and note the positives.
As many people with a disability know, what may be easy for one person is like climbing Mount Everest for another. That’s where dedication comes in. I know I’m always going to have to do more work to find a place to live where my needs are met, especially in a new city. Sometimes, it’s overwhelming to think about everything extra I have to do.
Dedication comes from drive, which comes from purpose. I know I’m here for a reason, so I will go forth, undaunted. Now, at The Washington Post, and then wherever else I land.
Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.