I’m a woman, short, and quiet. This usually leads to others underestimating me and what I am capable of. That is their first mistake.
“I didn’t get to where I am because of you. I got here because of me.”
Last week, someone in the office I am currently interning at greatly underestimated me. Their words were belittling, and while I see myself as strong, I can also be sensitive. This particular individual was trying to be honest yet helpful. I recently applied for a full-time position in the same office. I was speaking with this individual and another intern about it. This individual was telling me that the job market was competitive and that I needed to be aggressive because according to her I sit back and let opportunities come to me instead of fighting for them. Excuse me? First of all, you don’t know me. Second of all, I didn’t get to where I am today because of you. I got here because of me. You didn’t help me graduate high school in a mainstream school despite the fact that I have profound hearing loss. You didn’t get me accepted into both colleges I applied for. You didn’t help me study for hours upon hours, help me change majors in my third year of college, or help me graduate Cum Laude with the Outstanding Graduate Award in my major. I did that. Not you.
My dad always tells me that I am my hardest critic, that I am my own hirer and firer. I set myself to my highest standards and I compare myself to others that I perceive as more capable. I know I do this and it is something I am working on to better myself, but if I don’t work towards what I see as perfection, then I feel like I don’t have anything to work towards. My tenacity for this goal has gotten me everything I have ever worked for. For example, there was a time in high school when I learned that because I was hard of hearing, I had an individualized education program (IEP). Later I realized it was only there to help me, but at the time I perceived it as a threat to my ultimate goals. I felt as if everyone in that room was telling me I wasn’t good enough, that my grades weren’t good enough, that I wasn’t capable of achieving what I set my mind to. I made it my personal goal to prove to every single person in that room wrong, including a woman that I would eventually come to see as a confidant, mentor, and friend. I honestly don’t know why she didn’t give up on me because I know I was making her job hard, but I was determined to prove I didn’t need her. This fire in my soul led me to achieve great things, including nearly all A’s that semester. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but keep in mind I have severe hearing loss and get every third word from hearing and the rest from lip reading.
After high school, I used this fire and passion in my college classes. Second semester of my sophomore year of college, I felt like I was not getting the best education I could get and so I decided to transfer to the college I would graduate from 2.5 years later. While there, I quickly realized I did not want to pursue a medical degree – I knew I wanted to help people but I saw that medicine wasn’t how I am best able to help. I changed my major from biology to sociology & psychology after having hour long discussions with an adjunct professor of my sociology course, someone that would later also become a mentor and friend.
Upon graduating I wasn’t sure exactly which way I wanted to take my career. I had a dream job in mind – one that was shut down years ago, even before I started on the path of pursuing medicine, yet another career path that I had been told I would never be successful at. I knew I needed experience though. An opportunity arose for me to work in Washington, D.C. It was in my time here that I realized just how many opportunities I have. I love working in the office I am interning in and can see myself working here long term. I also put in an application for the agency I have dreamed to work for since I was a child. Because of my hearing loss, for the safety of myself and others, I will never be able to pursue my dream position, but to work in this agency would feel like a win in more ways than one.
Whatever career or careers I end up pursuing, everyone there should know that I only got there because of the fire in my soul – the one that keeps me going even when I feel like quitting, the one that tells me I am good enough when my mind is telling me I am not, the one that fuels the passion in which I chase my goals and dreams with. Whatever I do, I got there because I got me there, and yes with some help along the way from family, friends, and mentors, but I am there because I wanted to be there, not because someone else told me to be there.
“… a force to be reckoned with.”
I guess this individual that told me I need to be more aggressive and speak up more has never heard that it’s often the quiet, underestimated ones that are a force to be reckoned with. When I set my mind to something, I refuse to give up and I refuse to back down. There’s a fire a burnin’ and a hurricane a comin’.