by Tara Carty
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the Summer 2009 edition of The Soundingboard, the publication of the NFB of New Jersey. Tara Carty will introduce herself. Her message is important and powerful. This is what she says:
Now I know you are asking yourself, “Why did she give the article that title?” If you went to the convention this year, for the moment it will be our little joke. For those who did not attend, let’s just say that you are out of the loop for now, but you will understand by the end of the article.
The national convention of the NFB was held in Detroit, Michigan. So now you're asking, “Who is this person anyway, and why is she telling me about the convention?” My name is Tara Carty, and I am a new member of the At Large chapter of the NFB of New Jersey. I was honored to be selected as one of the thirty scholarship winners this year, and on top of that it was my first convention. I am a rookie in every aspect of the term, and I had no idea what to expect. As a scholarship winner I was required to attend the convention. I applied for the scholarship in March and knew that, if I was chosen from hundreds of applicants, I would be going to Detroit.
I have two goals for this article. The first is to convince those of you who have never been to the convention to go to Texas next year. As they say, everything in Texas is big, so let’s make it the biggest convention ever, ok? The second goal is much more personal. I want to convey to all of you the amazing spirit of the convention that I felt in Detroit. I met many wonderful people there, people who have touched my life and reignited my energy and motivation. I was astonished to meet so many who were just like me. I am not simply talking about the blindness either. Of course that is always present, but these were motivated, spirited individuals who shared my philosophy and demonstrated the same joy and enthusiasm for life that I possess.
Why were we there? In my case there were several reasons. The scholarship was number one, and curiosity was the second. I wanted to know what the NFB was all about and go behind the scenes of this important organization. What is all this talk about silent cars, and why is everyone making such a big deal about this Kindle gadget? These were just some of the thoughts that crossed my mind before I got on the plane.
You'll have to forgive me for skipping around a little, but I have to go back to the title of the article. “What goes around comes around” is an old saying in the English vernacular. People often say it when someone does something wrong. It can also be positive. If you do good, good will find you. I am a firm believer in this, but the reason it applies so fittingly to the convention is that the hotel in Detroit was designed in circles. There were circles all over the place. Picture a triangle with two circles on the bottom and one on top to form the triangle. There was another circle in the middle of the three circles with appropriate bridges to get to all these different circles. Oh, and don’t forget that each circle had different levels! Is your head spinning yet? It really was not as bad as it reads--you were fine once you figured out that if you missed something the first time, you would eventually go around the circle and find it.
The circle analogy is very appropriate for me. I am recently blinded, and I felt that going to the convention by myself was representative of my personal journey coming full circle. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of circles to explore, but as far as my training and accepting my blindness are concerned, I think Detroit was my finish line. For many of you going on a plane and navigating a gigantic hotel might not be a challenge, but for one who had never traveled on a plane or been so independent, this was a life-altering experience. I travel around here in New Jersey and live by myself in the dorm at school, but I see Detroit as a major stepping stone. World, look out because here I come!
I encourage you to use the NFB as your stepping stone. Use it as your support system of family, friends, and colleagues; and also use it as a platform to enrich the lives of other blind people. This is the reason we were there. This is why I was roaming around in circles with my 2,999 closest new friends in Detroit. It is because we care about the future and those who will follow us. I met an amazing nine-year-old boy named Bill at the convention. He was the smartest little boy I’ve ever met, and he helped me fix my computer. There is no doubt in my mind he is headed for great things. The instant I met him, I knew this is why the NFB does what it does. We do it for Bill; we do it for all the children who are told they do not need to learn Braille and those children who are told they can’t because they are blind. We do it to show others that we can and that we will not accept the word “can’t.”
I have tried to convey to you what it was like to be at the convention as a rookie, but being at the convention as a scholarship winner is another aspect entirely. It was truly an honor to be in the scholarship class of 2009 or, as we call ourselves, “’09, so fine.” The scholarship committee mentored us, and we gained a wealth of knowledge from it. Our states cheered for us when we were announced, and the support and pride that we felt surrounded us. We received our scholarships on stage and had the privilege of shaking hands with Dr. Maurer and Mr. Kurzweil. We are a part of the scholarship alumni program and will always be a part of it. If you are a college student or are going to be one, send in that application. Just do it.
So now you know why the article is called what it is called: “What Goes Around Comes Around.” Everyone I talked to before the convention told me I would enjoy it. They said it would be a life-changing experience. I did not know what they were talking about until I actually experienced it for myself. Please come and experience it for yourself. I knew only a handful of people from New Jersey chapters before the convention, and now I have met people from all over the country and even from other countries. The political, social, and networking opportunities are vast and priceless. Again I encourage you to attend the convention next year. I’ll be there. Come full circle with us and experience the electricity of the NFB.