when your ‘last resort’ is your ‘dream come true’

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If you had told me even five years ago that I would be experiencing a major career switch before the age of 25, I would have thought you were crazy. I was IN LOVE with my social media position at the Oxygen Network, and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. I was also fortunate to have an amazing boss and mentor (whom I still love and admire like crazy) who later brought me on with her as the digital marketing coordinator for a political news network. When that network was sold to an international news network, however, I started to realized that maybe social media was not the right career path for me. I loved creating content and curating the various social pages, but the job became increasingly focused on the marketing aspect of the business with little room for creativity. (It’s not like you can be super creative when you’re reporting facts and news stories.) And that shift wasn’t particularly exciting for an artsy and nerdy English major who is happiest when she’s dreaming up new ideas and working on creative projects.

10628626_10152804020652642_9176936420018892715_nI knew that I had to make a major change in my life when, after being laid off from my job in early spring, I was surprised to find that I was actually elated and relieved. I was free. But free to do what? I had an English degree and absolutely no desire to pursue a career in law (can you seriously picture me in a drab old court all day?). So what’s a girl to do? Remembering my childhood dream of becoming a teacher, I reluctantly took education classes and figured that was my only option. Teaching was a career choice I had always kept on the periphery, considering it my Plan B in case I was on the verge of becoming a starving artist or something like that. But after giving it a lot of thought and spending the summer in Norway, where I did some deep soul-searching and (as cliche as it sounds) discovered myself a little better, I decided to give this teaching thing a shot.

1979508_10152801864832642_7612538560193325680_nFlash forward just over a month, now that I’ve been teaching for nearly four weeks, and I can’t imagine why I’d been so reluctant about choosing this profession. I think I was born to be a teacher. Is there anything more rewarding than knowing you’re educating and inspiring a love of knowledge in the next generation? Is there anything cooler than doing whatever you can – from wearing a book-themed shirt to handing out Ninja Turtle and Frozen stickers – in order to make lessons relevant and exciting for today’s kids?

In the upcoming posts, I would love to share more about my new life as a teacher. I still love to write about growing up with a disability and sharing stories about others with disabilities who have accomplished amazing things, but my life is about way more than just my nonexistent hand. And I really want this blog to reflect that.

 

Peace,

Caitlin (or Ms. P, as the students like to call me)

 

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big changes

Me with The Glee Project’s Damian McGinty (formerly Rory Flanagan on Glee), Samuel Larsen (Joe Hart on Glee), Cameron Mitchell, and fellow intern Brittany

Big things have been happening lately in my life, and I’d be a pretty bad blogger if I didn’t share them here. So with that being said, I have an announcement to make:

After a year of interning and almost 7 months of working there full-time, I’m leaving the Oxygen Network. I’ve had great times and wonderful memories working on shows like The Glee Project and Tori & Dean, but I think it’s time to move on. In two weeks’ time, I will officially become the Social Media Coordinator for Current TV. I love working in media and look forward to transitioning from reality TV to politics. It’s different, yes. And it will be an interesting first few weeks adjusting to a new company with a new staff in a new section of New York City. But I find comfort in knowing that my first boss and mentor will once again become my supervisor. And it’s great knowing that she’ll be there as I start this new leg of my career.

The Glee Project’s Hannah McIalwain, Brittany, and I are total Gleeks

Am I scared? Yes, of course. This will only be my second full-time job at a major media company, and I’ve got butterflies in my stomach just thinking about my first day. But I’m also super beyond-anything excited about this opportunity. I love politics and I feel like I’ll be able to really make a difference.

 

Inspired and hopeful and excited,

Caitlin Michelle

 

 

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interview with ryan niemiller

Hey there! A lot has happened this week, the highlight being that my boyfriend Chris started a new job in New York. I’m super proud of him, and I know that he’ll do amazingly well there. He’s very interested in the work he’s doing, which is the key to any great career. This, of course, got me thinking about my own future career and jobs in general. While I’ve never experienced discrimination because of my disability (I work as a writing tutor and as an intern for NBCUniversal), I know that it’s a very real possibility for many people.  So to get a better perspective on the matter, I decided to interview Indiana-based comedian Ryan Niemiller. Here’s what he had to say (I color-coordinated it for you because I’m thoughtful like that):

Me: Has your disability ever been the reason why you didn’t get hired for a job you applied to?

RN: Certainly. It comes with the territory. People see me and since I have a fairly obvious disability, it’s much easier to assume I can’t do something without giving me a shot than it is to give me the opportunity and see what I can do. I used to get really mad about it, but it’s a natural human defense mechanism for some. But really, as frustrating as it is, do I really want to work for a place that assumes I’m incapable?

Me: I understand that you’re a professional comedian. Do you view your disability as an advantage or disadvantage in your stand-up career?

RN: I’d say it’s 80/20 advantage to disadvantage. My arms make me unique. I can guarantee there are no other comedians just like me in the world. I’m not just a late 20’s single white guy comic. I have something that helps me stand out, a hook if you will (pun intended). I have something I can immediately bring the audience in on. At the same time, there’s the fear of me being a comic who ONLY talks about his arms. Plus, a lot of times I have to over prove I am actually funny and not just a gimmick. There’s certain bookings I probably don’t get because people assume I’m a novelty act. Luckily, it doesn’t happen often.

Me: I know that you work as a barista at Starbucks. What’s the strangest reaction a customer has had to your arms?

RN: A little girl screamed in terror once, which was fantastic for my self esteem. But really, there’s not a lot of strange reactions. Most people just stare at most. I’ll get the occasional, “Wow, you’re such an inspiration!” line, which is irritating, but really, most people just want their damn lattes. 🙂

Me: Would you say that your co-workers treat you differently because of your arms?

RN: Not at all. Anyone who gets to know me and sees me operate doesn’t worry about my arms anymore. Once I am given the chance to prove myself, I take care of business and it’s a non-issue.


Me: So let’s say you were born with two “normal” arms. Would you still be in the profession you are now?

RN: I’d like to say yes, but honestly, I doubt it. I developed a sense of humor as a defense mechanism – I’d make all the jokes before anyone else had a chance to. If I was “normal,” I doubt that would have ever developed the way it did. I’d probably be an accountant or something equally lame. Ha ha.

Me: Let’s take that question a step further: how do you think your life would be different if you had “normal” hands?

RN: I’d probably be happier, as unpopular of an answer as I’m sure that is. Not that I’m necessarily miserable right now or anything, but my arms do lead to a lot of issues that I wouldn’t have to deal with otherwise. Getting jobs wouldn’t be as difficult, it would be easier to find someone to date, etc. But really, that’s just speculation. There’s no real way of knowing. Maybe I’d be even worse off.

Me: How do you respond when someone asks you about your hands?

RN: It depends on tone. If it’s a child, I try to be patient, because as irritating as it is, they don’t know any better. If it’s an adult who I don’t know well, usually with annoyance. Because I rarely get asked simple questions about it. I know some people are just curious so I try to be patient, but I’m almost 30 years old – I am a little tired from answering questions.

Me: What’s the best way to own your disability? By that, I mean: what do you do to feel confident when the world gets you down?

RN: I make money off it. I travel the country telling jokes about it, and then they hand me a check afterward. For me, it’s hard to get much better than that. And recently, I’ve just started cutting out a lot of the negative energy in my life. So if you’re not with me, you’re against me. That’s how I own it.

Me: Now I’m about to go all college-application-interview on you: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

RN: Not a damn clue, and that’s half the fun. 🙂


   Thanks so much to Ryan for his time and honest answers. 


   If you’ve got comments or thoughts or ideas or anything else you feel like sharing, comment below! 


Peace,
Caitlin 🙂

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