I interviewed for my last job in 1993 when there were no cell phones; the internet was in the infant stages. Blackberry was still a fruit. The following year, a careless driver ran over me as I walked my dogs in upstate NY leading to a two month hospital stay. I lacked health insurance but that’s another story. Permanent injuries knocked me out of the workplace, which I entered at the age of 16 at the now defunct Alexander’s Department store. There were times when I held two jobs. At the age of 39, there was no way I could sit home watching television but permanent injuries prevented holding a full-time job. I had to do something but what? I always led an active life. After work, there were dinners, movies, Broadway shows, shopping at Macy’s, and attendance at charity events. I competed in three New York City marathons, running all 26.2 miles. After I moved away from New York, I bicycled in the Colorado Rockies and jogged along the Charles River in Boston. I hiked state parks in Vermont.
Each day was different living with a damaged brain and body. I held a master’s degree from New York University and read the New York Times daily but that wasn’t enough to escape from the effects of a traumatic brain injury. Research demonstrated that around 80% of disabled people were unemployed. Available jobs were menial and paid minimum wage. I didn’t bother to look. After a long recovery, I re-invented myself as a volunteer. I performed civic duties in animal shelters, former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano’s office, as a therapy team with Gabriel’s Angels to spread compassion and kindness among abused and neglected children, the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club, and as a navigator at Sky Harbor airport. Each position fulfilled and rewarded me in unique, special ways.
I answered calls in the Governor’s office of constituent services. Callers were usually disappointed they spoke with me rather than Janet Napolitano. I provided snacks to beat up stray cats that never experienced a shred of decency. Homeless children learned the power of healing from my adopted dog Luke. I enjoy assisting lost passengers at the airport. The Sierra Club benefits from my clerical skills.
Initially, I shared a friend’s home so I didn’t worry too much about paying the bills. My comfort zone collapsed during the 2007 recession when she lost her job. Health and sickness followed her. Soon, the bank repossessed the house and I was on my own. Social security barely kept my dog and me out of poverty. There were times when I dug through the trash for aluminum cans to redeem for cash. I bought day old bagels. Watered down shampoo and dish soap last longer. I parted with middle class perks such as mail ordered coffee, cable television, daily delivery of the Times, and new clothes. Thrift shops really do have a lot of bargains.
Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer but life got in the way. Around the time of the accident I looked into journalism and fine arts programs but I later scrapped that idea. Once home from the rehab center, I used software programs to regain memory and other lost cognitive functions. Those programs lost my attention and I took up writing to pass the time, even though my left hand was compromised neurologically and from multiple broken bones. Typing is uncomfortable using only two fingers but I persisted. A year later, I won second place in a writing contest and continued to hone my skills through non-credit college classes, support groups and writing magazines. As the 20th anniversary approached of that fateful encounter in January 1994 that forever changed my life, my goal is to earn a living from writing and become self-sufficient once again. Then when someone asks me what I do for a living, I can say, I’m a writer. I’m not there yet but I keep trying.