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Kristen Cox: "Walk Through The Confusion" Video

Department of Workforce Services Executive Director, Kristen Cox speaks about an experience that changed her life for the better. Kristen happens to be blind.

Kristen writes in her blog,

“An unexpected and seemingly small experience I had when I was in a residential program for the blind taught me a lesson I’ve never forgotten. The program was designed to teach blind people the requisite skills to become independent and contributing members of society.

Equally important, it embraced a “can do” philosophy where blindness was a mere inconvenience when coupled with the right training and opportunity. I loved everything about this approach, but was certain that the others participating in the program were the ones who really needed what was being offered. My initial thinking was that I just needed to brush up on a few skills and perhaps learn a few new techniques that I could add to my arsenal— but I knew the rest. After all, I had been living and working as a blind person for years—what more did I need to learn?

While the entire experience changed my life forever, one specific interaction will always stand out in my mind. It happened when my orientation and mobility instructor took me to a park to practice some of my recently acquired travel techniques. “No problem,” I thought. “This will be a breeze.” The park, however, seemed to be a network of confusing paths with a joint mission of getting me lost and forcing me to stay there. I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated, confused, and unable to find my way back to home base. I ultimately began questioning my abilities and began losing confidence.

After countless failed efforts to find my way out of the park, I stopped walking and wanted to give up. While standing there waiting for something miraculous to happen, my instructor surprised me by quietly saying, “Kristen, you need to learn to walk through your confusion and fear.” He went on to tell me that I wouldn’t get any more information by standing still—I needed to take a step into the unknown in order to get the information I needed to find my way. He was right, and I took a tentative step. I then took another step, and another one after that, until I finally learned enough about my environment to be able to return to where I started.

I will never forget that day or the very valuable lesson. My instructor didn’t take my hand and show me the way out. He didn’t feel sorry for me and he didn’t let me give up just as things became difficult. What he did do was teach me that I had to learn to walk through discomfort, frustration, confusion, and even fear if I was ever to get where I wanted to go. Innovation, progress, and positive change come with a price. Those forging into new territory don’t have road maps. They know where they want to end up—but they don’t always know the specifics of how they are going to get there.

It can be very uncomfortable not to have all the answers or directions. The fear of failure can be even more painful. Through my experiences, I have learned to live with the feelings that we often try so hard to avoid—they are a prerequisite for progress. Learning to dive into an uncomfortable situation, getting lost, and even living with the possibility of failure, are all part of a process.

Those seeking all of the answers or some type of guarantee before they are willing to move forward will likely spend their entire lives in the park rather than venturing out to experience all the wonderful things that lie beyond its borders."

-Kristen.

Video info: Speech given to Workforce Development Division on October 11, 2011.

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