Lessons From Zoey

Lessons From Zoey

By Michaela Gordon, OTR/L

If you asked me 3 years ago if I would be an author, I would have most definitely have said, “No way!” It started very innocently. A child I was working with was struggling with her friend. The more she tried to connect with her, the more her friend pulled away. We discussed that our energy takes up space, other people can feel our energy, and sometimes it can feel too much, even when we have the best of intentions. I explained that if she just made her energy a bit smaller, her friend might feel more comfortable, and they could spend more time together. 


I thought these points were important to understand. I often use books and activities to further explain concepts to the kids. The trouble was I couldn’t find anything explaining how our energy takes up space and how people feel that energy, so I wrote her a story. The child liked the story and it helped her. I had some other kids that I thought would also benefit from this concept so I read the story to them. They also liked it. A handful of parents mentioned I should publish the story and with enough encouragement, I decided to start the publishing process. 


From there, it was a long windy road to self-publishing. I had no idea what I was getting myself into! My years of being a novice occupational therapist were several decades behind me, but when it came to writing and publishing a book, I was right back at the starting line and the race to the finish line has not linear, but a course with winding roads, hills, and let’s be honest, sometimes I felt like I was climbing a mountain! Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the picture above and the final cover of my book and you can get a sense of where I started!


I bring up this point because it is important to know that something being hard and not being good at it right away, does not mean you shouldn’t do it or that you aren’t capable. Even if you never master that one thing you put so much effort into, there is something about challenging yourself and continually learning that can be highly valuable in discovering more about yourself. 


Here are things I learned from writing Zoey and Her Amazing Energy Bubble! and what I’d like to pass on to you:

  1. Let life surprise you! Every time I think I have life figured out, it decides to shake things up for me! Having no idea what I was doing during this process, I had to just trust the steps I could see in front of me, hoping the next steps would reveal themselves as I went along. I am still in the process as I approach the launch of my book at the end of the week and I navigate what happens next. I am not too sure you ever get to the end of anything, but maybe that is ok. What matters is that you are taking those steps forward!
  2. Expand your I am (fill in the blank). You are constantly discovering who you are through your experiences. Challenging yourself with new experiences keeps you open to who you could be. I am a writer. Even though I write all the time as a therapist, I didn’t consider myself a writer, but now I do! I never thought I’d be a publisher, but I am now! I didn’t think I could make and edit videos for social media. Now I can! I had no idea I had that in me. What do you have hidden inside of yourself?
  3. Look for your helpers. I had a mix of experiences along the way. Some people were so incredibly helpful and others were not. Although I don’t like to admit it, even the people who were not helpful to me, were an important part of the process because I learned important things about myself and it strengthened my discernment to make better future decisions. Of course, we love it when we find our village. Those people who understand us and support us in reaching our goals. I was so fortunate to have connected with some amazing people with whom without their help, my book wouldn’t have existed. Don’t let bad interactions stop you and keep looking for those helpers!
  4. Step towards your fears when you are called to action. At first, I wrote this story for one child. Then that turned into multiple children. Then I thought I would publish this book and then whoever happened to randomly find it, could enjoy it at their leisure. What I didn’t know was that it was time for me to come out of my comfort zone and speak up. I know for the energy bubble concept to be powerful, it needs to be learned by all kids. It’s time we start to teach the concepts and tools we teach to our neurodiverse children to their peers as well. It is time a time when accommodation is just not enough for many of our children. Inclusion can’t happen unless peers are helping peers. It is time we have books that explicitly teach social-emotional skills so that we don’t leave behind the kids who won’t get the hidden message in many children’s books. We can all help in our own ways to make the changes we wish to see in the world around us. Zoey is a vessel for me to be a voice for kids of all abilities on a level I couldn’t have imagined 3 years ago. When the opportunity comes, take action! If not you, then who?
  5. Be a good model. I ask kids all the time to do hard things and they tell me they can’t, all the time. It is so rewarding to watch them overcome obstacles and gain skills to become their best selves. I think it’s really important for us to show them through our actions that we too are doing hard things. Let’s talk about it, let’s work through it, and let’s celebrate each other as we navigate through the challenges we face in life!
  6. Use your gifts to help others. No matter your gifts and talents, they are needed. There is something about you that no one else possesses. Sometimes we take our gifts and talents for granted, assuming that everyone has them, but that is not true. It might not always be clear what we should be doing, but if it’s helpful and feels right, then pursue it. 

I hope Zoey and Her Amazing Energy Bubble! has a positive impact on those who read it. I hope the concept helps them understand themselves better and helps them feel empowered to manage what shows up in their day. I hope this concept promotes healthy relationships with others and builds a sense of compassion for each other’s needs. Learning to co-regulate is one of the most important things to learn in life. When we can co-regulate, we can create healthy living with one another. 


 -Michaela E. Gordon, OTR/L