I always tell people that I have been living as an “independent” adult since June 2015. After all, this is the first time when I finally landed my own apartment in Guilderland, NY and started paying rent entirely by myself. It is the first time I started paying for my own food, which did not go well because I went a little bit crazy more than once. The fridge would be filled with either food that was unhealthy such as Carvel Cakes or extremely expensive such as 1 ½ pound lobster. Someone close to my family once said, “I do not even want to know what is inside his fridge.” He had a point. I had not lost a pound for a solid year and even gained quite a bit of weight that I am trying to chip away like a slab of marble. But the point is that I was allowed to make these choices and battle through the consequences. My family advised me to make other choices but still understood that I am an adult and may turn things around someday after becoming adjusted to life in Albany. In the past, I did not have complete freedom to purchase whatever food I wanted considering that I was still living at home and doing the food shopping with my family’s money. They also did not want a lot of unhealthy items in the house tempting everybody else in the family to develop a weight problem.
A lesson is taught during my self-advocacy trainings at Living Resources, Inc. I let the staff know that the talented consumers they are working with happen to be full-blown adults. Therefore, they are allowed to make choices as long as it does not hurt other people, themselves, or happens to be illegal. For example, independence does not mean allowing someone to bungee jump off the Hoover Dam even if it is supposedly legal. We would have to at least look into this option A LOT! The adults I work with, however, have the same choices as myself within a living space. It is nice having my own flat screen television because it allows me the liberty to have shows like SpongeBob on all day long and still feel like an adult. As SpongeBob is playing, I am often getting chores completed such as writing bills and washing the dishes.
Someone once said, “It hurts to run, but it hurts even more not to run.” I kind of think that attitude applies toward employment. Nobody likes being forced to wake up on a wintry day to scrape that thick coat of ice off one’s car and report to a job five days a week. It does not even matter that I am passionate about what I do and have a great working relationship with the incredible consumers at Living Resources, Inc. The fact is that if it were fun to do 100% of the time then it would not be called “work.” It would be called…something else!! But part of independence is being allowed to use one’s abilities to earn money because lots of people with disabilities are able-bodied in many ways. When something bad happens it is easier to move forward even if unable to completely move on. I remember over a year ago I was cheated out of forty dollars at the Albany airport by con artists who probably do this every day. It was easier to not be tortured as much by the experience because I had the knowledge that I could easily make more money the following week so losing the forty dollars would not affect my life. Purchasing luxuries or losing your money out of foolishness is much harder when dependent on others for financial support compared to earning some of it yourself. Even if someone does not have a full-time job, they still have the right to feel like an independent adult if doing something like volunteering or something else productive.
Being independent could mean many things for others? What is your definition, may I ask?