The way in which I choose to see the world is to see it as a journey, a journey that is never complete, but is always a work in progress. My journey has taken me from the very brink of despair to the very pinnacle of joy. I have experienced sometimes what I think is more than the average human (but then again, what is average?) could stand and have survived everything that life has thrown at me.

I have watched as both parents succumbed to the injustice of cancer. I have held the two most wonderful beings that ever touched my life, and  have had to make the hardest decision of my life, which was to give them something better, something that I felt that I wasn’t good enough for these two precious boys. They may never know—they may never understand—how deep my love for them goes, but I know.

I have seen the best in people that this world has to offer, those that have sacrificed for the betterment of mankind, and those who only know how to give rather than how to take, which are so often what we as humans see. I have also seen the darkness of humanity, I have felt its fist on my face, have heard its condescending voice that says, “You’ll never be anything,” and, “You’re not worth anything,” in my ears at night.

I have traveled the road of the abused, and been the abuser of drugs and alcohol. I have seen the light of day on my face as a fresh start, as a renewal of life, as a promise of better things to come. I have heard the words of doctors, who have said, “You have no future.” I have in turn heard the words of a poor man who saw me for who I am: a teacher, a friend, a lover, and at times, a poet and philosopher.

I know that sometimes I get a little too deep, too serious. So I really try to let loose and have some fun. But to be truthful, with not only myself, but others for me I have fun alone, I am an avid reader, someone who really truthfully enjoys getting lost in a book. Books have always been the one thing in my life that doesn’t judge me. Books don’t judge the way that a person looks, the type of job that a person has, the type of clothes that they wear. Books are just there. I can honestly say that for a really long time my best friends were books. Heck, I can still remember the very first romance novel I ever read (I also have a copy and re-read it at least once a year).

I was the one in grade school all the way through high school that was bullied and picked on. This I try to say I have brushed off, and have stopped carrying that pain with me. But in truth, there is still a part of me that longs to fit in with the crowd and to be able to make friends easily. Yet, I know that the friends that I have are lifelong and are true friends. I am very choosy in those that I choose as friends.

My passion in life is not advocacy, is not intent on getting people into the workforce. My passion is the changing of ideals that society has boxed people into. I have been diagnosed within the mental health profession with everything from bipolar disorder to paranoid schizophrenia. I have felt and seen the negative perceptions that society has labeled the mentally ill with, and have come to despise the labels that society has put in place.

I not only want to make the world a better place for my children, but for all children, no matter who they are or where they come from. For me, disability is not a bad word, because my disability is one that I have come to own.  And come to treasure. My disability is the reason that I am here and gives purpose to my life. There are the moments that I struggle with being labeled legally blind, but I am human: that is what life is all about, the struggle to make it through just one more day.

I have always said that if I can make an impact on just one person, have the kind of effect in one person’s life that someone had in my life, than all the struggles, all the pain and suffering that I have gone through, will have been worth it. I turned a corner and there was someone there to guide me. I want to be that someone in another person’s life. I want to be able to stand before God when I die, and when he asks me, “Was it worth it?” I can say yes it was.

I am hoping that what I bring into my profession of rehabilitation counseling is a positive view from someone who has taken what life has thrown at them, and made the proverbial “lemonade.” I am hoping that with all the experiences that I have had, someone can find the positive things in their lives to try and make an impact on someone’s life. Pay it forward, per se.

It took me losing a significant part of my vision to truly “see” the world. To see and to figure out what life for me is all about.  I truly see the best in everyone; I can see what their possibilities are, what their potential could be. I see sometimes what they don’t or don’t want to see for themselves. My comments to people generally take time to form; this is because I always try to think before I speak. Not always am I the first to speak, the first to take action, but my hope is that people can see for themselves what I see in them.

I like to think that I bring a unique perspective to life. But then again, isn’t everyone’s perspective on life unique and different? I know that there are other people in this world that have had a rougher, harsher life than I have experienced. It is those individuals that I seek to learn from, it is those individuals that are the true teachers of how to manage the indignities that life has given them. It is to the “survivors” that I turn to for their stories, for their “narratives” on what life has taught them.

As I said at the beginning, life for me is best seen as a journey. My journey will never be complete; even after death, I truly believe that I will only be on a different and more exciting part of what the journey contains.

Deanna Henderson attends the University of Kentucky and is majoring in Rehabilitation Counseling. Her goal is to become a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the Kentucky Office for the Blind. She is currently doing a practicum/internship at the Charles McDowell Center for the Blind.