When I spoke at Oamaru Intermediate a few years ago, one of the female students wrote to me afterwards and said “when I grow up I hope to be as lucky as you!”
And boy have I been lucky.
Or has it been luck?
Today is the day when I think about what I’ve learned in my first 20 years as a blind person. It didn’t take me long to work out what the stand out message of my life up until this moment has been. After turning down the opportunity to go cross country skiing when I was newly blind, I changed my response from no to why not whenever I was asked to do something out of my comfort zone.
To commemorate the day I Have collated my top 20 questions I’ve said why not to since I went blind in 1997 and come up with the following platinum list.
1 Do you want to go for a walk?
2 Do you want to learn how to use some new technology?
3 Do you want to bring truffles for morning tea?
4 Do you want to come and speak to our club?
5 Do you want to learn braille?
6 Do you want to do a half marathon?
7 Do you want to throw a party?
8 Have you thought about writing a book?
9 Do you want to go up in a hot air balloon?
10 Do you want to do the Polar Plunge?
11 Do you want to go to the Great Wall of China?
12 Do you want to have your own radio show?
13 Do you want to do an event in the Fringe Festival?
14 Do you want to dress up?
15 Do you want to ride an elephant in India?
16 Do you want to touch the Great Pyramids in Egypt?
17 Do you want to cycle the Otago Rail Trail?
18 Do you want to go on the Shotover jet?
19 Do you want to go to Samoa?
20 Do you want to referee a game of nude touch rugby?
When I went blind in 1997, I thought my life had ended. Little did I realise it had only just begun. Since going blind I’ve said why not to walking 9 half marathons and 10 Papatowai Challenges, to going up in a hot air balloon and to cycling the Otago Rail Trail, to hosting my own award winning radio show and to writing my own book, to learning how to read with my fingers and to referee three games of nude touch rugby. And if that wasn’t enough, I also said why not to travelling to 50 countries by the time I was 50, including visiting the Seven Wonders of the World.
I discovered life really does begin at the end of my comfort zone. At times I was really uncomfortable learning to do things in different ways but little did I realise that saying why not to doing these things was getting me off the couch and moving me towards a new life.
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all those people who have helped me in my first 20 years as a blind person. From the Blind Foundation to the blind people who have inspired me, from my family to my friends, from total strangers to the people I love. Thank you for helping me be the best blind person I can be!
But most of all I’d like to say thank you to those two small words: WHY NOT!
You have changed my life.