2016: A Self-Reflection

As I type this, I’m enjoying the atmosphere Edinburgh has to offer. It’s a gorgeous city, and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to reflect on this year.

2016 was certainly not what I was expecting this time last year. Truth be told, it was one of the most challenging years I’ve had.

So…what happened this year? What did I learn? What will I be bringing into the new year?

Finishing my Masters: This year was the final year in my Masters course, and I had no idea what was in store for me. The most challenging part of this was my thesis; it had the most impact on myself. In the midst of thesis writing, my mental wellbeing took a hit, and I had a few meltdowns. My third meltdown forced myself to seek help and support from my loved ones, and to seek counselling so I could finish my thesis. With the support of my supervisor, my best friends, my boss, my counsellor, and the university, I was able to finish my thesis – even if I had to request for two extensions. I am quite proud of the work I created – it’s certainly ground-breaking (well, I hope it is!). I’m still waiting on the final mark, but I can say that I’ll be graduating next June with a Master of International and Community Development (with a Distinction!). I’ll be honest here: I actually thought of withdrawing early, but I knew I was close to the end, so I pushed myself to the finish line. Some of you know that I intend to do my PhD; however, I am not quite ready to embark on the PhD path as I am still recovering from my thesis, and I need to step outside my comfort zone that is the university sphere for a while. This break will also allow me to decide on a research topic for when I decide to start my PhD.

Deaf Community Awards Night: This was something I did not expect to do this year! With the changes in Deaf Victoria earlier this year, I was given the task of organising and coordinating the awards night. Based on my previous event management experience, I wasn’t feeling too confident about my ability to pull off a successful night. With support from James and Debra (thank you – you two did more than you realise!), the night was a huge success with everyone enjoying themselves. I loved seeing the Victorian Deaf community mingling with each other in one room – there were people new to the Deaf community and they even had a ball! I had a number of people coming up to me saying that they really enjoyed themselves and how they were looking forward to the next one. This gave myself a renewed confidence, especially with event management. It’s moments like these when I love seeing the Deaf community getting together, and be proud of what we’ve all achieved.

National Emergency Management Project: I was given an opportunity to work at Vicdeaf as the Project Officer for the National Emergency Management Project in December 2015. Initially, I never thought I would be working in an emergency management project again, given what happened a couple of years ago and the impact it had on my own mental well-being. At first, I was skeptical but I realised I was being given an opportunity to start over and do better. And that I did. I had the opportunity to work closely with Julie (Project Coordinator) and later on, Jess (Resources Development Officer) throughout this year, and I have been incredibly lucky to work with amazing people. When I think about it, I realise I contributed so much to the project. I polished my research skills, and I acquired new skills such as report-writing. This project was also instrumental to my Masters thesis, as they both overlapped, which was timely and important. The project has since wrapped up, and I am so grateful for the opportunity Vicdeaf has given me. I’ll echo Hilary’s sentiment and say that Vicdeaf certainly is the best organisation to work for! With the experience and skills acquired from this project and Vicdeaf, I am very much looking forward to bringing these into future employment opportunities and other avenues.

America: What an incredible country. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to spend 5 weeks in America, especially with Sophie and Pip. This trip taught me so much more than I imagined, and it also strengthened my friendship with the girls. I visited Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and I was mesmerised at its beauty and its incredible offerings. I would love to return there one day as a researcher or in a similar position, and to be able to take in its atmosphere when it’s in full swing. I also had the opportunity to meet with Convo whilst in Austin, TX (Hi Wayne, Braam, Manny and Tamara!). I was blown away by the organisation, and what it has to offer the Deaf community in America. The people who work there are beyond incredible.  I love Convo’s philosophy and its approach to the Deaf community, especially at the grassroots level. If an excellent job opportunity with Convo was available, well…you know what I’d do (as long there’s a frappuccino machine available ;)). We also went to the Deaf Nation World Expo in Las Vegas. SO MANY DEAF PEOPLE OMG. I loved meeting Deaf people from all over America, from all walks of life. America is so much more than just Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles. It’s such a diverse country, filled to the brim with people from different cultures and walks of life. Not one state is the same. I look forward to returning to America in the near future. 

Auslan Mastering: Two incredible ladies gave me an opportunity I never thought I would say yes to, given my limited experience in theatre. I was given an opportunity to be the Auslan Master for Deafferent Theatre’s inaugural show Black is the Colour at Melbourne Fringe. What an amazing ride. I loved working with a team of amazing ladies – Ilana, Jess, Anna, Hilary, and Jessica. Deafferent Theatre is a bilingual theatre company – the brainchild of Jess and Ilana – and I am looking forward to seeing more groundbreaking works they will produce. They’ll be shaking the theatre world in so many ways (I’ve said this probably 4 times already!). To read more about my experience as the Auslan Master, click here.

Making a MAJOR decision: It’s taken me years to make this decision, and I’m now making it public. This time last year, I made a decision to get assessed for a cochlear implant and whether I would be a potential candidate. From January to April this year, I attended a series of appointments at the Melbourne Cochlear Implant Clinic (at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital) to assess my eligibility. In early April, I was given the news that I was eligible to be implanted in my right ear (actually, both ears but they want to implant my right ear first). I chose to go ahead with the surgery, although I was put on a public wait list. My original surgery date was 10th November, although that’s clearly been postponed…so my new surgery date is in early February. This decision has been more than a decade in the making, more particularly in the last 5 years. I will be blogging more about this journey in 2017 – keep an eye on this space!

Looking after myself mentally and physically: This year, my mental wellbeing took a hit in America, and during my thesis writing process. It took a lot out of me, especially to admit that I needed help and support (I had to swallow my pride in order to do that). As mentioned earlier, I reached out after a few meltdowns but I’m glad I got the help I needed. My motivation was also impacted by the state of my mental wellbeing. The lack of motivation was a major struggle, especially during thesis writing. I’ve slowly started rediscovering my motivation, and I don’t want to lose that again. Since then, I’ve learnt to look after myself better. I’ve learnt what triggers my anxiety. I’ve learnt to take a few steps back and to breathe – especially that I was on auto-pilot for the most of this year, which wasn’t a nice feeling. I’ve also learnt to communicate better and to be more transparent with my loved ones, so I can receive love and support I need from them. The state my mental health was in also impacted my physical wellbeing; I was sick more often than usual, which forced myself to stop and recover every time. I don’t want to force myself to stop and recover more often than necessary, so I need to find and create a new balance in the new year…especially that I’m done with my studies. I also need to create my own hygge space, that is my room. My room needs to be more than just a place to sleep; it needs to become a place to reflect, relax and to be content with self. I’ve also learnt that I need to be more present, and not to worry too much about what will happen tomorrow, next month or next year.  Being in France and Scotland this month has allowed me to wind down, to get myself into a hygge state, and to refresh my mind frame for the new year.

I look forward to recreating myself outside of the university sphere in the new year, and most importantly, finding my balance. My theme for 2017 will be: breathe. This will remind me to take a step or two back and to breathe, especially when things become overwhelming and when I’m at my limit.

May the new year bring you new memories, adventures, more love, new lessons and opportunities, and most importantly joy.

S x

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