It's funny to think that when this center opened across the country in Utah my parents were just beginning to attempt to understand what to do with their blind little girl (who was just adorable and smart and cute and nearly perfect in every way, hehe).
I grew up, graduated from undergrad in college and moved to Ruston, Louisiana to attend the LCB, not to brag too much but that was the smartest thing I have ever done!!!
I want to share a bit of a personal story here about how I ended up in Ruston and what impact the center left on my life. This may get long but please hang in there!
I was 23 years old, had just graduated college, was married but things weren't going so well, my dad was in an early remission of his cancer and I needed a job badly, for financial reasons mostly. The job hunt was not going so hot for me, I got discouraged, started missing interviews, couldn't go or do anything on my own independently very much at all. I was hurting in a lot of areas of my life.
I realized in one of my darkest hours that I needed training! Serious, hard-core, boot-camp blindness training. I had friends that went to the LCB, I had friends that had gone to other training centers in the country, there was a training center in my hometown, there were several good ones within a few states of home. I started to do my research, calling places, asking friends, consulting with blindness professionals, making pros and cons lists...and on and on.
In my inquiry I noticed something different about my friends who had gone and got training from the LCB, they were excited about their training, they were independent and motivated, they oozed confidence. So I made the decision to fly off to Ruston for six to nine months, a place I had never heard of in my life!
When I arrived in Ruston it was August 14th and it was 114 degrees and 90 percent humidity. I thought I was in hell!
The next few weeks I continued to feel like this had to be what purgatory was like. It was hot, sweaty, sticky, HARD, exhausting, scary-as-all-get-out, hot and awful to be honest. I nearly cried every day wondering what in the world I had just done to myself.
The beginning was so, so difficult but I soon began to make life-long friends, feel included in this wonderful family-like atmosphere and climate myself to the horrific weather (sort of). I was gaining confidence little by little.
I was just in the beginning phases of my training experience when I had to leave Ruston to go home and spend some time with my dad who was in his last and final stage of brain cancer. You can read that whole story here.
I got to spend three more weeks with my dad before he returned home. During that time my dad made me promise I'd go back to the center...so of course I did.
The next eight months were the most transforming months of my life! The staff at the LCB taught me the skills I needed to be a successful blind adult, I learned Braille, computers, cane travel, wood shop, cooking, sewing you know all the really important stuff that any person should now.
But those skills I probably could have gotten anywhere really. So why was there such a profound impact?
Remember how I told you there was something about my friends who went to LCB? Well, to this day I can't quite pin it down but I have it now! If I could bottle up that LCB magic I'd sell it for a batrillion dollars a bottle, no doubt!
I can tell you that I became this person that I wanted to be all along. My training at LCB made me a confident, independent, energetic, passionate, strong, fierce, happy little lady! It's quite impossible to explain this transformation but those of you who know me know that I am NOT shy anymore, I am not all that quiet, I'm not a simple little peacemaker--I occasionally stir the pot a bit--I'm stronger than ever and I'm incredibly passionate. All these characteristics were there all along, I just had no idea how to mold them into my character.
I thank God everyday that I landed here in hell a.k.a. Ruston.
I am also so not the only one! There are hundreds of blind adults who have benefited from the LCB and its tremendous training programs.
I just wanted to wish the Louisiana Center for the Blind a Happy Birthday!