Okay, time for my long novelette of a post.
Let us now skim over the waves of life. The middle of an ocean, no visible beginning, no visible end. Just the waters of possibility, the sky giving the probability of a ground somewhere beneath all the water below. Let us go miles from where we start, past the slow waves of beginning, elementary school where I failed first grade, past the event horizon that was the first bit of awakening, in third grade where autonomy began. Here, waves become a little more active, but they're still pitiful compared to other oceans you've seen. As miles pass, you see waves growing slowly. Not steadily, no, but grow they do. Then high school ended... What now?
Near the end of high school, I was told about a possibility for employment for me. For those who know about World Services for the Blind, you may know where this could be going. Yes, the blind school wanted to just dump me off at the nearest IRS cubical and forget about it. To be fare, Ii didn't give them much of a reason to choose otherwise. I had no ambition, no desires of employment, no outlook on the future. All I knew is that I like computers, and that was it. They had no desire to cultivate that, no desire to help train that, grow that, into something useful. So, I went to Gentry, the center for blind/deaf/generally-disabled people here in Alabama to get post-school training in a trade or preparation for college.
Here, things get a little interesting. It is here, out from under the heavy hand of the school, that I awakened just a bit more, become more than just a walking, talking corpse with an affinity with technology. I learned to clean my room, although that skill vanished when it wasn't needed, more on that later. I learned to cook, although I'm still afraid of stove that is in operation, and I am pretty good with the oven and microwave. I learned some things about money management, although that course was basically an input/output one, you read stuff, answer questions about it, and all I really got out of it was just to trust your bank and talk to them when you need something. I also learned that I read 95 words per minute in Braille, which is terrible in comparison with other people I know, who read 280 words per minute. So, I learned some things, became more independent, more alive. Then I found out about the Assistive Technology Instructor course at World Services for the Blind (WSB).
WSB is an okay place. Bland food meant to be healthy, so that the poor blind people don't get fat while sitting on campus with an exercise room at their disposal because it is the ethical duty of WSB to make sure blind people are healthy, and blind instructors who don't know when their students haven't showered in days and wear the same clothes during said days, but I got the certification. It was a short nine months there, full of 480 teaching hours and plenty of assignments that really didn't help technologically, although I did experiment with Linux for months there and switched back to Windows shortly before leaving. Mostly, I made a friend who I still sometimes talk to, and made a few connections with people, but really I came for the certificate, and that's what I got. According to my instructor, I went "above and beyond" what was set out for me, but I really don't feel like I did that much, more on that later. So, the cleaning issue. We didn't have to clean at all at WSB. We were the upper blind nobility, so were afforded housekeepers so we could focus on our work, not on all the other nonsense of life. Oh they tried to walk back their luxurious lifestyle by having us take our trash bags and set them beside the can, sweep our rooms, and make our beds, but as so many things do at WSB, it faded away and things returned to normal. They also created the "client panel," of which I was a member. That faded away as well, as we realized that we were simply pawns for the administrators to speak their words through, and we really didn't have a say in anything. We couldn't even discuss things with the clients that the administrators discuss with us, making us nothing more than puppets for them, to make WSB look good.
Then it was over, and I went home with certification in hand. Now what?
College? Hey, maybe that wouldn't be so hard after all! I mean, I did all this work at WSB, compiling lists of ten free screen readers, interviewing clients, presentations, figuring out new tech, all that while teaching at least one client courses like JAWS, Microsoft Word, and even some ZoomText, iPhones, and even taught a deaf-blind person. Yeah, college shouldn't be that bad. But no. World Services for the blind was a vampire for money, sucking $2200 per month, all nine months. So no, college is no longer an option, even though that's what my instructor said I should look into. So, uh, now what?
Now I get experience, so that maybe that will negate the necessity for a college degree. So, I'm back in Alabama now, at Gentry once again, but rather than just be a student, I'm almost staff now. Turns out, not cleaning for nine months, and having a blind instructor with no sighted assistant wasn't the best for how I look. Dandruff went unnoticed. Bad behaviors and habbits from high school resurfaced. So now I must prove that I "really want to work" to my supervisor, or my program will be canceled. I try to look up rather than down on these problems of mine, but the thoughts still strike me.
"How could you ever measure up to your blind supervisor? He's a country boy. Country boys can survive. You're just some outlier, half country, mostly something cobbled from isolation and laziness. He grew up doing everything. You grew up doing nothing. He grew up when the blind school was a great option. You grew up when it was stale and rotting, nothing more than an elaborate training function, preparing one for the ACT testing."
I don't really have much to counter this with. I do more for myself than I've ever done before. It does mean that I have to wake up earlier, but it would give me a better chance of getting a job. All this preparation, school, high school, Gentry, WSB, Gentry again, and I'm 24 without a job. My younger sister has a job at Wendies, a fast food place. My youngest sister will be getting a job whenever she can. But me? When will I have my first paycheck, outside of a controlled, student-worker environment? When will I be able to prove to at least myself that I am worth something? When will I be able to prove to my supervisor that something good can come out of the Alabama school for the Blind, even outside of his era of the good ol' days? I don't know. Maybe I won't. But then I focus on myself. My body, fat and soft, my mind, seeming only half-alive compared to everyone else, running on an operating system 24 years out of date, with no updates in sight, and I think "You know, I'm not dead. Somehow, I'm still alive. I don't know what for, but the Eternal has chosen to keep me alive for some reason. I've not rotted away from existence yet, even though by all accounts I should have long ago."
So, I keep going. I keep trying, trying at whatever it is people want me to do. Unlock doors and turn on lights at the beginning of the day? Sure, I'll try.
Close up and turn off lights at the end? Yes, I can do that.
Help a student? Yes, gladly.
Take a tech support phone call? Oh yes, what do they need help with?
Go train a consumer? Well, I've not really done that kind of thing before, but I'll try.
It'l be an overnight stay at a hotel, you sure? I'll try. I've never really stayed at hotels, but I'll definitely try it.
And yet, nothing seems enough. Every time I do something right, there's always something wrong.
Well you're a nice person, but your grades are terrible.
Well, you're good at computers, but not good at teaching or interacting with people.
Well, you do a good job, but you need to clean your room; it looks terrible from what I read.
A year ago before WSB: You know, I'd hire you, but you need experience; you need certifications.
Now: No one would hire you looking like that; I know I wouldn't.
So, a lot of the problems are my own, but there are just things that I never knew about, never questioned, never thought of. Every person's look into jobs is different. Not all are easy, not all are hard. Not all are successful, no matter how hard we try, no matter how easy it seems to others, no matter how hard we slap destiny in the face and make her bleed for our bad fortune, we still loose, we still die, we still are dealt the bad hand, and we must all recognize that.
In the same breath though, must be the realization that we're still here. Somehow, we haven't winked out of existence just because we've failed life, failed our parents, failed our supervisors, failed our country, our school, our counselor, failed ourselves. We must always remember that we can change, improve, no matter what the standards other people set for us are. The school wanted to just throw me to the IRS, to be yelled at, verbally beaten for my employer's sins, to be a whipping boy, to be a sacrifice. But I went above them. Gentry wants near-perfection of my cleaning. I may or may not be doing well in that, I don't know. I bought an electric Swiffer for sweeping the floor, and have other cleaning supplies now which I use at least once a week, so I, at least, think I've gotten better. All this to say that my employment either in the blindness business as I call it or elsewhere seems to be tied up rather much with what I can achieve here. I've put out information on Linked-in, Indeed and other places, and even attended a virtual career fare with Microsoft, Apple and others where I sent plenty of resumes, but I've not heard anything from all that, so the whole "it's who you know" thing really is how things work.
Do then want to work for Apple, Microsoft, or Google? I'd gladly choose Microsoft, but I'd hate moving to a whole other state and such. Apple? I hate how they're going down hill, with no new VoiceOver features at all in iOS 12 and such, but I'd take it. Google then? No. They don't give a crap. So, I'm really just left with the blindness business pretty much, unless I can find a network of blind people offering blind folks tech support or training, which would be a pretty good idea for the "outcast" Assistive Tech instructors who went to WSB for that, and now just can't find a job for it. And no college either, and I couldn't juggle WSB and Hadley at the same time, plus I think they require college degrees now so people like me don't waste their time, so yeah, probably no advancements in education possible now. So, my road has been severely narrowed.