How I Became an Independent Youth

by Aerius Franklin

     When you’re a young adult, you can feel like you don’t relate to anything. We hear “you are too young” or “you haven’t experienced life yet.” It used to be very unsettling to me, because how could my elders and mentors not have faith in me, even before I begin to leave my mark on the world? For a long time my thoughts centered on how I could prove to my inner circle (parents, siblings, friends) that I would be able to make it on my own. I want to let young adults know there are options!
    First, I made a list of all the things needed to live independently, including a second job. I was in northern California and the cost of living was high. Then I would need transportation to and from work. Another necessity was a back up plan. I didn’t want to hear my parents say “I told you so” for any reason.

    Six months passed and I was still working only one job. I had some money saved, but no one had time to help me look for apartments. I was upset because no one wanted to help me. Then it hit me – nobody was supposed to help me.
   At that point I did everything I could to earn a dollar and make sure I wouldn’t have to ask anybody for anything. My family was not ready for me to live independently, even though I was ready.  My family thought I would need a payee, so that was another problem to solve.
     Finally I got advice from a volunteer at a CIL in Fairfield, CA. This is where I could learn exactly what I needed to be independent and improve myself. Staff talked about how they serve individuals with disabilities and those recovering from substance abuse. The experience was the first time someone talked to me about asking my employer for reasonable accommodation on the job.
     After getting home, I gave some thought on how to talk to my employer about what would make my job easier as a person with a disability. It seemed to me that a brighter light and a footstool would assist me. When I went to my employer, I was nervous inside. We sat down and talked for twenty minutes about my needs (it really felt like hours). By the end, everything was approved and I felt accomplished leaving his office.
     Afterward I had a stroke of good luck and was granted the right to become my own payee. I had found a townhouse for rent at a reasonable rate. I also found a second job as well. All in all, in the beginning, becoming independent was hard. With perseverance and some people taking a chance on me, and most importantly, taking a chance on myself, I scored big! You have options!  

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