By Mary Conrick, Recent SLU graduate and Places for People Development Intern
Since I was young, I have tried my best to see everyone as individuals. I think this is because of my family.
Both of my parents are teachers who work with diverse groups of students, and they taught me that even though people seem different, we really aren’t that different at all.
My sister has also shown me the importance of seeing others for who they are and looking past their differences. My sister, Megan, is nonverbal and has a diagnosis of severe Autism. I think some people put that label on her, and I think as humans, we focus too much on these labels. Maybe this is why I am so passionate about helping people who are labelled by society. I don’t see a label on her, I see her as my sister.
Everyone deserves to be seen as an individual, and this is why hearing the stories of other people is so important. We are more than our labels.
This is why I wanted to focus on this project during my summer internship at Places for People. I wanted to help others who do not feel supported by society. In the future, I hope to motivate others so they are able to see their strengths, and I hope to continue to do more projects like this.
I am amazed to have met and known such incredible people who have experienced trauma and difficulties in their lives. Despite the obstacles they have faced or are still facing, they are able to sit down and tell me their stories. That is the biggest step toward recovery.
Along the way, a few people I interviewed expressed to me that they are not where they want to be right now, and that they are disappointed in themselves. I reminded them that the fact they were able to speak with me and tell me they wanted to do things differently represented that they are able to accomplish anything. It is true that all accomplishments, small or large, should not be disregarded.
As humans, it is so easy to compare ourselves to others or have our past experiences hold us back. It is important to remember that our stories are our own and they belong to no one else. We have the power to write them, and to create our own endings. This project embodies what it is to be human; to struggle, to persevere, and to learn from it and move forward.
A May 2017 graduate of Saint Louis University, Mary Conrick was the interviewer, photographer and driving force behind Places for People’s Humans of PfP project this summer. Mary is returning to Chicago area to live with her family, and is planning to attend graduate school for counseling or for a related field within the next year. She also plans to continue her passion for writing and advocacy work. We are grateful for Mary’s efforts to decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness and her work to show that we are all human.