It’s important to recognise your talent and abilities, and to nurture and develop them.
I have learnt a great deal over the years. For example, live your life to the full every moment, because you don’t know what could happen in the next hour. Lots has changed since my car accident 13 years ago, but I embrace myself and explore who I am. Keep an open mind – we don’t know everything. And don’t be afraid of change.
Growing up in the township was a huge adventure for me. Ever since I can remember, right from when I was a small child, my identity was an issue with me. I grew up as the tomboy that I still am, but life can be challenging. People don’t always see the essence of a person, because they don’t know the struggle on the inside.
We didn’t have gadgets like most children do today but we still had a full life. We went to a local SOS Children’s Village after school to learn how to dance, do karate or just hang with the other children. We would get home and play in the streets until it was dark. During school holidays I looked forward to travelling away from home to visit relatives. I didn’t always love the visits themselves but I looked forward to the trips. I found the township gossip rather boring and irritating, so, to get away from all, I fell in love with sport and found extra-mural activities to be rewarding.
From pre-school until Standard Two, I acted in school plays, taking leading roles. In high school I was the Zola Budd of the time, running barefoot and winning most of my races. It felt so good to win and to achieve all those successes. (I admit, though, that the best part of my day was staying in my bedroom to “be” Michael Jackson or Jon Bon Jovi and write love letters from them to friends of mine.) It was so liberating being the younger me.
In life, some people will blow out someone’s candle so that theirs can shine brighter. It’s probably happened to most of us – but never let your flame be dimmed. Always know that you are shining and can continue to do so, no matter what anyone says about you. Don’t let age scare you either. You can do what you want at 90 just as you did when you were 30. Just be you!
Emilie Olifant is a disability activist, entrepreneur and motivational speaker. She is the director of the Emilie Olifant Foundation, an organisation that strives to address socio-economic issues experienced by people with disabilities. email: firstname.lastname@example.org