I (Carmen) was in Illinois this past week – where I lived before coming to Ontario – to go to some appointments and, much more importantly, see old friends. All week long, I kept marvelling at how incredibly grown-up my friends seem: one has a great job, a fabulous marriage, and a beautiful baby boy, and the rest have some combination of all three of these. Do they all have everything they desire? Absolutely not. But the point is that their lives are markedly different from how they were in their university days or before.
Now, those who know me might say, “But so is yours, Carmen!” And they wouldn’t be wrong: instead of only being responsible for my own success in life and school, I am now in charge of several activities and groups that will and do – hopefully – contribute to the happiness of others, my BB Squared friends want to start a business that will also help improve the lives of persons with differences, and I love that I am at a point in my life where both of these things are the case.
The problem is, that even though I am 28 years old, in many areas of my life, I do not feel “in charge.” I think I am used to attributing much of this to caring too much about what my parents think, and a lot of it is definitely due to that, but I remember talking to one of my friends without a difference several weeks ago, and telling her how lucky she was because if she chose she could do “whatever she wanted,” (while envisioning her teaching English in a far away country) Her response was, “No I can’t! Do you know how many student loans I have?”
This conversation let me remember two things: (1) just because someone does not have a difference potentially preventing them from doing what they choose, that does not mean that they don’t have something equally key standing in their way and (2) that money dictates many things in people’s lives. The first reminds me that, even on the occasions when I do think of my difference as a “problem,” it is certainly not the only, or biggest, problem that exists, and the second is that it reminded me that money is a game changer. Unfortunately, it dictates the life paths of many people.
I know enough about Jill and her ideas for BB Squared and other organizations to know that she has a keen awareness of all of the realities mentioned here, including the fact that some people with differences feel that they do not get the opportunities to accomplish milestones at the same rate as their counterparts without differences. I believe that whatever BB Squared does, it will try to directly or indirectly address these issues, and I look very forward to seeing how that plays out.