35. Seeing the Real Me

35. Seeing the Real Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Seeing the Real Me

Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance.

~Bruce Barton

During the first part of my life, I was a victim of circumstance. I was born, one of three blind or legally blind children, to a blind mother and to an angry, alcoholic father. I became a shy, withdrawn, and frightened young girl who pretended to be invisible as the stress of my home life became unbearable. My father was abusive and although my mother was loving and kind, she was not strong enough to protect her young children from this angry alcoholic who held us prisoner.

To escape this fearful environment, I would run away to my grandparents’ home where I would stay for the warmth and safety. When we attended church, I recall a man standing in the pulpit, yelling, screaming, and banging his fists. This frightened me even more and I withdrew further. I learned that God was a strong, punishing God and we had better be good, or else.

My grandparents loved me very much and became overprotective. I allowed them to do everything for me — they tied my shoes, dressed me — and I became dependent on them. Fearful to tell anyone of the anger and physical abuse at the hands of my father, I became non-verbal. When I went to school I was diagnosed as “uneducatably retarded” and sent to a mental facility. I felt like a true misfit.

Luckily, I had a kind and loving caregiver who saw something special in me. One day while she brushed my hair, I started talking to her. She soon realized my brain was not the problem, but my limited vision. She fought and successfully lobbied on my behalf to have me placed in a special classroom for the visually impaired called the “sight-saving class.” I started to feel more comfortable, and with time, fit into the program. I realized that I could read the letters if they were big and black. I liked learning, and liked the positive attention I received when I did good work.

I began to let go of some of my fears. I struggled socially, but learned to reject fear and to challenge myself. At first when I was bullied and teased I ran away because that’s what I had always done. Then, with some encouragement, I began to reject the bullying and teasing. I faced the bullies with determination and courage, and did not run away. Finally, they stopped teasing me and left me alone.

Then they came to tell me that I would be going to a regular high school in the fall! What? Were they crazy? Me, attend a regular high school with “normal students”? All of the old fears returned and I became a shy, frightened, and withdrawn child again. But with support and encouragement, I did attend high school that fall.

The first year was horrible. I was teased and bullied about my limited vision. I felt ugly. The pushing, bumping into me, and the name-calling all became too much and I ran away.

A special uncle invited me to visit and stay with him on the family farm. There, I found a whole new freedom. I could fall down and get back up, all by myself. Isn’t this what life is all about? I had the freedom to play and laugh. I hid in the hayloft and began to discover the true me. Also, I had the love and encouragement to try everything. Among other things, I found a whole new Lynn emerging.

As I learned to get around the farm using my other senses, I grew more independent. I was opening up and blossoming into a beautiful young woman. I started to believe in myself. In high school, I worked hard at my studies and other students wanted to be my friend. I finally felt normal and accepted as part of the group. At first I thought I had to be a people-pleaser for others to like me. But that was not true. Eventually, I started making good friendships, dating, and found that people liked me for me!

When I graduated from high school, I went on to York University in Toronto, Ontario and participated in the social work program. I worked part-time at Sunnybrook Hospital as an admittance clerk, moved out of the dorm, and shared an apartment with my cousin Diane. One day we went shopping together. I bravely started to look at a few racks of clothes by myself. As I ran my hands over a few blouses I turned and wanted to go on to the next rack of clothes. All of a sudden someone walked right in front of me. I excused myself and moved to the left. Again the person stepped right in front of me. Giggling a bit, I excused myself again and moved to the right. Again the person moved right in front of me. Someone teasing me. As I raised my hand to give the person a little push to get out of the way, I realized I was arguing with a reflection of myself in a full-length mirror. How embarrassing! My cousin Diane was laughing hysterically! Instead of running away and hiding, I also laughed and learned it is okay to do dumb things and laugh about them. Humour is a wonderful part of life.

Eventually I got married and became a wife, mother, grandmother, and a very successful businesswoman in my community. And, like a beautiful butterfly, I emerged as the bold, sassy and independent woman that I am today. I am an entrepreneur with my own business, and I am a professional speaker, author, teacher, and mentor/coach. I believe my mission is to share my story and learning experiences so that other people can overcome their fears and obstacles to achieve their dreams and goals. Life is worth living and you need to take charge of your own destiny. Dreams do come true!

I did not allow my circumstances to stop me. I did not allow my disability to block me. Nor, did I allow fear to prevent me from succeeding and becoming the person I am today. Neither should you! “Don’t allow anyone or anything to keep you down.”

~Lynn Fitzsimmons

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