The Landscape

Kevin Brousard: Vision Impairment, Mental Health, and Underemployment!

October 18, 2020 Naveh Eldar / Kevin Brousard Season 1 Episode 18
The Landscape
Kevin Brousard: Vision Impairment, Mental Health, and Underemployment!
Show Notes Transcript

Born with a vision impairment, Kevin is a former world champion in the shot put and discus who has so much to offer. Kevin is inspired to speak about mental health issues, the underemployment of the disability community, and living a full life. In this episode he speaks about suicidal ideations while in elementary school due to bullying, coping mechanisms, individuals who supported and pushed him to be his best, and the underemployment of the disability community, which needs to change. Kevin is honest, direct and spot on throughout the entire episode.

Kevin's website: Talks By Kevin
Kevin's TEDx Talk: Enable the Disabled

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Host - Naveh Eldar  0:17  
Welcome to the landscape, a podcast to shed light on the people, programs and businesses that are changing the landscape for individuals with any type of disability. I'm your host Eldar in today's episode I speak to Kevin Broussard while Kevin is a former World Class athlete and us record holder, he has a passion to speak speak about mental health, coping mechanisms, and employment challenges for the disability community. The episode begins with Kevin speaking about a childhood that found him feeling suicidal before the age of 10.

Kevin Brousard  0:54  
I grew up in a little little beach city in Southern California called San Clemente. And I grew up with a great family, we're probably the best way to describe as a middle class family. My dad was a career long lifeguard, which in most parts of the country is something that's a part time gig. But in Southern California, where there's a big surf culture, he worked for this state parks department. And so I grew up with the really supportive family and had a great family structure. But even with that structure in place, I really struggled as a child. And it was solely based off of how I was treated when I was at school. And so from a from a young age, I was born with a rare retinal disease. It's very similar to macular degeneration, which is very common in older people, the best way to describe it as a camera that's really out of focus. So shapes, I can kind of make out shapes, but details are very, very hard for me to to make out. And so I had that disease when I was born. And going into school, I was the only kid at my school with a disability. And unfortunately, what happens a lot with usually anytime there's any kind of noticeable difference for people when they're younger is that the kids will point that out. And they'll kind of latch on to that. And so being that I really was struggling to read, I had to get really up close to read at pretty much we putting my nose up against the piece of paper to read, read the letters, I was called the blind kid that was the the name when I was in kindergarten, when I couldn't even read the board. One of my my earliest memories as a child was trying to read the whiteboard. And I was sitting about a foot away and I couldn't read what was on there. That was one of those glaring moments in my life where my my parents and I realized there's something seriously wrong. And so with with that information, the kids began picking on me. And they they began picking on me pretty relentlessly, it was a daily thing. It was just part of my daily routine, I knew there was going to be people that were pointing out my my flaws, my disability. And like we all do, when we're kids, we're developing who we are, we're developing our personality, we're just becoming the person and blossoming into the person that we're going to become. And here I was, this thing that I had zero control over was being pointed out, non stop. And, you know, part of that growing process as a child is, is building up your self esteem. And I was not able to do that because daily, I was being told that I was worthless, and I would never amount to anything from my classmates because of my disability. And so I i did not take it well, I just was not emotionally prepared at that time in my life to handle this incessant criticism that was going on because of my disability. And so I I really struggle with my mental health as a child I was I was depressed, depressed, I had a lot of anxiety. And I felt that stigma not only from disability from also asking for help asking you for mental health assistance, trying to address it because I was trying to be tough, I was trying to not show weakness. And I remember, I remember when I was maybe, I don't know, maybe in fifth grade or so. And the school and the parents I was really struggling they kind of insisted I go see a therapist, and I told the therapist there was nothing wrong. And there clearly was but again, I was very reluctant to to seek that help that I needed. I was in a very dark place as a child that bowling put a huge cloud over my head. And it really negatively affected every aspect of my life because that's that was defining myself. Worth My self worth at that time was pretty much zero, I really, really struggled because of that incessant bullying that was going on non stop, because that's how people were defining me. And as I was in that defining process in my own life, it overtook my own internal definitions and being defined by what I couldn't do instead of what I could do. And in my TEDx talk, called enable the disabled, I talked about this. This time, there was a really bad day at school, there was a lot of bad days at school, but one particularly bad day at school with bullying. And at the dinner table, I told my parents that I wanted to kill myself. And I was eight years old at the time, you know, just knowing what I know, now being 30 years old. I can't imagine what my parents were thinking. But that's, that's how I felt, and it really consumed who I was as a person. And that good?

Unknown Speaker  5:58  
How did they respond to that I'm just like, I am a parent, and I can't wrap my brain around. What I would do, if my, my son or daughter, it's such a young age said something like that.

Unknown Speaker  6:12  
Yeah, they, I mean, they were taken aback, and they were like any parent would, they wanted to support me through this process, and get the help that I could, so that I think of is at that point. And some of some of my childhood, I don't have a great, I don't have a great memory recollection of my childhood. So my dates and years may be a little bit off. But after I told them that, they understood the severity of the situation. And you know, what, that's when we seek out some mental health assistance, and trying to find some coping mechanisms for me to deal with it. And eventually, you know, when I got to high school, I, I understood that I really needed to take, I had a choice, I was either going to let this the self esteem issue and my disability define who I was, or I can go a different route, and, and make my own path. And understand that it wasn't gonna let me let it define me. And one of the things I kind of leaned on pretty heavily towards middle school and going into high school was, was using humor, and being self deprecating, not not to the point where it was, you know, belittling myself, but I found that using humor, you know, poking, poking fun at myself, it really took the power away from the bullies. And it showed them that I was just kind of one of the guys if you want to call it that. And, you know, as a kid, I was involved in sports, I played basketball was kind of my first love. And I had to wear these protective goggles. If anyone remembers Kareem Abdul Jabbar, he'd had these huge goggles on his face. That was me on the basketball court. And I'm about six foot five, I was I was kind of the tallest kid in my class. And so I was always pretty good at sports. And I always had that to hang my hat on and I found at a young age that sport was a great way to just socialize and, and show you know, your worth, and have something to be proud of. And that that's was that was definitely something I needed was to find a positive outlet in my life that I can grow in, that I could find my confidence in. With the socialization factor, making more friends, I struggle at a younger age with making friends eventually got better with that over the years. And when I got to high school, I wanted to join the track and field team and throw shotput and discus. And I went to the track coach, my high school, who, as far as I know, never dealt with an athlete with a disability on the team. And I told them, Hey, I'm, I'm blind, and I want to be on the team. And he told me something that a lot of kids here who have disabilities, he said, You can't be on the team. Because you're blind. And his whole thing was, it was a safety issue. And he didn't want me to be out there and get nailed in the head with the shotput and you know, have an injury or even worse, and, you know, eventually I I kept going back, I was very persistent. And I kind of educated him, pretty much I told them, Look, I don't want to get hit in the head with a shot but either I'm not gonna put myself in a situation that's going to be harmful to myself. And, you know, it's important to use those times to educate people on disability awareness and understanding the adaptations that we can take. And so I was really glad I kind of stood up and made that decision, because it It led into me joining doing my track and field career and, and going from there, so it was a very tough Childhood from a bullying perspective and dealing with those self esteem and understanding, you know, through a painful process that even though I was born with a disability, it's not who I am, it's, I'm, I'm a person who happens to have a disability. I'm not a disabled person. And one of the things that I look back on now, and really enjoy. And it's been interesting having that perspective as an adult, and looking back and seeing how you know, your parents and your family helped raise you and support you. And one of the things that I can't thank my family enough for is, they had really high expectations for me. Even though I'm visually impaired, they expected me to do the dishes, they expected me to fold my laundry just like all my other brothers and family had to do, they wouldn't let me use my disability as a crutch for for not doing the life skills and independent living skills that we all need to be successful. And they they held me accountable. And I always I really appreciate that. Because I don't know if that those expectations are there for all people with disabilities really, and it really starts at home.

Unknown Speaker  11:13  
Right? So I believe you went to a high school that was completely different from your middle school. So you didn't know many people you when you went there. So what gave you going through really abuse for most of your childhood and having low self esteem due to that? What gave you the fortitude to want to try out for a varsity sport for being so persistent with the coach? What Why didn't you just like crawl into a cave and say, I'm just not going to talk to the world.

Unknown Speaker  11:47  
It's because I wanted to have as normal of a high school experience as anybody else out there. And at that time, you know, I it's my self worth had, had slowly grown, it still wasn't great, but it was better than it was when I was younger. And I saw through my experience, being on sports teams throughout my life, the power of sports, you know, the socialization factor making friends. And I wanted to be part of the group really, I was, I didn't want to be left aside, I think it really boils down to that, you know, we all want to be, we all want to be one of the cool kids in high school, right? It's kind of kind of that mentality. And I didn't want my disability to be a hindrance and a barrier to let me experience high school as much as anybody else. And yeah, it's that I think we all face, moments of truth in our life, where you can either back down, or you can keep pushing on, it's that fight or flight mentality. And you may not even realize it at the time, because it can lead you to a certain path in your life, that's completely different if you would have gone the other way. I didn't even think about it in this grand scale. When it happened. It was I wanted to be on the track and field team, kind of because my football coach at the time wanted me to be on the team. And a couple of my friends were there. I don't know how much interest before. But once I started doing track and field, and taking that chance and trying things, that's another thing that I've recognized with a lot of people with disabilities, especially kids is that, you know, if there's a foreign experience, something they've never tried before, they don't want to try it, they just want to they just want to stay in their comfort zone. And I I knew at a young age that staying in your comfort zone for me was going to leave me to a very disastrous and and it was not going to end good and so you just kind of have to get got to get comfortable with the uncomfortable uncomfort and, and take that that leap of faith.

Unknown Speaker  13:59  
And so you joined the track team to do talk to coach into it. He's like, you know reluctantly says okay, and you throw shot and disc in how good were you when you were a freshman.

Unknown Speaker  14:11  
I

Unknown Speaker  14:12  
my freshman year in high school, I was the worst thrower on the team. I was really bad. I was really bad. But I enjoyed it. It was it really was at that time I when I was a freshman I was on the football team as offensive lineman pretty much because I could I could only see the guy right in front of me and they just told me to block that guy. I was good to go. Right. They put me on defense I would have I would have been on every play action fake as a defensive lineman, but yeah, I was not very good my freshman year, but I liked it. And my my throwing coach was another person just like my parents who held me to the same standards as everybody else and had those expectations. And so my freshman year I was not very good. But my sophomore year, I took a huge leap. And within the span of a year, I had increased my shotput distance by about 10 feet, which is a huge amount. Yeah. And I went from being one of the worst throwers on the team, my freshman year to earning second place finish in a conference my, my sophomore season. So I knew at that time that track and field was, was something that was for me, I really, I really found my thing that I was I was good at and just just went off from there.

Unknown Speaker  15:36  
So at this time, had you found your people? Like, did you have a group of friends? And were you far more accepted? And you were in middle school?

Unknown Speaker  15:43  
Yeah, I was, for the most part I was. I had a couple few very good friends in high school, I've always been the kind of person who doesn't have a ton of friends. I have a few very close friends. And that's that's how it was in high school. I had a few of my friends who were also offensive linemen, and also were throwers on the track and field team. So we were, we were hanging out pretty much every day of the year, whether it's football or track and field practice, and especially as offensive linemen, we had to build a chemistry and we just really clicked as friends. There was still some some bullying going on. There's a few incidents that were pretty traumatic from people that were teammates or people that were acquaintances had a few scuffles in a locker room because of people teasing me, I kind of had to learn in a young age to stand up for myself in those situations. And if you if you give somebody an inch, they'll take a mile and that piece was still there in high school. And frankly, he was even there in college, which is hard to believe. Yeah. But that, that persisting bullying attitude of projecting their own, their own insecurities on you. It's something that's still around even that, you know, at 30 years old, it's still something that I run into occasionally. But for the most part in high school, my you know, my friendship and social circle got bigger. Things were better, but there were still incidents where, you know, people pointing out my disability would come up.

Unknown Speaker  17:21  
Did you go away for college? Or did you commute?

Unknown Speaker  17:24  
I went to school about an hour away from where I was from. So at the time, you know, as an 18 year old kid, you want to be you want to get to have a little bit of independence, but you know, be a little bit far away. So yeah, I was about an hour away, went to college at the University of Laverne. It's about 30 minutes east of Los Angeles. It's Division Three, athletic school, very well known for their their communications department. And I growing up I was my my whole goal was to be in sports radio. I was a huge radio fan. And I just loved that aspect. They had a great program for that at Laverne. And so I ended up choosing that school.

Unknown Speaker  18:10  
Did you live on campus?

Unknown Speaker  18:12  
I did live on campus all four years. And that was primarily due to being blind. I don't drive. It was a very walkable campus, you're talking a five minute walk from one and a campus to the other. So for me, that was a huge win, to find a space like that where it's it was a small school about 2000 undergrad at the time. And so yeah, live in the dorms all four years there.

Unknown Speaker  18:40  
So I imagine at this point, you had traveled, you had competed, you had done all these great things. So you probably were not too nervous about, like going out and living on your own and or were you did you have any anxiety?

Unknown Speaker  18:58  
Yeah, I did. I really did. Because just like when I when I went from middle school to high school, I was at a Catholic Middle School. And when I went to high school, I didn't I hardly know anybody there. And so it was a tough transition. It was the same from high school to college. I didn't have anybody from my high school that went to my college. And so I had to kind of start fresh with making new friends and whatnot. And I was my freshman year, I was much more focused on my education than most freshmen are, you know, they're there, they're having fun and they're partying and whatnot, and I was more of the bookworm. But through, you know, eventually, just just like in high school, I worked my way through that, but it was, it was tough, but I felt, you know, from an independent standpoint, I knew I knew what to do and I knew how to, you know, go grocery shopping. Well, that's debatable if you ask my mother But I knew the basic things I needed. And I felt independent. It was just, yeah, just creating that, that those new friendships was a little bit tough at first, but eventually found my way there.

Unknown Speaker  20:15  
It's a coincidence that you're an athlete, right? I had an amazing little miniseries on athletes. But I wanted you to come on, because I watched your TED Talk. And you talked about employment in the disability community that was like you were like, really fired up about that. And, and that's actually the area that I work in as well. So I wanted to get some of those views that you talked about. So tell us about that. Tell us about the challenges and the frustrations and the, the you know, what's going on in that movement?

Unknown Speaker  20:48  
Yeah, it's a movement that unfortunately, the needle has not moved on a lot in the past couple of decades. When you look at it from a figure standpoint. And looking specifically at the blindness community in the US, the unemployment rate has been about 70%, seven, zero percent. for about three decades. Now, it really hasn't changed a whole lot. I don't have the overall disability community figures off the top of my head, but I would imagine it's pretty similar. And I think it's, it's a two fold approach. Number one is the stigma that society has with people with disabilities. There's a huge discomfort level, when it comes to the average non disabled person interacting with people with disabilities. They don't know how to act, they don't know what questions to ask, they don't want to be offensive, they don't want to do something that's going to turn them off. They don't, they don't understand how to connect with people with disabilities. And where that really comes into play is hiring people with disabilities. Because if you're not even comfortable enough, having a person in a wheelchair roll by you on the street, how are you going to work with that person? And I was reading this this study where somebody, somebody applied for a bunch of jobs. And they disclosed on their resume that they had a disability. And they had zero callbacks, zero interviews, and then they submitted the same resume, same amount of times for similar jobs. And what do you know? Oh, and they had they did not disclose on there. And what do you know, they receive many more callbacks. Mm hmm. And it's tough because we have these laws where you cannot discriminate against somebody in the workplace, or in the hiring process because of a disability. But those figures that I mentioned, you know, whether they're their true research, or anecdotally, those point to an issue of things going on in people's mind that we cannot measure, backdoor decisions that are being made of, well, you know, we have five people that are really solid candidates, this individual is blind, and I've never even talked to a person who is blind.

Unknown Speaker  23:17  
Mm hmm.

Unknown Speaker  23:19  
They have a great resume. But I'm not I'm gonna go with the other four people, because those other four people are people I'm more comfortable around. Right. Now, again, we can't measure that. But if you look at those figures, that's, I think it's almost undeniable that that's happening. And it's unfortunate, because, number one, not only is it depriving people with disabilities of opportunities, but it's depriving workplaces with a unique viewpoint that they need to have. And it's part you know, we have this huge diversity and inclusion movement going on in the world. Right. And it seems like the disability community is still not fully included in that movement. A lot of times you think of disability and, or diversity and inclusion, it's more of a focus on on race and gender equity. And there's not really a seat at the table for people with disabilities. I think it's getting better. I think that awareness is improving, but we're not there yet. And it it's going to start with people taking chances because we need those voices when it comes to diversity. When this the disability community is the biggest minority group in the country. yet they're not sitting at the table voicing the opinions of the disability community. That's a problem. That's a problem for those people with disabilities who are not getting hired. That's a problem for people running businesses who are not understanding a huge demographic that they could be more appealing to.

Unknown Speaker  24:58  
Yeah, really well. Well said, I mean, everything you said was like super spot on, I know that you're on Instagram, I'm on Instagram, we've connected there a few times. And it's so interesting because I have a personal strong interest in diversity and inclusion. And I use the hashtag disability is diversity all the time, because it's exactly what you said, it's, it is a it is a segment that is often not included or not in I don't even think it's intentional it which is even sadder to me, because it's, you know, when somebody is when a group of people are so fringe that they don't even come to mind, when you think of diversity and inclusion. You know, it shows that we have a long way to go still.

Unknown Speaker  25:46  
Absolutely, and there's small ways that people, you know, the average person may not even think of where people are being excluded. And they're being excluded in big ways there is I saw something on social media the other day about how during the first presidential debate in September, there was no sign language translator, right. And average person is probably not going to even mention and think of that, and there is a lot of people unfortunately, think of it, whether it's from a business perspective, or an inclusion perspective of Oh, it's a, it's such a small group of people, we, we don't need to go that extra mile. Yeah, and that kind of thinking is, is so toxic. And it's so you know, if you applied it to other people, you know, other people in that diversity and inclusion realm,

Unknown Speaker  26:39  
right?

Unknown Speaker  26:41  
You would never get away with saying that, you know, but for people with disabilities, it's, it's continuing to push those needs to the side. And well, that's, that's an extra thing that they got to figure that out on their own, but we're gonna provide the bare minimum, and you can just kind of deal with it. It's a really sad, sad mindset. And I just think from a business perspective, too, that's such a huge demographic, where if you're a business and you are and you know, this, when when there's a positive company, or a company that's doing something really well in the disability realm, it's going to spread like wildfire and the disability community. It's it's almost like with iPhones, for example, with for users who are blind and visually impaired, the iphone, apple came out with the first widely available accessible phone. And the vast majority of blind people use that phone now, even though you know, androids and the other phones have kind of caught up, right, Apple was was first there for on the accessibility side, and they're, they're being rewarded with that with with loyalty from their customers. So I think there's a lot of ways, you know, besides just being an inclusive company, which a lot of people can claim, but what are they actually doing about it, I think it's, it's high time that that's made known, and you know, people are, are calling them out on that. And I think that's good, and make that awareness known and coming to the table with those companies to say, Hey, we need to, we need to make this accessible. And I ran into one of those things at work. So with, there's a lot of increased emphasis on safety in the world of sports, and I work for a sports organization. And so one of the things that you have to do if you're coach in the Olympic and Paralympic world, is you have to take this training called Safe sport. And it's about a three hour long training. And you have to take it if you want to be a coach on the sideline, you also have to take if you want to compete internationally. And for several years, we've been advocating this organization to make the training accessible. And we've been pestering them and pestering them. And you know, we kind of they finally got around to doing it after about three years. But our whole point was, look, we may only be 30 or 40 athletes who are blind in the Paralympic movement who have to take this, but you are making us take this, you cannot make us take this if you're not going to make it available to us. Right. And, and, you know, I don't I don't want to talk down on them too much, because they did make it accessible and I'm very, very grateful for that. But their answer before and again, it was it was I look at these opportunities, not as you screwed up and I'm gonna yell at you now. It's gonna be okay. You guys don't have it right. Let me explain what you need to do and why you need to do it. Right?

Unknown Speaker  29:52  
Because before they're saying Well,

Unknown Speaker  29:55  
okay, you have a blind person and they have to take this training but it's not accessible. They would tell us, okay, you need to tell the blind person to find a sighted person, and have the sighted person describe it. And our retort to that was, okay, we have this three hour long training. That's, that's a big ask of a sighted friend, first of all. And second of all, it goes against everything, you know, we believe in the parallel, that move into promoting independence. And everyone else is able to do this on their own time, we need to have it too. And so you got to be careful in how you approach that because it's, it's, you know, basic customer service, right, you got to kill them with kindness instead of yelling in somebody's face about what's wrong. And sometimes you got to yell. That's, that's, that's understandable. But I think there's some certain tack that you have to go about doing that. And, you know, with safesport, for example, we were able to do so. And they have a really accessible program now, that will live on for any, any users in the future.

Unknown Speaker  31:04  
I'm a strong believer in research. And, you know, in business people like the bottom dollar. And so it's very, very fortunate that now people are starting to do research on how do people with disabilities, all types of disabilities impact the workplace, and all the research shows, that it impacts it, your bottom dollar increases, your co workers without disabilities are more satisfied, because people like to feel included? And when and when you see that other groups are included, it makes you feel included, if that makes sense. That's even kind of the concept between the overall diversity and inclusion. So so that, you know, there's there is some positives that we're starting to see right now. But do you have any sense this is something you're passionate about? And think about? Do you have any words of advice or any vision on what needs to happen to help it even a little bit, as far as like employment with people with disabilities,

Unknown Speaker  32:05  
I would say if you're an employer, be willing to take that chance. And understand that there may be a little bit of discomfort. But if you want to be a part of this movement, and we just laid out the reasons that you should, that at some point, you're going to have to hire a person with a disability. And you're going to there's going to be a little bit of a learning process there. And just be patient with that. That's what I would say and understand that there are extremely skilled and qualified people with disabilities out there. And ultimately, you know that the workplace is great for that. It's it's a meritocracy of all meritocracy is where, at the end of the day, what are your What are your end results? How is this individual helping the bottom line? And I think you will find people out there with disabilities who have those skill sets that you're looking for. And they will they will be able to produce for you if you find that right candidate.

Unknown Speaker  33:02  
So last question is so what's in the future for you now? I know you're you're currently working. So do you think this is going to be your long term career or school? What what's going on with you going forward? You're still young, I just turned 50 last week. And so you to me, you're a baby with lots of stuff.

Unknown Speaker  33:22  
Yeah, the world is my oyster. Well, yeah, I'm 30 years old. And I've been working with the United States association of blind athletes coming up on my fifth year now. And I started their entry level position and kind of grown over the years into my current role, which is the the programs and finance director. So I mostly oversee the operational side of the organization, handle the budget and finances for for us, we're a nonprofit. And one of my major duties now is to oversee the national team programs for the Paralympic sport. Oh goalball. For those who aren't familiar gold ball is a Paralympic sport played by blind athletes. It's three versus three. They throw a ball, it's about the size of a basketball on down the court and the ball itself has bells inside of it. It makes noise. Athletes wear eye shades that are blacked out. So it doesn't matter what kind of visual impairment you have. everyone's on the same playing field. And so that's a big part of my role now is helping to oversee those two teams or men's national team, men's and women's national teams. We also have a resident training program in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where members of our national team get to train regularly build that team chemistry which is is vital in a team sport. So it's been great now that I've wrapped up my own competitive athletic career to have this role where I'm still I still have an outlet for my competitive fire to help our two teams win double gold medals in Tokyo and So, I've been I've been really enjoying my, my duties at USAID VA, we just hired a new CEO, Molly Quinn, who has a new direction for the organization. And I'm just excited for the future of where we're taking us and being able to impact more Americans who are blind through sport. And you know, long term, we'll see where my career takes me, I really enjoy working in the sports world, I really enjoy my job right now at usapa. And see myself there for for some time. And, you know, we'll see there's endless possibilities, the Paralympic movement is growing quite quite steadily in the US. But I like where I'm at now, and looking forward to what the future has to hold.

Unknown Speaker  35:45  
You know, and it really is growing. I mean, I'm excited. I'm very excited to see the next Olympics, hoping I can get out and see him in person when they come to LA, a few Olympics from now. But if you haven't seen gold ball, it's such a fascinating and exciting sport to watch. Because since the athletes have to hear the ball, like the stadium becomes like, really quiet, right? And then it explodes by either, you know, if they save a goal, or if they score a goal, you know, so it's like this, this is a very interesting and exciting sport to watch. And you kind of have to get used to it. Yeah. You know, like, like, No, you got to be quiet, right? So some some personal questions for you. Um, now that I noticed, you're getting married, where did you meet your wife?

Unknown Speaker  36:31  
I met my wife at a work event actually. Don't tell my boss now.

Unknown Speaker  36:38  
So we're allowed to meet people. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker  36:39  
sometimes it just happens that way. But

Unknown Speaker  36:43  
yeah, my fiance, she's an orientation and mobility instructor. And pretty much what that means is her job is to help blind individuals learn independent living skills and travel skills, just kind of how to function in the sighted world as a blind person. And she works for the state of Colorado. And they were hosting a, an event locally in Colorado Springs for services for blind individuals. So I was there. And she had seen me speak at an event before that. And I didn't know this until you know, after we started dating, but she'd see me at the event where I was speaking and we had not met at this time. But she thought I was she thought I was good looking. And so when when this local event came up, she was in charge of putting the the table placement, right, so she saw my name, and she put our tables next to each other. And so we ended up you know, hitting it off there and her her plan came to fruition and we're tat well,

Unknown Speaker  37:47  
women are devious. They are they are so much so many steps ahead of us. It's not even funny. Yeah. You had no chance whatsoever. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker  37:55  
not at all.

Unknown Speaker  37:58  
So the last question is, what is something that you're filling your time with? Now, I imagine a training being a professional athlete or being a world class athlete is so time consuming. So what do you what did you fill that void with? Do you have a hobby? Do you binge watch Netflix shows? what's what's going on?

Unknown Speaker  38:19  
Well, for the last five years, I was a full time employee, I was working full time, I was traveling a lot for work, and then I was training full time as well. And so I didn't, I did not have much downtime, if any. And so when I decided to you know, retired from competitive sports in March, I kind of let my hair down a little bit, I kind of, you know, I kind of looked around and watch, watch Netflix and you know, without my diet for a month or so, and kind of let loose but now that I'm you know, got that out of my system. I'm one of the things I'm really passionate about is public speaking. And I have a degree in broadcasting from University of Laverne and it's, it's something I've done sporadically over the last seven or eight years, having my jam packed schedule when I was competing, I did not have time to focus on it. But now I have some time and of being that voice of talking about my experiences like I have with you today. One of the things that I'm really getting into more is being open about my mental health struggles, because it is something that a lot of people are dealing with. The numbers have really skyrocketed, especially during the pandemic. Our our younger generation right now is is dealing with it more than any other generation has in the past. And I've struggled with it a lot. I've I don't know if the word overcome is the right word because it's something that's and so it's always there, you gotta you got to stay proactive with it. But I found coping mechanisms and trying to be as vulnerable as I can to help people who are going through those same things toxic about mental health, talking about my experiences as an athlete and setting goals. And having those having that disability inclusion. And awareness is another core component of the public speaking that I'm going to be pursuing. more regularly now that I have a little bit more time on my hands. So one of those passions that's been on the backburner, but now that my schedule is opened up, I'm focusing on that more, if you want to go to my website talks by Kevin calm, and a few videos up there if you guys want to check it out. But yeah, it's it's public speaking and wedding planning. There's my whole day right there.

Unknown Speaker  40:39  
I'm not gonna ask which one is the most enjoyable? I'm not gonna ask because I don't want you to get in trouble. Yeah, I will make sure to add the link to your website in my description. And you know, I'll send it out when this episode comes out as well on my social media pages, if people want to want to check it out there. So I just want to, you know, I want to thank you, you know, for for agreeing to come on the show for for being so open and honest. And for, you know, we talked about it a little bit before we started recording that it's just really important to be honest and vulnerable, because it like you said, there's a lot of people out there that are going through either something similar or just something that they can relate. And, and many times they feel very, very alone. And so it just helps to, to hear your story and to know that, you know, like you said, you have to find coping mechanisms, they're not going to fall in your lap, you know, most of the time and, and, you know, there are brighter days ahead, as

Unknown Speaker  41:41  
always.

Unknown Speaker  41:43  
So anyway, so thank you for your time, Kevin, you're great and good luck to your work and good luck.

Unknown Speaker  41:54  
For more information on Kevin, you can find his website at talks by Kevin calm. I will leave a link to his website in the episode description, along with the link to this TEDx talk, which is very personal and inspiring. In the next episode, I will welcome Jenny Smith, blogger, motivator, and educator of living the impossible. And if you haven't done so already, subscribe to the podcast. Follow the landscape podcast on all social media platforms, and for crying out loud. Stop being so selfish and share episodes with friends. We'll see you next time.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai