The maples on our street have finally shed their chartreuse flowers, unfurling palmate leaves, catching raindrops all last week. After too many days of dreary chill, the view is lime green. It finally feels like spring has arrived—dare I say—for real this time.
Violets sprinkle our grass. This seasonal reawakening is a favorite of mine, a time of new promise, fresh beginnings.
Emily graduated with her master’s in higher education last Thursday. Her goal: working in university disability services, helping college students with physical, emotional and learning challenges to succeed in their academic careers.
Her preparation has been far-reaching, a rich combination of academics and hands-on experience that began while she was still an undergraduate, touching on many aspects of student activities. This past year, among other involvements, she coached college students who were trying to overcome all kinds of obstacles to academic success.
Em has taken inspiration for her career goal from many sources and experiences—but one wellspring has been watching me deal with my scleroderma. We’ve had long conversations about this over the years (she has never known me without damaged hands), and she’s had a front row seat for my struggles and quest for creative adaptations. If ever there was a silver lining for my disease, Em’s career goal is certainly that and more.
Another part of her goal: to help build inclusive communities on college campuses that reject the social stigma of mental health issues and physical impairments. This is not an easy task. She began this effort as an undergraduate, and now it is, for her, a foundational aspiration.
Why higher education? Because colleges and universities are places where many young adults start to make choices of their own and define their values. The college years are a time to explore ideas and choose new personal directions. The university, at its best, creates an environment where conversations about important societal issues—such as how we treat others who are different from us—have significant potential to shape social attitudes in the future.
Idealistic? Absolutely. I wouldn’t want her to be any other way—even as disappointments down the road are inevitable. We can never make progress toward a world where people are accepted for all that they are, rather than rejected for all that they are not, without idealists like my 24-year-old daughter.
With Emily’s graduation, we no longer have any children in school. Both of our daughters have chosen the helping professions, tackling tough societal issues in an effort to make the world a better place. Dark as the future can seem these days, with so much at stake politically, environmentally, socially—here and around the globe—I am inspired by their commitments.
This Mother’s Day, I could not have asked for a better gift.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.