One email led to a chain of events that changed lives

There’s a first time for everything — first steps, first words or first new experiences. With each of those comes a feeling of uncertainty or fear, no matter how many times it’s pushed down or ignored.

It’s a feeling that’s sometimes confusing, but can also help you gain a new perspective. It lets you know you’re human — and capable of doing things others may have thought you couldn’t. I’ve always learned valuable lessons from this, but I think I learned the biggest one of all while sitting on stage at Penn State Altoona, my college alma mater, a few years ago.

The campus was holding a career fair and asked me to do a presentation about my work — along with my mentor, friend and fellow writer Cameron Conaway. He was invited to talk about his career, as well. I knew he was equally excited as I was to participate.

I had just been hired at The Huffington Post a few months before, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to talk about my path and potentially help someone else who was looking to become a writer. I also wanted people to know about the impact Cameron has had on my career — hiring me at The Good Men Project and giving me the tools I needed to move forward professionally.

We agreed to do the presentation together. We posted about the fair on social media in the weeks leading up to it, and when the big day arrived, a crowd was lining up to get a seat. I was overwhelmed with emotion, but as I was led onstage, I held back tears.

Cameron had a big slide-show presentation set up, highlighting my writing and how our paths crossed — by a single e-mail. He even had parts of that e-mail on the overhead screen.

He gave a beautiful introduction to the crowd about what led him to writing and the impact it’s made on his life.

He then dove into my career — talking about what inspired him to reach out to me, offer me a job on nothing more than a hunch and incidentally change my life.

I saw Cameron’s face beam with pride as he spoke in front of about 200 people. I sat beside him onstage with just as much pride in my heart, trying not to cry and stay quiet until it was my turn to talk. I was completely blown away by what he had to say. I had the same glowing things to say about him, too.

Looking back, I find those things even more meaningful now because I don’t know if I’d be where I am today without that one fateful e-mail early in my journey as a writer. Cameron helped me off stage when we finished our presentation. The audience was cheering and clapping loudly. As we made our way into a quiet hallway, he hugged me with tears in his eyes and said, “We did it! I’m so proud of what just happened out there!”

In that moment, I not only learned to embrace my truth, but to also live it every day. Cameron has taught me that one can truly spread their wings when they feel comfortable with whatever the truth is for them. He saw and understood my truth, and decided to let it shine.

For that, I’m eternally grateful. Sometimes it takes people a while to warm up to me. I understand why and it’s OK, because I now fully understand that the main component in the longevity of my career is patience — just like it is in life.

Thank you, Cameron, for being an incredibly wise confidant and friend. I hope I continue to make you proud!

Erin Kelly, 32, of Altoona, was born with cerebral palsy in Korea. She also writes for online publications The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, Upworthy, and Real Talk Magazine. Email her at