Finding my Niche

by Barbara Mattson

One of the things that has fascinated me over the years is programming computers. I was pretty good in math, but my logic and reasoning were weak. I took my first aptitude test to see if I was computer programming material at the South Carolina Commission for the Blind rehabilitation center. The materials were in braille, and testing, as far as I recall, took much of the day. I don't remember the results, but my counselor promised me I'd attend a computer programming school in Florida. Then things didn't come through.

While I was waiting, another avenue kept haunting me. A rehab teacher had encouraged me to go to college. My high school English teacher, however, had impressed on me while talking to the whole class, that none of us would make it in college. Nonetheless, it was with fear and trembling that I finally decided that's what I was going to do.

I graduated with a B.A. in psychology and a secondary education teaching certificate in social studies. But I wanted to be a counselor. So I made arrangements to begin studies at the University of South Carolina. Meanwhile, a home teaching position came open with the Commission for the Blind in Charleston and my counselor asked me if I wanted it. Because my counselor had told me "counselors are a dime a dozen," I was afraid if I didn't grab the job, I would be job hunting forever.

Since having a teaching certificate requires earning six hours of credit every five years, I began graduate work in counseling, but also took courses in the disabilities field.

Eventually I quit work to go to school full-time to earn a counseling degree. But the desire to have that certificate of accomplishment wasn't as great as my fear that I would ruin someone's life.

Meanwhile, I took some statistics-type courses. In one course I surveyed schools for the blind and rehab agencies and found there was a need for a book for blind parents. So I set about writing it with the American Foundation for the Blind's backing.

However, I was once again drawn into taking computer programming courses when I acquired equipment that I believed would enable me to link with the computers at the college I was attending. However, after several weeks of trying, I finally had to withdraw from the Introduction to Computers course. This was a huge blow to my confidence, as I'd never had to withdraw from a course.

Years passed, and I continued my writing. One year, apparently preparing to renew my teaching certificate, I thought, again, about computer programming. So I went to the community technology college and took a test with my mother reading and writing. This time it was timed, and I spent, at the most, two hours. I could have challenged the results -- complaining that conditions weren't ideal. But I also felt that if my ability had been true, it wouldn't have mattered.

Now I find myself concentrating on transcribing books into braille and writing. Though I've said I've wanted to break into publishing, right now I'm just content to write when I'm inspired. Meanwhile, I'm helping people read with my brailling, and that gives me hope for a better life – for others as well as me.