By Brittany Comegna, California H&V
In 2019, I submitted an article to CA HV entitled “What I Wish I Knew When I was Sixteen Going Through the College Search Process.”
And, now, I sit here attempting to amend this original article in my capacity as an ASTra Advocate for California Hand & Voices. I admit I am struggling with that. The article imparted helpful tips, and I confess, I did not heed all of my own advice. I did not plan thoughtfully by going on mock interviews, job shadows, and college visits. I wish I had considered my interests and strengths in more detail, like many college students just starting out.
Let me tell you a bit about my journey since I wrote that article. I had fumbled into my position at RIT in the fall of 2012 and gotten married in the spring of 2014. Eventually, I changed jobs, moved across the country from Rochester back to my home state of California during the pandemic, went through a divorce, moved to yet another new apartment still during the pandemic, and I confronted the bleak reality that was my life at the time.
I had gotten married at twenty-three years old to a hearing Dominican national. I was head over heels in love and believed with everything I had that once my husband obtained his U.S. citizenship we would live together happily ever after.
Instead, one month after moving back to California, I found myself seated at the dining table across from my husband discussing the separation of our assets.
I pondered endlessly for days, “What now? How do I move forward? What can I gain from this?”
So, I started by following an example from my long-time friend Leila Hanaumi of @todayiawaken. I bought supplies for a vision board and determined that I would reimagine my life. I started with goals under these categories: relationships, self, wellbeing, career, and finances.
Starting the process of building a vision board was rather daunting because I had spent nearly a decade building a fantasy of what my life would be. I learned from my divorce that it is not the ending of a marriage that is painful. It is the loss of the future I thought I would have and I experienced profound grief surrounding that loss.
Nevertheless, in my grief, I saw an opportunity to recreate myself and my future. And in this process, I grew increasingly self-empowered, confident, and excited.
In my career goal, I wrote about pursuing a career path with intention. I had sort of stumbled into my career at RIT. I started googling online career assessment tools (look at me following my own advice!) and came across one such tool. Upon completing it, I learned about mediation and alternative dispute resolution as a career.
Previously, I had ambitions to pursue law school but following the recent events in my life, I did not feel I had it in me to “fight,” and rather, I wanted to provide comfort to people in conflict. I want to show that there are ways out of conflict. That it is possible to arrive at a better place.
I write to you today, having completed study at USC Gould School of Law in Alternative Dispute Resolution, and on the cusp of establishing my services as a Deaf Education mediator.
In this capacity, I aim to provide support to families of children with special needs and school districts/administrations in bridging their mutual interests for the child’s wellbeing and success. Being an ASTra advocate enables me to learn more about parents’ perspectives and the frustrations parents experience as they toil through the system to get their child’s needs met. In a lot of cases, this is a parent’s doing absent adequate and qualified support. I will empathetically leverage my personal and professional experiences to create a mediation environment where paths toward harmonious resolution can be achieved and sustained for all parties involved.
It is my goal to empower the individuals I work with to learn and to practice conflict resolution skills so that, eventually, my services are no longer needed. In other words, I endeavor to put myself out of business!
My divorce was the most life-changing experience of my life. And I am glad for it.
And, so, my dear reader, I am here to let you know that life will take you on unexpected paths. It is okay if you or your DHH child deviate from “the plan” and go off in a new direction. Sometimes that new direction is just where you need to be.