Once upon a time, I was an undergraduate student with a dream: I wanted to learn how to run a business well enough that I could make a living writing for other businesses, while also writing the things I wanted to write.
Over the course of pursuing this dream, I learned a lot more about autism and advocacy than I expected. I also learned that, while my undergraduate degree made me a better-informed businessperson and honed my strategic and planning capabilities, this degree would do absolutely nothing to improve me as a writer.
Before I’d finished my undergraduate degree, I knew I would get a graduate degree and I knew exactly what I wanted this degree to cover. I researched the programs available to me and finally made my decision by taking an intuitive leap. I don’t regret my choice, because my recently-completed Master of Science in Written Communications made me a better writer in all of the areas I wanted to improve my writing, both in corporate and journalistic writing and in literary and prose writing and even in poetry.
I thought I was finished. I thought this time I would get a job and get to work and all would go smoothly from here. After all, I was working on multiple books and I had a steady (though not ample) supply of clients. All I needed was a rewarding part-time job to provide some steady, reliable income and I’d be on my way.
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In the book I’m trying very hard to write and trying very hard to pin down to a schedule, there’s a section that is modeled after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream…”
I do have a dream. I have a dream that people with neurological differences will be accepted and accommodated. I have a dream that the goal of education and supports for people with neurological differences, even severe neurological differences like Alex, will be designed with the mindset that these people are valuable and have contributions to make, and that they really can contribute to society.
I have a dream that involves me creating a nonprofit organization with the intention of fulfilling this dream. In this dream, I’m able to do that because 1) I write a surprise bestseller or 2) I win the lotto.
Recently, something inside me shifted. I realized that people with passion do start nonprofits, not because they win the lotto or become independently wealthy, but because they share their passion and work for their dream. Many of them even know what they’re doing and do it well.
When I started searching for this part-time job that was going to round out my different activities, I gravitated to nonprofits from the very beginning. Then, I admitted to myself that I didn’t like corporate writing for corporations, and focused my search exclusively on nonprofits.
With that decision, I gave myself permission to admit that what I really want to do is to make the world a better place. There, I’ve said it: I want to change the world. And, more importantly, I believe I can change the world. I can make this world a better place by working my dream.
I’d done a little research and toyed with the idea. I was interacting with one of my blogging friends and she asked some questions. I tried to answer them, but had to stop and delete my comment. Then, on a second glance, I knew they were rhetorical. Well, maybe it’s not so much that they were rhetorical, but that it was not expected for me to have an answer. And I didn’t have an answer. But…
If I want to make the world a better place by working my dream, then I needed to be able to answer questions like the ones she was asking.
Me being the person that I am, I knew what I had to do. Right then and there, I started looking for degree programs that would teach me how to answer those questions. The program wouldn’t teach me the answer, because these are questions where, currently, the answers do not exist.
I hesitated. I’m still hesitating. I don’t really want to go back to school. But I want to be able to answer the questions. I want to be able to start that nonprofit whether I win the lottery or not. I want the nonprofit I start to solve problems that affect the lives of real people. So, I need to know how to do it right. And I don’t. Not yet.
But, despite all this hesitation, I have a feeling I will learn. My dream has become sharp like a razor. It is cutting loose the confusion, the doubt, the hesitation. And when all that garbage is gone, I suspect I can fly.