Once again, Thanksgiving will be upon us, so I thought I would reflect on the gratitude I feel to those who have pushed me to be the best I could be. These people include my family, friends and school professionals as well as everyone at the Koegel Autism Center. All these people believed I could be successful. They have pushed me to go above and beyond what I ever thought I could achieve and continue to encourage me to be the best I can be every day.
There are times however, when I see do not eye to eye with those mentors. Maria was my one on one aide in high school. She now works in my father's office as the administrative assistant. Since I also work from that office, Maria and I cross paths everyday. Though it has been many years since we have worked directly together, she still seems to have radar to know what I'm doing. She will never accept anything less than my best. There are times where I think she is being way too critical of me. But when I stop and think of why Maria pushes me so hard, I realize that she believes that I am capable of much more than I am showing at that moment. That's what a mentor does. They always look for ways to help us do better. While I have been blessed to have these people in my life in my life, there were others who did not understand me and dismissively wrote me off.
I when I about 10 years old recall my family enrolled me into a summer day camp for typical children where we knew and worked with some of the counselors. The head of that camp, though, did not understand my different behaviors and decided that I was a problem. Rather than trying to work with me, she kicked me out of the camp with little explanation. I remember being confused and sad. I contrast this with all of the acceptance and support I have received over the years from mentors and advocates.
While I may not always agree with my advocates and mentors, I realize that without them I would not have been able to attend and graduate from UCSB and give motivational speeches around the country. During this season of Thanksgiving, I remember the debt of gratitude I owe to those who have believed in me and encouraged me to be the best that I could be. I wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday!