October 3, 2011

Once Upon a Time: A Tale of Disclosure

"If there's something you're passionate about, talk about it constantly.  Tell everyone you meet, every chance you get.  You never know who will be that connection you need; who is in a position to help make it happen; who you will meet that has that passion too."

This is the best piece of advice I have ever been given.  This gem came from a partner at KPMG who I met during a networking event as an intern in the summer of 2007.  It is, as are most strokes of genius, extremely simple.  You don't need to explain the logic behind it, like that feeling you have in your heart when you simply know something is true.  And quite honestly, it's pretty funny that someone had to tell me to do this (I mean really, am I ever NOT talking about a passion?). 

But as obvious as this advice is, when your passion is something as emotionally and socially charged as disability and health issues it's easy to repress instead of express.  We know that feeling when the person we're speaking to is tired of hearing what we have to say.  We've lost friendships and relationships when the pervasive effects of our conditions were too much for someone else to handle (ignore the fact that we have to handle it, like it or not, every day without reprieve).  We dream of a chance to forget and experience life without that chronic lens.  If so many people - including ourselves - are sick of hearing about it, why would we bring it up to strangers?

I bring it up because for me, invisible illnesses & disabilities are not something I live with privately.  They are a passion, and part of my dream.  I want to build a network, support system, resource base, and education program for people affected by chronic and/or invisible illnesses.  You know this dream as "UII". 

That summer, UII was little more than a small Facebook group without much activity.  I had begun working with the Office of Health Promotion at Villanova on my first IRL (In Real Life) awareness event to be held in October, 2007.  I knew I had a passion, but was certain of little else - I didn't know if I could be successful in this work, or even how this work would take shape.  But I was given advice and I took it to heart.

At the end of the 10 week internship, I had an exit interview with a partner from my alma mater.  He was very interested in my 'big picture' plans.  KPMG is one of those places that likes people with plans, goals, and passions - we are hard workers and go-getters.  So, when asked what I wanted to do in the long run (it's an accepted fact that most people join the Big 4 to prepare them for something else), I told him my passion.  He responded with the name of an author (and as I would now term him, a health activist) who was writing on a theory about the link between stress and chronic illness.  And some words of support for my plans.  And my offer to join the firm.

And so we've lived (mostly) happily ever after, KPMG and me. 

I'll be honest, it's more like a real marriage than a fairy tale:
For better (the Disability Network) or worse (busy season hours & flares),
for richer (this year's raise) or poorer (last year's raise),
in sickness and in health (well, that's a gimme)...
And there are days I think it will be death that will do us part.

But I'm still here, kicking and screaming (yup, this really is just like a marriage):)
(Stay tuned for part 2, where I discuss some of my experiences actually working for the firm and the man-on-the-ground challenges II's bring!)

Image found here.

Enjoy October, which is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  I have some special topics in store, along with those I've already promised to cover.  I wonder if I can pull off a mini-series here...hm...guess you'd better stay tuned;)

1 comment:

  1. I just realized what you do! Duh! Are you in auditing or tax? My daughter is graduating this spring and then onto her masters for the same major which I now believe is accounting? Yes? The field can be brutal from all the reading I have done but I am so glad you seem to like your public firm. She is in the throws of doing the office visits for her internship. No, I am not divulging the firms...well not until she gets the internship offer in any case :-) So far she has avoided the autoimmune bullet and I hope this continues. My heart goes out to you. Bless you for all you do and for your determination and ability to keep going.


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