International Women's Day: Rebecca Alexander

Rebecca Alexander, Psychotherapist and Author

March 2, 2015

Since the early 1900’s, International Women’s Day has been observed throughout the world, inspiring women and celebrating their achievements. ‘Make It Happen’ is the 2015 theme, encouraging effective action for advancing and recognizing women. In honor of this, First Republic Bank would like to share the inspiring perspectives of some of our exceptional female clients.

Rebecca Alexander is a psychotherapist living in New York City with two master’s degrees from Columbia University. She is a spin instructor, extreme athlete and published author. She is also almost completely blind and deaf.

Born with a rare genetic disorder called Usher Syndrome Type III, she has been simultaneously losing her vision and hearing since adolescence.

At the age of 18, a fall from a second-story window left her body completely shattered. It would require a tremendous amount of surgery, physical therapy, and determination for Rebecca to put her body back together again. We spoke with Rebecca to learn more about her courageous story.

1. WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

I'm most proud of the fact that I get up and live each day in the present. I have plenty of obstacles and challenges I face right now and these challenges are only going to become more difficult over time. But, losing my vision and hearing will never stop me from living a wonderfully full life.  I have refused to lose my drive and zest for life. Having a disability means it may take me longer to accomplish my goals and I may need more people to help me in my efforts. But, it will never stop me from achieving whatever I set out to do.

2. IF YOU COULD TURN THE CLOCK BACK TO BEFORE YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER PATH, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF?

I would cheer myself on and remind myself to keep following my gut and pursue what interests me most and makes me happiest. It has been a bumpy road at times, but my gut has never steered me wrong.

3. IN YOUR BOOK “NOT FADE AWAY” YOU FOCUS ON LIVING EACH DAY WITH A POSITIVE ATTITUDE – HOW HAVE YOU MAINTAINED YOUR ‘GLASS HALF FULL’ OUTLOOK IN SPITE OF ALL THE CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED?

We all have a choice. We can decide that our glass is half full or that our glass is half empty. Why would I choose to see my glass as half empty if I have the choice to see it as half full?  Everyone is dealt a different set of cards, some more difficult than others.  I am very sad about the things that I can no longer do because of my disabilities and I allow myself to mourn each loss I experience so that I can continue to live my life without pent up sadness, anger, and grief that could otherwise manifest in unproductive and unhealthy ways.

4. WHO HAS BEEN A ROLE MODEL TO YOU IN YOUR LIFE/CAREER AND WHY?

I have had so many wonderful role models in my life. Having role models is such a crucial part of life. My mother and my stepmother have both had tremendous influences on my life. Another significant role model was Joni Smith, the Director of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services at the University of Michigan where I attended for my undergraduate degree. I learned from her the importance of generosity. Being generous with our time, with our efforts, and with resources fulfills me as much as it helps others.

5. THIS YEAR’S THEME FOR INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY IS ‘MAKE IT HAPPEN’, ENCOURAGING EFFECTIVE ACTION FOR ADVANCING AND RECOGNIZING WOMEN. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ACTION A WOMAN CAN TAKE IN HER LIFE TO MEET HER OWN VISION FOR SUCCESS?

As women, I think it is crucial for us to hold ourselves accountable for achieving our own happiness and success. Although we’ve come a long way, women are often still taught that finding a husband or partner is the best way to gain financial security and fulfillment. I have accomplished a lot in my life and each of these accomplishments is a result of my own commitment, hard work, and belief in myself and what I’m capable of. There is no better feeling than reaping the benefits of my own hard work.

6. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR LEGACY TO BE?

I’d like people to learn from me the importance of how we treat others. People often look at me, and say, “Wow, you don’t look like you have a disability.” This just goes to show you that you never know what someone is walking around with.  Knowing that my glass is half full rather than half empty, means that I am able to treat others and view the world as half full rather than half empty too.