Change Is Good

Change Is Good

By Emily Zitek

I believe that one of the most challenging obstacles I've had to overcome in life is having the ability to accept change.  Starting at about nine years old, I can still remember being severely bothered each September by the inevitable changes with the start of each school year—new teachers, classes, and routines.  I was afraid to be taken out of one familiar routine and be forced to start a new one.  What if I didn't get used to it?  What if these new changes meant something bad?  As a child, I felt like I had absolutely no control of the changes that occurred in my life, and even today, as a successful blind woman, I still have a hard time with it.  I still have to fight myself from being afraid that each time things change, it might be for the worst.

This isn't necessarily a problem only blind people must overcome, but it is something I hear many people worrying about, whether it has to do with school, employment, or family.  My reason for writing this article is to teach blind people, especially students going through adjustment-to-blindness training, how to embrace change when it happens, because change can be a really good thing.  Whether change comes because of a good or bad situation, it allows you to grow as an individual.  Deciding to make a major change in your life might seem very daunting.  In fact, think about the day you decided to actually get training, maybe after many months or even years of wanting to do it, but just didn't because it seemed too overwhelming.  Before I went through training, I had been maintaining a particular routine for years and was afraid to step out of my comfort zone.  Before being introduced to the NFB, I didn't think there was any other life for a blind person besides living with or near Mom and Dad, being driven everywhere and escorted from class to class using a sighted guide.  Even the thought of cooking my own breakfast was scary, but it had never intimidated me more than the day my rehabilitation counselor sat down with me and said it was time for a change.  She made me realize that sooner rather than later, I would be in high school and would need to learn how to order my own books, get from class to class by myself, use a computer that was up-to-date with the software everyone else was using, etc.

So this was my first major step in deciding to make a change, and it wasn't easy.  In fact, even after I began learning how to wash my clothes, do my hair, and cook my breakfast, which were things my mother had always done for me, I got a little sad knowing that she wouldn't be doing that anymore.  But I finished my training that first summer at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, and this positive change took shape along with the new school year and all the other changes taking place around me at that time.

Another major event took place in late 2007, which affected many aspects of my life.  After working at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Incorporated as a rehabilitation teacher and office manager for almost ten years, I decided to make a change in my career and become a sole proprietor of the Business and Enterprises Program (BEP).  Working at my old job had allowed me to create a comfort zone, because I knew my job well, and I felt secure in that job.  If I had stayed there, I knew I could go to sleep every night knowing that unless something unfortunate happened, I would get a paycheck next month, in six months, and even next year.  But when I decided to go into the BEP, there was no guarantee that I would get a business anytime soon.  In fact, I had to attend classes for six to eight months prior to even being eligible to take on my first business.  It was scary knowing that I wouldn't have income for at least that amount of time, and fortunately, Social Security and my husband's income helped me pay the bills.  Although I had been thinking about changing careers for a while, it took almost two years for me to take that leap of faith, not knowing what the outcome would be.  But if I didn't take that step, I would never know what the future would have been.  I had to believe in myself and my abilities as a possible business owner, and with the support of my husband, family, and many friends who believed in my capabilities, I held my breath and took that big step into something new—the unknown.  Since the unknown has been something I have always feared since childhood, I figured my best way to get over that fear was to face it head on.

You will make many decisions in life, some of which will cause your life to change dramatically.  There may be times after you have made these changes where you will question whether you made the right choice.  In my situation, I made sure that I was educated about both the positives and pitfalls of this new career before I made any major decisions.  The hardest part was for me to keep still, be patient, and know that things would work out for me in the end.  If this didn't work out, the NFB had provided me with the skills to seek other employment.  People who don't know me as well still wonder why I left a secure job, and I believe that it has helped me develop and understand myself and my abilities in ways that I would never have experienced had I not taken that chance.  As it turns out, I came out on the other side of this learning experience owning a convenience store and 20 vending machines at the Department of Health and Agriculture in St.  Paul.  Will I change locations anytime soon? Probably not, considering the fact that I just spent a year organizing my store and vending machines to my liking.  But I know that if a better opportunity ever arises, the fear of change will not be the obstacle it had been before.