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Michelle Tellison overcomes challenges to achieve her goal.
by Megan Smith
Photo by Yvonne Feece
When Michelle Tellison was born in Bay City, Texas, the doctors found that she had all ten fingers, all ten toes—and cerebral palsy.
After Tellison moved to Houston with her family at age six, she explains that her schooling was not a smooth experience. Her condition—a disorder of movement, muscle tone, or posture that is caused by injury or abnormal development in the immature brain, most often before birth—affects her speech and requires her to use a wheelchair. Many schools, including her own, did not have adequate cerebral palsy support services.
On top of her schooling troubles, Tellison realized around age eight that she had an attraction to other girls. At fifteen, she came out as a lesbian.
Now at age forty-eight, Tellison doesn’t let ableism, homophobia, or hardship stop her. She is able to use public transportation to get around town and, after some difficulty, has found an apartment that accommodates her needs. “I live by myself,” Tellison says. “I am very independent.”
However, despite having her high school diploma, Tellison’s disability has prevented her from holding a steady job. She currently lives on a fixed income of $500 per month. “And that’s really hard to live on,” she says.
Although she receives some financial help from loved ones, Tellison strives to become more self-sufficient. “I do have friends and family that help sometimes, but I don’t want to depend on them all the time,” she says.
To achieve better financial stability, Tellison dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and developing an at-home business. Her current idea is to sell T-shirts that have to do with twelve-step programs and recovery. Sober for twenty-two years and an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous, Tellison has been asking others on her Facebook page to submit their favorite recovery slogans for these future shirts. Her personal favorite is “One day at a time.”
A big fan of solving mysteries, Tellison is also very interested in research and private investigation (P.I.) work. She believes this is another way for her to earn a little extra money. “I will find stuff that is difficult to find that would take up a lot of your time to find,” Tellison says. “I love everything about P.I. work, and I have had a couple of freelance cases, but nothing real, no real job. I know how to locate people and I know how to use a computer.”
Advances in technology have helped her communicate and stay connected with others more efficiently, Tellison says. She believes it will also help her build her client base once she has her business up and running.
Tellison has set up an online donation page—including a video that tells her story and plan—for anyone who wants to contribute to her entrepreneurial dream. She is currently a little over $100 short of her $500 goal. Those interested in donating can do so at gofundme.com/1x282w.
“I really believe that I could have a little home-based business,” Tellison says. “I believe I can do that.”