In News & Blog, Opinion, Peer Profiles

If life has taught Jessica Kruger anything, it’s how to deal with—and embrace—change. As her role as SCI BC Event Lead (and office pastry extraordinaire) comes to an end, Jess shares how (and why) she’s moved on—with her profession, her athletic career, and her disability.

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And just like that, my view is changing.

Nearly a year has passed since I started my job as Events Lead with SCI BC and I am sad to say that it’s time for me to move on.

Last September, I found out that I had been accepted into the Pastry Arts Program at VCC starting April 2018 and was immediately filled with an array of emotions. On one hand, I was thrilled to be taking one small roll (pun very intended) in the right direction towards the dream of owning my own bakery; but on the other, I was sad to be leaving behind colleagues that feel more like friends, work that challenges me, a community that welcomes me… and a really excellent office space heater that warms me.

As the day to say goodbye got closer, I found myself reflecting more and more on why exactly it is that my eyes watered (not to be mistaken for full on tears, because I am much too tough for that!) at the thought of moving on. I think that, after several sleepless nights, I sort of understand.

Moving on means leaving a piece of yourself behind. Change is tough at the best of times, and it’s nearly impossible when you’re not feeling entirely whole.

We have all experienced the pang of moving on at some point in our life. We end relationships in hopes of finding greater happiness, say goodbye to friendships in an attempt to reprioritize, move out of our homes in search of the illusive “greener grass”, and change careers aiming to embrace new beginnings.

Many of us within the SCI community can relate to the “I am not ready to let go” sentiment. It is a feeling that I unknowingly lived with for years after I had my accident. It was a feeling that at times weighed so heavily, it stopped me from moving forward.

“If I stop seeing the physio, it means I have given up on ever walking again.”

“If I start hanging out with other people that have disabilities, it means I have become one of them.”

“If I don’t believe it, it will never happen.”

These are a few of the phrases that I told myself as a fifteen year-old living with a spinal cord injury. These beliefs were the most crippling part of my injury.

The moment that I allowed myself to accept that I had to leave my able-bodied life behind was the first time that I felt like I could fully breathe after the accident. After years of telling myself that I had to walk again, it was one utterance of permission that released me from my sentence.

“It’s ok to be happy in a wheelchair.”

Once I accepted that, I was able to pursue new things that gave my life meaning. Suddenly, I was no longer a victim. I said goodbye to “able-bodied Jess” and I accepted life with a new perspective.

I’m not saying that I had to find a whole new life. In many instances, it was simply finding new ways to do the things that were important in my old life. I’m simply saying that I started to live for the moments of opportunity as opposed to dwelling over the missed opportunity.

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One of the opportunities that I acted on was taking the job with SCI BC. In order to do that, I had to scale back my wheelchair rugby training. Once again, this was a decision that weighed heavily on me because it meant that I was letting go of what I had thought my future was going to look like. I thought that I was going to train until I made the National team, and when I realized that that was not going to happen, I had to let go of the picture that I had painted for my future. And that was tough.

Letting go of that small piece of me that the rugby dream had previously filled, I picked myself up and embraced SCI BC. While working here, I filled that hole with venues, cupcakes, budgets, bookings, caterers, coworkers, and ultimately making meaningful connections amongst my peers. This job has given my life purpose for the last year, because it allowed me to feel like I was doing something important.

Now faced with the impending push of the never-ending desire to do more, I have to let go of that piece of myself and embrace the pastry school piece. It’s scary and sad and I’ll constantly ask myself if it’s the right decision, but ultimately I think that, in order to grow upwards, we have to be prepared to embrace a new view.

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