Being 59-years-old and not having a steady paycheck for over two years, I wish back in my young, accounting executive days I had paid more attention to my health than making money. Now, I can't make the money because of my health.
There were warning signs as I was working those long hours and making the big bucks. I was tired and thirsty a lot, frequently went to the bathroom and had numbness in my feet. Finally in 2000, I went to see a doctor. After some tests, I was told I had type 2 diabetes and as a result of that, had nerve damage, neuropathy, in my feet.
It's better to know than not know and it's better to control diabetes than pretend like it's not there, but employers look at you differently when you're diabetic and the situation becomes even worse when you start walking with a cane.
Because of the neuropathy, two years ago and just before the company I was working for went out of business, I started walking with a cane to help keep me steady on my feet. At first it was just a regular cane, but after six months, I switched to a quad cane for better support. Naively, I didn't think the use of a cane would affect me finding new employment. I didn't think about first impressions.
I have an impressive resume. This usually gets me in the door for the first interview, but after that, I no longer can hide behind the paper.
I realize when you're older, age discrimination exists, but now I've got that quad cane working against me. It implies poor health.
Potential employers and interviewers can maintain an interested look on their faces when they're talking to me, but I've come to know when they see me walk in the door with that cane, one word goes through their head: Liability.
First interviews aren't leading to second ones and my follow-up phone calls aren't being returned. It's frustrating to be an older person with a limited disability who wants to work but not be given the chance to do so.
Currently, I'm managing my health, but money is tight. As far as first impressions go, that cane I walk with doesn't affect my mind and that accounting work I'm so good at isn't done with my feet. I think these are the first impressions that really should matter the most.
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