My Annual Birthday: Answering the Big Question

A woman in profile, looking towards the sky. She is wearing a helmet with goggles that have a red frame. The helmet is black with red straps and has a rugged design. She is also wearing a black jacket. Her hair is brown and is flowing in the wind. In the background, there is a hill covered with greenery and the sky is cloudy.

Those who have read my book, A Different Way of Seeing, may remember that I have an annual birthday ritual of reflecting on whether the preceding year has been my best yet – whether I have learned, grown, thrived, and moved forward both personally and professionally.

Of course, with all that has happened over the past month, it becomes difficult to view the year objectively. Losing my beloved guide dog Fiji late in October, and then landing up in hospital for an operation – on my actual birthday – have cast a significant pall over the rest of the year. But I’ll try to see beyond those and consider the year in its entirety. And when I do, I’m aware of how many wonderful and positive things have also happened since my last birthday, not the least of which was the experience of riding on a motor bike which you can see in the image.

Following several years of procrastination, I launched my updated website in January. And am happy that it better reflects the work I’m doing, and consolidates everything nicely. Sure, in a few years I’ll probably need to tweak a few things, as parts of my business develop further, but I’m happy with it for now.

I’ve spoken at a number of physical and online events, and have added a new keynote on what travel is like for me as a blind person, which has been well received. Other speaking highlights have been speaking on event accessibility at the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa midterm convention, and at two separate events on the topic of self-advocacy, one of those being at the quadrennial conference of the South African National Council for the Blind. I also participated in a global summit on accessible travel, where I offered advice to the tourism and hospitality industry on how to accommodate the needs of blind travellers.

I continue to work within the disability sector, where a definite highlight was working with Karren Visser on an inclusive heritage project to help make the District Six Museum more aware of vivid and inclusive storytelling as a technique to make their museum experience more accessible. Not to mention that the final phase of the Never Seen blind photography project, led by Karren, also took place early this year.

Another exciting step forward was the start of my disability coaching business, working with clients with disabilities to help them achieve their business and personal goals. While I’ve been using the skill of coaching for a long time, it’s only in the last year that I’ve decided to make it a formal part of my business, and I absolutely love being able to add value to people’s lives in this way.

I’ve also been busy podcasting, releasing 20 episodes in the last 12 months and continuing to strategically plan how to use my podcast to generate income in the coming months. I have lots of plans that are slowly but surely coming together and you’ll see those rolling out in the next month or two. Admittedly, I haven’t guested on as many podcasts recently, but there is only so much that one can do, right?

It’s also been a wonderful year of travel, with two trips to Mauritius and locally to Polokwane and Durban. The first Mauritius visit was for business and the second purely for enjoyment. My trip to Polokwane was for a speaking event and I loved having the opportunity of visiting my aunt in Durban, having not seen her for many years. Of course, I also took the opportunity of meeting up with friends while I was there and what resulted was a full, and fun, weekend.

There have really only been two parts of my life that I feel I’ve neglected. The first is that I haven’t spent as much time with my friends as I would have liked. Thankfully, my family have been really good at nudging me when I’ve been absent for too long, but ultimately spending more quality time with friends and family is something I hope to do more of in the coming year.

The other thing I hope to focus on in the coming months is my writing. I continue to blog semi-regularly, though I slip up and miss the odd week on occasion. But it’s about time I began working on my next book projects. I have a few ideas in mind, including the updated version of Fiji’s Paws for Thought, and really need to knuckle down and start prioritizing them.

I am so grateful for the amazing people I have in my life – my friends, my family, and my colleagues. Not a day goes past that I don’t chat to people by phone, on WhatsApp, Zoom or via e-mail. And it is the people with whom I am in contact that make me appreciate exactly how fortunate I am. Thank you all for bringing such joy and purpose to my world.

Special words of thanks must go to my accountability coach and friend, Rebecca and, of course, my husband Craig. Rebecca and I chat each week to plan what we wish to achieve and she has gently and firmly held me accountable for the goals I’ve set for myself, which has made a fundamental difference this year. And I honestly couldn’t do half of what I do without the encouragement and support that Craig

gives me. And finally, to my two beloved rescue dogs, Onyx and Allie, whose unconditional love and constant antics have kept me laughing when things have been tough.

Which really only leaves me with that huge unanswered question… has this been my best year yet?

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