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SECTION 2: Federation Contemplations

My Chosen Path to Success

by Christella Garcia

Editors' Introduction: Christella Garcia is working toward a Bachellors degree in Psychology at Chicago State University, with intentions of going on to graduate school at Louisiana Tech University. In this article, she discusses her academic achievements which have been compounded by practical experience working for the Society for the Blind in California. Christella is a board member of NABS, as well as vice president of the newly formed Sports and Recreation Division. In this article, Garcia's philosophy of blindness is revealed through a glimpse of the events that helped shape the student we see today.

I believe that all of us have a particular path in life that we are destined to walk along, but it is up to us to decide how we will go about traveling it. I was fortunate to grow up in a surrealistically beautiful land of enchantment, also known as New Mexico. I was the youngest child in a family of six, and I had a wonderful childhood full of laughter, love and plenty of mischief. My parents treated me the same as the rest of the family. They never coddled me. In fact, they probably pushed me harder. I never knew that, when they found out I was blind, they were heartbroken. They were concerned about the life I would lead as a blind person, yet they always taught me to reach for the stars.

Fortunately, they learned about the National Federation of the Blind, where they met successful blind people who taught my parents that if I learned a few necessary skills, I could lead a full, independent life. Becoming part of the Federation family was a life-changing event that helped my parents to assist me with anything I wished to attempt.

School was okay, but sports became my passion. I was involved in judo, track, goal ball and cheerleading. I loved the freedom, independence and confidence that I felt when I participated in these sports. On the other hand, it was not always smooth sailing for me. When I was a teenager, I struggled with my blindness as most people do. I was jealous of all my friends when they were going to Driver's Ed classes while I was stuck learning to use a cane. I hated being blind, and I felt as if the cane were a big neon sign announcing, "Christella is Blind! Look out!" Oh yes, I was bitter and definitely felt sorry for myself.

Fortunately, I always had encouraging role models who taught me about positive blindness philosophy--even when I didn't want to hear it. I was stubborn, but image was important to me. It took several bumps on my hard head to get over myself and finally accept my blindness. It took a long time for me to get comfortable with using a cane; now it is my best friend, and I view it as a symbol of independence. Even if I break a few canes or have to replace the tips, it is still a lot cheaper than the maintenance on a car. That leaves me with money to pursue one of my favorite hobbies--shopping.

Sadly, when I was about 24, my father passed away. Rather than digging a hole and crawling inside it, I decided to take a big leap and move to Sacramento, California. I wanted to embrace a new challenge, and I felt ready to leave my family, my friends and everything that was familiar to me. It was just the adventure I needed to undertake. I think that was the best decision I have ever made. It was hard to let go and step away from my comfort zone, but I needed a chance to challenge myself to be as independent as possible. I miss my family, but I also know that they respect my decision. I know that my parents did everything they possibly could for me, but the gift that I am most grateful for is the tough love and that can-do attitude they instilled in me.

Now I am working for an agency called the Society for the Blind, teaching both youth and seniors daily living skills. I also coach a local goal ball team that I started myself. I love building an upbeat community. I am in school, too, working towards attaining my degree in Educational Psychology from Louisiana Tech University. I know that my journey in life is just beginning, and I optimistically embrace all the obstacles that I will undertake. I look forward to the day when I am a cane travel instructor and meet a young person who is just as stubborn as I used to be. What a challenge that will be!

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