Before beautiful City Creek in Salt Lake City, there was the Crossroads Mall & ZCMI Center. When I worked at the Moran Eye Center my daily commute was from our home in Centerville to the Moran Eye Center in SLC. I would get off the bus at West Temple - cross through Crossroads Mall cross the street and through ZCMI Center and then take another bus from State Street to go up to the Moran Eye Center. It was about an hour and a half commute if I caught the bus just right. During these years, I read many books and connected with many people on this commute three times a week. The hours were 10-2 so it was perfect with our young family.
Before one can qualify to get a guide dog, you must have orientation and mobility training. Prior to my mobility training, I had walked into a stop sign = stitches, walked into the lone person sitting on the soccer field, and was simply walking very cautiously. It was time (past time) to seek O & M training! I contacted the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (DSBVI) and had an amazing experience learning to travel independently with a white cane. I learned to be able to listen to traffic, become aware of my surroundings by my other senses, and orient myself to unfamiliar terrains. It was an empowering experience.
There was also a bit of adjustment to the cane. Thus, comes my Place of Learning: Basement of Crossroads Mall. After navigating the escalators my mobility instructor and I paused to discuss. I stood there telling her I was feeling a little awkward using this cane. I felt different. I also knew I was experiencing what a helpful tool it was in my life. I felt like people were staring at me. I began to have people asking me questions. It was a new experience. My instructor was pretty straight forward with her questions: She asked me Did it help with my safety and independence? Yes. (I had stitches from walking into a stop sign. Bruises on my shins from many run ins with objects.)
Then she said very matter of factly, Well, I think you need to be true to yourself and utilize a tool that can be helpful to you.
Since that day, the cane has represented being true to myself. I am grateful for the growth and confidence I gained during this time.
You can't live your life worrying that the world is staring at you. When you let people's opinions make you self-conscious you give away your power ... the key to feeling confident is to always listen to your inner self-- the real you. Choose that which improves you and would give you confidence ... Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Conference Address
Rather than feeling awkward, I began to smile at the gratitude of this unique experience that was teaching me to be true to myself. Years later, when I pull out the cane, I reflect on this lesson learned and remember that conversation with Suki 20 years ago!
In a world where you can be anything, be yourself.