After being in an accident which caused her right arm to be permanently paralysed, Alyssa Raggio had to learn to make the best out of a bad situation. She experienced many ups and downs while adjusting to her new life but has been able to live as best version of herself. This year Alyssa was excited launch her dream company Social Thirty Two and take her career to the next level. I had the opportunity to chat to Alyssa about her disability, motivation and new business.
Tell us a bit about your disability and why you think it was the best thing to happen to you…
When I was 16, I was in an ATV accident. Among my injuries of a broken femur and tibia, detached MCL and road rash were three little nerves that were pulled from my spinal cord, leaving my right arm permanently paralysed. I was a mess for the 3 months after the accident. Physically and emotionally. I spent 2 months in a hospital bed in my living room, unable to do really anything for myself. Not to mention that at my age, all I wanted to do was hang out with my friends and I was unable to even hold my head up on my own let alone go out with friends. I remember being so angry that this happened to me. I didn’t understand my injuries and why doctors couldn’t just fix my arm. I mean it was 2011 after all.
My transition to life with one arm was hard. I was right handed and so I had to learn to write and brush my teeth with my left hand. I also struggled with simple things like getting dressed by myself or putting my hair up. Slowly but surely, though, having one arm became my new normal. I have grown so accustom to having one arm that now not only am I completely fine living the rest of my life like this, but if someone came to me with a magic wand and could give me my arm back I wouldn’t take it. Because I was given this injury for a reason. This happened because it was meant to. Plus, what do you even need two hands for? I wouldn’t even know what to do with it now.
What helped you stay motivated and turn a bad situation into something amazing
Quickly after I realized that I would most likely never get full function (or any super useful function) back in my arm I knew I had two options: live my life feeling sorry for myself and accomplish very little, which is what I think people expected on me or… find a way to make something of my life and not let my disability define me. I was 16 at the time with my whole life ahead of me. So, the choice was simple. I was determined to live a “normal life” regardless of how different I now was from everyone else.
What part of having a disability did you had to learn but feel like no one talks about?
What made my injury so tough at first was I felt like there was no one else who was going through what I was going through. I had to figure out everything on my own, which was isolating. Something that non-disabled people don’t really think about and the hardest part about having a disability is, without a doubt, the way that strangers and society treat me. I was able to adapt to my physical limitations pretty quickly and rarely ever feel “disabled” in my day-today life. Since the beginning, it has always been more difficult to deal with the comments of uninformed strangers in public and I would’ve never expected that to be the case, as I’m sure most people don’t.
Maybe it’s because my arm is in a sling and a sling usually represents a short-term, non-serious injury but I get asked “what happened to your arm” almost every time I leave the house. I always try to be polite and say “I was in an ATV accident” hoping that will close the door on further questions. It almost never does though. “So, is it broken?”, “were you driving?”, “That’s a really cool way to get hurt”, “where/when did it happen?” are usually some follow ups. The last thing people want when they are disabled is to constantly be reminded that they are, in fact, disabled. Pointing out that I am different and using the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through as an easy small talk starter is not something I like to take part in. Sometimes, when I’m super not in the mood, I’ll say “I don’t want to talk about it” when the topic comes up. I know this comes off as rude, but I think it’s not polite to ask a stranger such personal questions and I really wish more people were aware of that!
“You will look back once you are out of the tough time and be so proud of yourself for coming up with the strength you didn’t even know you had.”
What would you tell someone you is struggling to turn their own bad situation into something good?
It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to not be okay with the situation you are in. Allow yourself time to adjust. To be mad, sad, or feel hopeless. But only you have control over how you react to the bad things that happen to you and only you can choose to make the best of the situation you’re in. If you look at your life with the mindset of “everything happens for a reason” it becomes a lot easier to accept the bad situations and know that this is what was meant for you and one day you will understand. It’s not easy at first, but forcing yourself to see the positives in every situation makes all the difference. Bad things happen, and life goes on. Find a way to move on even though your life is not what you expected it to be. You will look back once you are out of the tough time and be so proud of yourself for coming up with the strength you didn’t even know you had.
Tell us about your professional background and the new company you launched this year!
I graduated from college last December and was so excited to get started on my career in the corporate world. I landed what I thought was my dream job with a company that I’ve been wanting to work for since moving to Florida. And I HATED it. I would dread going in every day and counted the seconds until I could leave. I spent all day day dreaming about what I was going to do with the rest of my life, because I knew it was not the corporate world.
I applied to so many jobs and never found anything that I knew I would actually enjoy. So, I created my own. Now, 6 months later I run Social Thirty Two, a digital advertising company. I am so fortunate to have found my passion and career at just 24 and consider myself so lucky that I get to be my own boss and do a job that I love every day.
What does an average day at Social Thirty Two include?
Emails, phone calls, and a whole lot of screen time on client’s social media accounts mixed with having the luxury to work from home and have the BEST co-workers, my doggies. In all honesty though, every day is different. Some days I spend 12 hours staring at my computer screen, some days I get to spend outside creating content. Having a good balance and being able to do different things every day that for the most part challenge me creatively is my favorite part of what I do.
What exciting things have you got planned for next year?
I am planning on going full time in my company and continuing to grow the business. I have been so fortunate to have Social Thirty Two be such a success in such a short period of time and I can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store for us!
Thank you so much to Alyssa for reaching out to us and wanting to share her inspiring story. Follow Alyssa for more BPI awareness and doggy content. Plus, follow Social Thirty Two for digital marketing tips and tricks.