After graduating Longwood University with a Therapeutic Recreation degree, quitting my work at Fairfax Nursing Center nearly destroyed me.
I went from trying so hard to complete my high school education, while dealing with the complications of a new disability, a traumatic brain injury from a car accident in high school.
On top of this, I had to deal with the social difficulties that accompanied making friends with the classmates in the year with who I was now graduating. After struggling to complete high school, both academically and socially, I wanted to use my outgoing personality and communication skills to help others in similar predicaments. I knew that the whole rehabilitation experience while in the hospitals and afterward had sparked an interest to the therapy field, particularly activities which had helped me to enjoy life, not just concentrating on my recovery at the hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Longwood University has a very good therapeutic recreation program that provides a variety of classes dealing with all different fields preparing a person for any type of field they would choose.
After graduating Longwood with my therapeutic recreation degree, I went straight into a job position working at a nursing home in Fairfax, VA. My activities assistant job was working on the Special Care Unit of the nursing home and was extremely stressful; the difficult co-workers only contributed to this stress. Though keeping everyone interested and as happy as they could be in a nursing home was extremely difficult, I loved working with the residents, socializing with the family members and looked forward to continuing this hard work each day. This went on for 9 years, and managers had changed, and everything was handled differently. I was working part-time, and because of this, my opinions about the activity department didn’t have much weight in what went on in the nursing home.
As my hours were further reduced, I needed to find interests outside of work and hobbies to occupy my time. My therapeutic recreation degree that I earned from Longwood University helped me to discover other sources to enrich my quality of life. One of these interests included yoga, partially for stress management with the benefit of physical exercise. While enjoying crocheting and producing beautiful shawls for the comfort of others, I took an active leadership position in a Prayer Shawl Ministry. I also became involved with the girls’ in a youth group trying to get through high school, wanting to help others through their struggles.
I recently had the privilege of guest speaking at Centreville high school in Northern Virginia, in the Special Education classes and sharing the strategies that helped me through high school and into college. I explained about the wonderful disability program Longwood University provided me through the Academic Resource Center; many teachers explained to the students that Longwood provides the best disability program in the state. My employment from home has allowed me to engage in speaking events telling my story, and the strategies that got me through high school and resources found at Longwood University.
The decision for me to stop working at the nursing home was very tough for me considering how much I loved working with the residents, but I thought I needed a little bit of a break. A break to do what? A break to really concentrate on writing a novel about my life which I had planned on doing ever since I was a freshman at Longwood. I can still remember appointments that I would make with the on-campus psychologist at Longwood and talking about the amount of homework, how sleep deprived I was AND I still need to write my memoir! In a way, it turned out to be a very positive thing that I had some time to get real life experience before delving into writing.