Success Beyond Disability

When I first started college I was 19 years old. Like most 19-year-old kids, I thought by then I should have my life figured out. I had decided that I was going to declare social work as my major. I was so ecstatic to learn techniques that could potentially save many people’s lives. Of course, I thought that obtaining a social work degree meant that I would be superwoman. I was naïve, what more do you want me to say?? Little did I know that obtaining my degree would help me so much in the future with my writing endeavors. Getting this degree ended up being so much more than a simple credential in a specialized area!

I went along in college getting the best and most perfect grades I could muster. Once I was in college, the pain of accepting my disability was suddenly lessening. No one seemed to care or even noticed. This was quite a transition from high school, where I stuck out like a sore thumb. Of course, when you are teased for so long because you are different from everyone else, it doesn’t just disappear.  So, I was still dealing with it internally, but the sting was not as quite as intense. This factor alone really allowed me the time and space to really focus on what was ahead of me. I am a very head strong person when it comes to things that are very important to me. Once they are presented to me, I like to accomplish them with all the energy I can possibly conjure up.

I was fairly convinced that I would be an excellent social worker with all the credentials needed to work in New Orleans with Katrina victims and so many other vulnerable populations that were in desperate need of help only those with degrees could perform. Essentially, my heart was dead set on this idea.  That was until I got to graduate school.  You see, had my heart set on attending Tulane School of social work. Of course, I could have gone to LSU, but LSU was at home, and I had clearly had enough of home. Plus, Tulane was ranked in the top 30, which is pretty well rounded when you consider there are over 300 social work schools to choose from. I thought it was the right move for me. It would not take me long to realize just how wrong I was.

Let me just begin by saying that I am grateful for my experience at Tulane. It was the one thing that taught me that social work was not at all the correct career path for me. I do not think I would know any better if I hadn’t had the experience I did at Tulane. I will be the first to admit that it was not at all the “day dream” I thought it would be. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I did not feel like I was gaining the opportunity that I was paying for.  I felt like I was just being “force fed” things I had already learned in my undergraduate career. Maybe that was just a sign that I had an excellent undergraduate degree under my belt. Whatever the situation was though, I felt sorely disappointed in the experience and the treatment I received while at Tulane. It was a very unfortunate situation, and I felt my insecurities with my disabilities crawling back like the ever- feared monster under your bed. I had to escape this situation before the disability related depression ruined my life again. I had to hang on to the confidence I had gained back in my undergraduate by a thread.

There is nothing worse than being provoked by the devil on your shoulder telling you are worthless and insignificant. Yes, you know that it is just “inside your head”, but eventually, you start to believe what you can’t see. I knew that overcoming this “rut” would take more patience than I had available at this moment. I was going to have to be my own counselor. Thank goodness I had learned how to maintain my own insecurities.  This is when I learned that social work was not my passion after all, and that I would have to spend some time in self- discovery mode to find out exactly what my niche was.

I left the graduate school of social work in 2009. It wasn’t until 2012 that I began to finally put all my effort and energy towards writing. I started out with poetry.  Poetry has always been very cathartic for me. It is an intricate escape which allows me to explain some of the things I have been through in the most delicate sense.  It was in 2012 that I came across the website Blurb Books. Blurb is a self-publishing outlet which I have found very enriching and helpful when I wanted to launch my writing career. It was in 2012 that I first published my own poetry book, and it was then when I was discovered that I was so much more than my disability. I was going to be an inspirational force! I was determined! Then 2 years later in 2014, I published my second poetry book, which is over 200 pages of what I would call my best work!

After publishing both books,  I found that I was the happiest I had ever been. I had written two books full of self-empowering poetry! I was now sure that writing was what I was meant to do with my life! Not only did it make me incredibly happy, but it was something I could do from home and be my own boss. As a person with moderate Cerebral Palsy and now chronic pain in both my back and hips, it is much more feasible for me to do something that allows me to work from home and at my own pace. You never know when a bad pain day will pop out of nowhere, and there are some days when working just doesn’t seem to be in the plans, by no fault of my own of course.

I love the freedom that comes with being able to express myself. However, even more rewarding, is making certain that your writing can encourage and help others in both a self-serving and beneficial way. I work very hard to create engaging pieces in my blogs and articles that will leave people feeling inspired. Yes, I am the one putting in the effort, but having my social work degree also contributes in its own way.  It gives me a window which I use to peek into other’s lives and write in a way that will encourage and uplift while expressing problems and remaining positive in the end. So, even though, I don’t practice the act of social work directly, having the background and knowledge allows me to write in a way that helps others from all walks of life.

I also feel that having a disability plays a big role in my successes as a writer. Many people I have come across in my 33 years of life commend me for my positive attitude despite all my challenges. I will admit it has become a little bit harder to maintain the smile since chronic pain has entered the picture.  However, I believe my disability is a blessing because it gives me a unique perspective that others may not have and has taught me to appreciate everything in life! Now, I truly understand that every day is a blessing and is not to be overlooked or taken advantage of!

Karla Culbertson

Karla is a 33 year old independent writer. She is wheelchair dependent due to Cerebral Palsy, chronic pain, and hip dysplasia, but she does not let that stop her from enjoying life. It is Karla's goal in life to inspire and uplift others. She loves writing positive blog posts that may have the potential of inspiring others and bettering their lives.

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