Whatever is coming next is opportunity for success in ways you haven’t imagined yet.
Happy New Year 2019! Many have said goodbye and good riddance to 2018. I can empathize. Done with that, I now reclaim my perspective on what is important and gets me moving on the projects I want to see come to fruition in the new year.
2018 (perhaps the year or two before as well) has been all about leadership in the USA managing our fears. Well, the country reclaiming can wait — it’s time to take our perspective back! (FDR we need you!)
So to open 2019, here is my little essay on embracing the unknown.
To Fear or not to Fear
When one looks at the whole world of trouble it’s hard to see how to have an effect, and almost impossible to see who has the best answers.
The current leadership of the United States is determined to force singular fears, what-ifs, and look-at-what-they-did-to-us accusations upon the citizens of their own country and anyone else who fits a “suggested” scenario of the scary unknown.
Things to fear; job security, national security, anyone who does not look and act like me, and who-knows-what will happen in the future. An authoritarian answers this first with “follow my rules, only I will save you” and later “follow my rules, only I can punish you”. In a country run that way, one only needs to appease and please one person to know where they think they stand. But that never really changes the status of what is unknown.
Fear of the unknown immigrant
Playing on the fear of “stranger danger,” used to conditioned our children, the public voice of any office of the current administration says immigrants must be treated lawfully, while implying they cannot be trusted.
Our alert to fear the unknown.
I have never heard of an immigrant who got up one morning with the objective “how can I ruin an American’s day?” Just how desperate does one have to be to leave all that they know, risk everything they have, and everyone they love to come to a vaguely safer, but unknown, place because maybe they won’t die there. Maybe they will find some safety. Sure people immigrate because they need food, water, and shelter but they get on the move because if they stay where they are, the chances are they die.
An immigrant brings with them hope for the unknown.
What most, if not all, immigrants wake up with is gumption. Combine that gumption with skills learned in a country one has to leave and you have an array of people with the ability and motivation to make a difference in their new home. This has occurred in the Americas since the first European exploration. Our ancestors in the USA were a mixed bag themselves. Being here historically early doesn’t make us special, it makes us lucky.
Our ancestors had hope for the unknown. (To awkwardly paraphrase Jack Kerouac in The Dharma Bums, I don’t know if our ancestors came here with fear of the unknown, but I believe they came with hope for the unknown.)*
In promoting our talent for success — the American Dream — our American culture makes several claims and then does the opposite. We are giving, but you must rise on your own. We care, but only enough to tell you to do it yourself. Once we have persevered, become self-sufficient, and our needs are met, it is a challenge to relate to people still struggling. Particularly the people who take longer and need more help to succeed. A successful person who says, “I succeeded so everyone can succeed” has missed a lesson or two from their own struggle.
Needs of others can really throw us off, particularly when we think we have it covered and then someone shows where there is a deficit and asks others to step up to help. We can really be offended. I’m not saying this is unique to one society. It’s part of human nature and we are all susceptible to attitudes which seem like a good idea when presented in just the right way. Once we have accomplished it, we can see success as a known. For those who haven’t reached the same milestone, success is an unknown. You can simultaneously fear the path to “Success” and hope to arrive there.
Possibly we fear the unknown person who succeeds beyond us?
I have hope in the unknown immigrant just as I have faith in the unknown soldier — human beings out in the world somewhere, rising above their fears and their circumstances to do great things.
I hope for leadership that can inspire the hope for the unknown, rather than the fear being used for manipulation. Waiting for new leadership doesn’t mean we can’t find successes, large and small, in meeting the unknowns facing us.
Opportunity to effect the unknown
Here is an area where a few of us — me, my husband and a few friends — saw opportunity to address an unknown future for our children; developmental disabilities. This scary, vague category of conditions at birth has unknown ramifications for the life of a child, their family, society. Identifiable “disabilities,” from mild to severe, have confused, devastated, a pretty universally thrown a curve ball into humans’ lives since the dawn of time. In western society it is only in the last 20 or so years that conversation has evolved to the point that almost any topic can be addressed, even in public. It may still be socially awkward to prattle on about any personal topic such a disability or other “abnormality” but the discomfort is more about individual privacy than the topic.
When I married my husband I became stepparent to a child with “unspecified learning delays”. Lack of clarity in defining a problem can be a startling road block to finding solutions, particularly when your child needs a solution. Here is part of the lack of clarity — how to define the goal for a solution when a developmental disability results in communication issues, (e.g., speech and language developmental issues that can come from a variety of causes)? Do we change for the child or does the child change for us?
Raising this child (this applies to most any individual who thinks, behaves, or is different is some way) showed us many areas where our society and culture is and is not flexible. This experience was my inspiration to think about their need for independent living with “a little bit of back up” after my husband and I are gone. How do I apply my hope for the unknown to the future of this child? What can evolve in society to better serve our evolving population? Regardless of the arguments for or against public funding of “services”, the needs are changing for a growing number of people; modern medicine keeps people alive longer, diagnoses of various conditions are more widely understood, resulting in defining conditions that apply to more people.
We are close friends with two other couples who each raised a child with some form of developmental disability. Together we began brainstorming what problems our children could/would face in finding independent living options. By diving into unknown territory we learned we had tools already in place in our social and financial system which led us to found Kitsune, Inc. a 501c3 non-profit.**
Most solutions are made up of unique parts that work together, but the common starting point is defining the problem. When we started our goal was independent living solutions for adults with developmental disabilities, who needed a little bit of back up navigating our society. What we learned on the way is that a big part of the reason we were not finding appropriate solutions for the people we knew (e.g., our children) is that social services are not extended universally for people with developmental disabilities if they do not also have intellectual disabilities. This is generally defined by administering IQ tests and conforming to federal and state requirements for funding various resources (if that sounds vague it’s on purpose because this country has too many variations across state lines for more than a generalization in this essay). We knew the population needing some back up was large, but by learning more about how our system is structured we could focus on more options for a well defined solution.
Through our many discussions we devised a 5 year plan for a rental apartment facility. The founders of Kitsune have professional experience in rental real estate, teaching, social services, science, graphic art, and group home supervision. Turns out this is a pretty good foundation of experience for brainstorming independent living options. We started with the unknown of how our children will fit into the structure of society; we have discovered options which may not solve the needs of each of our children right away but have put us on the path to success. By acting on the hope of the unknown we channeled our frustrations and pooled our experience to form a plan to address a need we did not see being filled.
The power you do have
Every day, each of our perspectives on what is happening has value. Your power is in using your perspective and expertise to create a solution to something that effects you. Solving even a small problem has double value. A small custom solution does 2 things; solves your problem, and takes the weight of your issue off the scale of all the other issues waiting to be solved.
Looking for Leadership
New opportunity and leadership is out there. You are not required to be distracted by someone who wants to manipulate your fears.
Don’t be scared that no one is going to rise up and lead us in a positive direction.
It might be you.
Have a truly Happy New Year!
*”I don’t know if you can fall down a mountain, but I do know that you can’t” or something like that is said by the narrator of The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac as he describes running down a mountain without fear of falling to his death. If you like Medium you should try some of the rants, streams of consciousness, and subversive brouhaha writing of the 1950s.
** Kitsune, Inc . Founder & Supporter stories are on the About page.