by Sue Lichtenfels
“Live, Laugh, and Love” has become a popular philosophy for life. Whenever I hear this phrase, I automatically add a fourth “L” word I have come to realize is essential for a successful life: Learn. I truly believe that if your life is going to be meaningful in any way, you need to keep engaging, achieving, and improving; in other words, learning. When we stop learning, we limit our opportunities and settle into a lifestyle that can easily threaten our independence in this ever-changing world. Luckily, the council provides us with many opportunities for growth and achievement.
As an adult, my greatest opportunities for learning have come through my interactions and involvement with my state affiliate in Pennsylvania. My PCB peers post interesting and useful articles to our listserv such as new products, research breakthroughs, job postings, and advocacy issues. Both virtual and in-person attendance at PCB and ACB conferences teaches me about current and future efforts toward accessibility across all aspects of life and what rights and recourse I have. Peer discussion calls are always a fountain of knowledge as we talk about our favorite devices, share resources, and offer one another tips and tricks to achieve even greater independence. It’s amazing to be able to ask someone who is also visually impaired, “Well, how do you…?” I’ve learned about parenting, cooking, advocating, and so much more by exploring the experiences of others.
Being part of such a supportive group has emboldened me to step out of my comfort zone time after time to learn a new task. For example, when I worked on the fundraising team, I learned how to put together a cookbook, coordinate an auction, and administer all aspects of a six-month raffle. Within the conference program and planning team, I learned how to create vendor and participant registration forms, negotiate hotel contracts, and put together a weekend’s worth of conference programming. I’ve learned how to prepare an organizational budget, give public presentations by using my assistive technology, post content on a website, and so much more. On the lighter side of my learning experiences within my affiliate, I’ve directed and acted in a murder mystery play, scripted and produced an original satire, written a tongue-in-cheek commercial for Enlightosight, the wonder drug that eradicates misperceptions about the blind, and created a children’s activity sheet for awareness. I’ve found that there is no safer place to get hands-on experience doing completely new tasks or stretching my current abilities than by volunteering with the council.
My involvement in the affiliate has also allowed me to gain the intangible experience to improve myself. With every successful project I have taken on, I have learned to be self-confident in my abilities. I have learned to take on responsibility, to meet deadlines, and to accept others’ feedback. I have learned to observe others and identify traits in them that I want to learn to emulate to be a better leader. I have learned not to be afraid to share my ideas and passion for PCB. I have learned to ask for advice when I am unsure and to delegate when I feel overwhelmed. Through my observations and interactions, I have become a better leader and a better me.
While my school days are well behind me, I strive every day to learn new things. I have chosen to actively participate in my affiliate because it affords me so many opportunities to learn and grow. Whether they are strategies for independence, blindness resources, the latest news, marketable skills, or personal enrichment, you too can actively pursue limitless learning opportunities in your affiliate. And this is the perfect time of year to get started!