Growing on my own

For Vanessa (left), independence means being able to do things on her own, but also knowing she has support available if she needs it.

by Vanessa Mendoza

Independence means being able to learn and grow on your own while still knowing you have support when you need it.

My path to independence started when I moved out at 19 into a group home. But even in the group home I still felt overprotected. Sometimes even the smallest reminders can be frustrating. Like someone making sure I’m home on time, or eating properly, or that I know my way. It’s hard having someone checking to see if you’re okay for things you feel good doing or trying on your own.

Then I moved into semi-independent living. My own place. This is when I really started to get know myself. It’s been four years now and finally I don’t have someone hovering over me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to know support is there when you need it, but it feels really good to know that, “Hey, I did that on my own today.” I explore my options rather than someone teaching them to me. I’ve become more alert to things, more confident to figure things out on my own.

I don’t have the best sense of direction and I use a wheelchair, so people worry that I will get lost or won’t be able to get around. But you know, I’m learning to plan and practice routes and figure it out even when I do get lost. It’s a little scary, but I get on the right track and I have the support of friends or staff and let them know when I get there safely.

I’ve also become a CLBC Welcome Workshop presenter. This job and team makes me feel like I can take on more. I’m given responsibilities and take initiative. It’s teaching me to step out of my comfort zone and stand in front of the room and be the teacher. The workshops have helped me to know where I stand in the big picture, having a clearer sense of how CLBC works and how I fit in helps with feeling independent.

My advice for others? Don’t be afraid to advocate for your independence. I know it’s easier said than done because usually the people trying to help are people that care. I’ve learned that part of the path to independence is developing the courage to speak up for it.

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