It’s rare that I meet other people named Lois. So it was fun for me to discover a fellow Lois when we both attended an online meeting a year ago.
It turns out that Lois Wagner and I have quite a lot in common. Like me, she is a speaker, writer, coach, and activist. And we work in similar fields – helping people overcome challenges and move forward with their lives. Admittedly, we arrived at this destination through very different experiences – for me it was losing my sight as an adult, and for Lois it was surviving a horrific attack in her workplace. But it is uncanny how much we do that is similar.
Earlier this month Lois Wagner launched a podcast, called Walking without Skin. That’s also the title of her first book, which she released at the same time I published my memoir, I was excited when Lois invited me to be a guest on her podcast, and jumped at the chance!
What I love about the Walking without Skin Podcast is the diversity of Lois’s guests and the messages they share with the listeners. Some of the lessons are simple and are wonderful reminders of things we already know. But some are moving and profound.
If you’d like to get a taste of what Lois’s podcast is like, why not listen to the episode with my interview. You’ll find it at here.
And then you can always follow the podcast if you choose to.
Over the years I’ve come to believe that the way you see the future is one of the factors that impacts on how easily you’re able to take on the obstacles you face. So, being asked to inspire blind and visually impaired graduates to continue to move forwards with their lives with hope and determination was a special honour for me.
When I speak, I often quote the ancient Stoic philosopher Epictetus who said “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. I usually pair that with a quote from Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right”. Like so many other things in life I believe we have a choice in how we see the future – and that’s the message I shared with the students who were graduating.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The date was 29 November 2018. The place was the Cape Town Society for the Blind (CTSB) and the event was the graduation ceremony for the 90 students who had completed skills courses with CTSB during 2018.
As I sat waiting to start speaking the pride, excitement and enthusiasm of the students, their proud families and friends, and the facilitators from CTSB was almost palpable. And I’ll bet you would have struggled to find anyone who wasn’t overcome with emotion as the students spoke of that pride, the joy and the hope they were feeling.
I fervently agreed with the address given by the CTSB CEO, Lizelle van Wyk, when she shared with the students that the graduation was only the beginning for them and that they needed to continue to grow their skills, their confidence and their courage as they went out to show the world that disability does not mean inability. Lizelle shared an impressively long list of jobs held by visually impaired and blind people around the world, and other speakers added yet more job opportunities to the list as the morning progressed.
As each student received their certificates, I was fascinated to hear the diverse list of programmes they were being recognized for. I think my journey as a blind person may have been very different if I’d been able to access the types of skills being taught now. Back when I lost my sight my options were more limited – O&M training (orientation and mobility, which included walking with a white mobility cane), Braille, some basic computer skills and some lifeskills training. Hopefully I’ll learn more about what the students are being taught in the coming year as I continue to partner with CTSB.
For a great summary of the event and a complete list of the courses offered by CTSB, take a look at the following article from the People’s Post, shared on News-24:
Thanks to CTSB’s amazing Fundraiser, Nicky Jacobs, for sending the photo of me presenting at the graduation.
Many of you know that one of the first things I did after losing my sight was to join a rock band. Playing music became one of the constants in my life as I came to terms with my blindness and struggled to overcome the challenges of learning to live as a blind woman in a sighted world.
Somehow, over the past few years my music has faded into the background – when I think about it I can’t tell you when I last sat down and played either my guitar or my keyboard.
In the past few months I’ve started playing again – initially just reminding myself of some of my older songs but more recently beginning to create songs again… and I can’t believe I sidelined such a crucial part of my way of being for so long. It feels like I’ve found part of myself again.
Here is a link to some of the songs I wrote – none of the newly created songs I’m afraid – but songs I played with my last band, Tuesday’s child:
I hope you enjoy them!