It is in our darkest points that we see what we are really made of, and it's in our highest points that we can turn back and help others.
One day, I was at home, and I received an email from Paula. She was the director of the Transition Fair, which was an organization composed of local businesses, the school district, and mental health organizations. Each year they hold a transition Fair, which is meant to encourage those with special needs and help them transition into adulthood. When I received the email, I was excited because it was another great speaking event that I could help those in need, and it was just in time to promote my new self help book titled Your Story Matters: How to Become the Author of Your Own Destiny! I was excited to help these young people meet their dreams by sharing my personal journeys. So, I spoke to her on the phone, took notes on what she needed for the event, and negotiated any fees. Once we were done, I got to work creating a dynamic speech.
It took awhile to brainstorm exactly what I wanted to say to these students with disabilities. I wanted them to understand first that they were not alone, secondly, that there were people that have been where they are, and lastly, that they can be successful regardless of their circumstances. I also wanted to encourage parents. I wanted them to know that it was possible for their child to accomplish their goals-- no matter how big or how small. However, in order to have a goal-- you have to have a vision. A vision of where your life is now and a vision of where you want to be. A man is not a man unless he has a vision of his future. So, I titled my speech-- Creating Visionaries, because that is what I was going to do. I wanted to use my words to create a room full of visionaries-- of people with a purpose, a goal for the future-- and I wanted to do that by doing what I do best-- telling stories.
I wanted them to understand first that they were not alone, secondly, that there were people that have been where they are, and lastly, that they can be successful regardless of their circumstances.
However, there was one flaw in my plan. I had my personal story-- which was dynamic, and I was a visionary; however, I lacked a disability. Most of the people in my audience had medical, mental and even physical disabilities that enabled them handicapped. How could an able bodied person relate to them and preach to them that they had a future. How could I motivate them-- when I didn't have a story that exactly related to them. Well, lucky for me, I was surrounded by people with the same disabilities as the young people I was speaking to that had proven successful. My daughter and mother both suffer from mental disabilities, my brother has a medical handicap, and although, I wasn't disabled-- I battled with depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD for years. I could incorporate all of these stories into a single message. Of course, with permission of all those involved.
For the nest couple of days, I wrote, made phone calls and created PowerPoints. I decided to tell three stories: my mom's story of overcoming a mental disability, my brother's story of overcoming a physical handicap, and my own story-- of overcoming homelessness. The next day, I presented my speech to my students who were studying speech. I used myself as a model to guide instruction-- and my students were allowed to grade me. Many of them were so enthralled that they didn't want to leave to go to the next class. Some of my students cried, some of them laughed, and all of them gave me a standing ovation. I was complemented and told that I was an inspiration. I took their kind words to heart-- because if they were motivated by my words, I knew that the students at the Transition Fair would be moved also.
I decided to tell three stories: my mom's story of overcoming a mental disability, my brother's story of overcoming a physical handicap, and my own story-- of overcoming homelessness.
On the day of the even I was nervous. I would be talking for an agreed upon time of 40 mins. Then, I would have a breakout session for 20 minutes-- for a grand total of 1 hour of just me speaking. I set up my station to sell my novels and my new book, I arranged my volunteer helpers-- and I made sure that my outfit was stunning. I also watched my audience as they slowly shifted in. I saw women with babies, children with special needs and developmental delays. I saw a older and younger couples with disabled teens-- and I saw a lot of people that seemed un-enthused. They milled around the food area getting snacks, the hugged each other, and many seemed to be catching up. I also saw professionals that I had worked with in the teaching realm-- who were all excited to see me as they gave me hugs and wished me good luck. The superintendent was also there. He congratulated me on my current successes, introduced me to prominent people in education, and made a lot of jokes. Then, Paula came to swoop me away and make sure that the mic fit properly, that my PowerPoint was shown correctly, and to calm my nerves. She was a gray haired women full of vibrant energy for her students. She couldn't stop telling me how excited she was to have me, and all the things the county had in store for these children that needed it. I smiled, listened carefully and nodded. I wanted to make sure that I lived up to her expectations.
Finally, it was time to settled down. Paul took the podium first, and her words flew out calmly to the crowd, guiding them to their seats to start. Next, was the superintendent, who spoke about all the great things happening in the county, and giving his own illusory explanation on my chosen theme-- Creating Visionaries. Then, it was my turn. I walked up to crickets, and I took the stand and looked out at a bunch of teen and adult faces that already looked ready to leave. There was an awkward silence as I opened up with a joke and people shifted in their seats. So, instead of wasting anymore time, I merely dived into my speech. I explained first what a Visionary was-- and broke the definition down into three parts, then, I described the three visionaries that I would discuss, and finally, I began to tell their stories.
I explained first what a Visionary was-- and broke the definition down into three parts, then, I described the three visionaries that I would discuss, and finally, I began to tell their stories.
Of course, I started with my mother who had a dream of going into the military, and told that she would never be able to accomplish it due to the mental damage caused by a head injury inflicted by a hit and run driver. i discussed how she strove to accomplish her goals and eventually accomplished each one-- to the shock of her family. Next, I discussed my brother who was born with a debilitating disease and how the doctors did not believe he would live to see 21. I described his personal journey through pain and how he eventually lived to 25, got married, and graduated with a degree in medicine. Then, lastly, I spoke about my own life. I discussed how I was homeless, how my brothers were in foster care, and how I strove to get each one of them out. My life was difficult and arduous, but because I had a vision, and I didn't give up-- I met every goal that I set out to accomplish. I ended by telling them that this can be there life. All they need is a vision, and step by step, they can accomplish their goals and achieve the vision they made for themselves. Finally, I appealed to the parents to help, support, and give their children visions of their future. I begged the parents to allow their children to be visionaries, because no matter the disability-- each of them can have the future that they plan.
When I was finished people gave me a standing ovation and the podium was swarmed. Young people asked for pictures, parents wanted autographs-- and they all wanted a copy of my book. I was swamped with people telling me their own stories of survival, people wanting advice, and young people thanking me for giving them hope. Honestly, it felt so good that for that moment-- my words seemed to motivate, to help and to captivate. Paula also approached me-- and said that was one of the best speeches she had ever received at the Transition Fair. She hugged me and said that she cried, she laughed, but most of all she felt hopeful for the future-- and she invited me back to speak again next year. I was grateful. Then, I was off to the break out session to do my next speech-- on how Your Story Matters.
She hugged me and said that she cried, she laughed, but most of all she felt hopeful for the future--
When I left the event that night after closing-- I thought about myself as that seventeen year old girl so long ago. I thought about how I received the call at school, how I cried because I had nowhere to go. I thought about how I walked 3 hours at 3 am in the morning to my boyfriend's place-- just to be turned away 2 weeks later. I thought about every trial, and every tribulation I went through. I thought about every mean word and spitful comment people made about me future. I thought about the people who told me that "I would never amount to anything." I thought about my Mom-- and how her life had turned out despite trying to prove everyone wrong. At the time, I thought my constant battle was never ending-- and there were so many times I attempted to take my own life. Yet, here I am, giving speeches, writing books, teaching classes, and motivating others.
You never know where life is going to take you, but the point is that you have to believe that it is going to take you somewhere-- and it is going to take you somewhere good. You have to believe that there is hope, that there is something greater, and that all your struggles are not for nothing. Belief and hope is our strongest weapon, and it is the one that turns the victim into a victor. So, if those students and adults took nothing else from my stories-- I hope they took that one sage piece of advice. Be a visionary; have hope; greater things are on the way.
You never know where life is going to take you, but the point is that you have to believe that it is going to take you somewhere-- and it is going to take you somewhere good.
Watch the speech here:
Dawnell Jacobs is the author of The Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, Black Magic, and The Monsters of Within: Heart of Darkness. She has also published a self-help book Your Story Matters: Leaning How To Be The Author of Your Destiny. You can find all of her books on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and Barnes And Noble. She is also a motivational speaker to young audiences. She uses her personal journey to inspire hope and change. All pictures and entries in this blog are subject to copyright laws. ©Dawnell Jacobs 2018.
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