Author: Aly Wallace, Program Director
Where do I even begin? How am I supposed to say goodbye to something that has been the most pivotal and influential aspect of my life for the past six years? Well I don’t know, but here’s my go at it.
To the Members: You are the reason we are all here. You’re what gets us out of bed in the morning and are the most important piece of the InJOY puzzle. Boy, have I learned so much from all of you. I’ve learned how to genuinely love, how to take my masks off, and how to let go of my inhibitions and DANCE! I think most everyone who walks through InJOY’s doors expects that they are here to bring something to you, but after just a short bit of time, it’s pretty evident that you, the members, are teaching us more than we could ever teach you. Thank you for trusting me, for letting me get to know you in so many different ways.
The friendships I have been allowed to form with the members at InJOY have molded me into who I am today. It’s friends like Mara Jean, who took over my dance class when I was an intern and taught me Michael Jackson’s thriller (pelvic thrusts and all). Or Robert, who (much like myself) has seen so many staff(ies) and members come and go over the years that all he knows to say now is that he’ll keep them in his heart. Or Keith, who at one time couldn’t even be in the same room as me, but who has grown and matured to a point where yesterday he sang me a song! Or Autry, who even in the face of rejection, gentlemanly pursues the girl he likes. Or Teresa, who comes through the doors of InJOY everyday with her heart on her sleeve-good or bad. Or Tanya, who’s greatest joy in life is a morning hug, a cup of coffee, and Amy. These are just a few of the people who have influenced my life; in the ways I love, the way I overcome the obstacles in front of me, and in the way I chose to be the most genuine person possible, because that’s what our members do every day.
To the Staff: Once one of the coaches said to me, “It blows my mind to think that you’re my supervisor”…I still think of this often. Why? Because in so many ways I don’t feel in the least bit capable or qualified to be a supervisor, let alone a program director. After doing literally hundreds of interviews, and at the same time seeing what seems like hundreds of people leave, I have learned so much from each person I’ve interacted with. Ultimately, thank you for letting me lead you, but above that, thank you for loving our members so fiercely, for advocating on their behalf when they couldn’t themselves, for encouraging them to advocate for themselves when they could. We always talk about this point at InJOY that everyone eventually gets to. Most often that point includes tears. This happens for some people within the first couple of weeks, or for others it might take years, but if you’re willing to let this place really affect you, it will happen. Don’t run away from that moment. In that place, the place of what you think is your breaking point, is where you’ll surprise yourself. You’ll surprise yourself, as to how you come back the next day and keep going, how that moment and momentum affects your members. Whether your time at InJOY ends up being 6 months or 6 years, know that you are an important part of the InJOY community. Your time with our members is just another way to widen their sphere of influence. Whatever you do in the future take the experience you’ve had at InJOY with you. Live out the vision of this place, become life long advocates for people with disabilities.
To the Supervisors: Your job is hard, most people don’t understand to what extent that is true. You have been my allies, my shoulders to cry on, my ears to vent to. I haven’t always led you well, and you’ve still accepted my direction.
Finally, I just have to say a couple of last things. Don’t take InJOY for granted. It’s a place that doesn’t happen too often in life, cherish the time you are here. Yes, the hard times will happen, but know that the good times are just around the corner. Let the members affect you; they have more to teach you than you could ever expect. Get to know your co-workers, have healthy boundaries, and make life long friends. Respect your supervisors, and know that they are always in pursuit of what is best for both the members and coaches, even when it doesn’t feel like it all the time. Just remember, it will all work out, it always does.
So thank you InJOY for letting me learn, and grown, and love here over these last six years. And in the perfect words of my friend Robert, InJOY will always be in my heart.