Justin in US Bank stadium


I turned 20 years old this week. A couple years ago, I thought that after high school, I would go to college. Get my Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree. And then get a job as a writer or journalist. Here’s the thing, I’ve started taking some college classes. Two worked out pretty well – got A’s. I also tried to take an online class which didn’t work out as well and I ended up dropping. The amount of writing required for that online course would have taken me countless hours to keep up with. What would have taken many students a couple hours a day, probably would have meant 40-50 hours a week for me – for just one class.

I am now grappling with a dilemma. Do I go to college? Or do I look at other online courses like through Coursera or EdX to keep learning even though it wouldn’t be working towards a college degree? Or do I find a job or volunteer work to start getting work experience? This past 2 years, I’ve had fantastic opportunities as a public speaker. Would people want me as a public speaker, if I’m not also a college student? Was that part of my story that people were interested in?

My family and I are struggling with what are the options for me with what I love to do and what I’m able to do – because honestly it’s difficult for me to communicate quickly and often times people don’t take the time to wait for me to say what I want to say – so where are those opportunities to work or participate in my community like I’d like to when it’s this difficult to communicate? What does a job for me look like where I can interact with others to do the things I love to do? How do I work towards independence if I’m hanging out at home every day? Because, that’s what I’ve been doing lately, and it’s not working.

I really love public speaking about inclusion and accessibility. I love advocating for disability rights. I love writing even though it takes me a long time. I love to share my voice with the world. I love my volunteer work as a mentor to an elementary student who has cerebral palsy and is learning to use a communication device and power chair.

We know some of the next steps. I need to get connected with Vocation Rehab Services to find out what they can offer. I need to reach out to different advocacy organizations to see if there might be volunteer work or internships that might work for me. I need to meet with my social worker to make sure the supports I need are in place so that I can keep working towards my goals.

So, I’m 20 years old. I feel confused, floundering, like I’m trying to get to the top of a long flight of stairs in my wheelchair – not sure what’s at the top of the stairs or how to get there.

6 thoughts on “20”

  1. I would say that when I was 20 and in college I had no idea what I was going to do. I don’t think many 20 year olds know what they are going to do. And over my career I have done many things and have had many career goals. The path was never straight. In fact my job didn’t even exist in College. Chief Digital Officer. I just always liked computers but my major was in Management Science. So go figure. My best advice is to continue to do what you love. What makes you happy. The rest will work itself out.


  2. Justin, reading this, I am all the more thankful that you took the time to review my book. It means a lot to me.

    I really can’t see why you’d need a college degree to make a successful career of speaking/disability advocacy. Your lived experience is so much more important. And just from reading some of the posts on your blog, I know you do a great job of expressing your ideas.

    Take heart in the fact that many 20 year old people feel the way you do. I wish you all the best in finding the career that is right for you.


  3. Hey Justin,
    You’ll get this figured out. I’ve known you since you were 4, the determination and intelligence has always been there. Along with your smiling face, great attitude and sense of humor. You are at a crossroad and it is difficult for many kids your age to figure out. Keep on exploring your options and something will come up that’s s good match.


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