It's been a strange week . . . no, really it's been a strange few months. I have a ton of jobs coming in, I am excited about visiting a ton of schools over the next two months, and I am happy that this will create a ton of positivity towards disability to rain down on a negative society. However, this week has been a stream of news that has made me frustrated and angry about the general state of things for disabled people. My passion for disability activism has been inflamed. Two sides to me have emerged - the angry disability activist and the happy, positive, motivational speaker.
This is where there is a small (or perhaps large) dilemma for me - how do I temper my passion (for disability activism) with my positivity (to always being happy with my lot in life and letting people know it). This is an issue that I have really had to think about. You see, I can't go into schools and start ranting on about the serious impact that government policy is having on the human rights of those with disabilities - I can imagine the children would just look at me as if I'm nuts and then run away from the "scary" lady. (Cause face it, when I am in rant mode, I can be a little crazy). So I have had to rationalise what I speak about with the audience that I am addressing and the impact that I am trying to have. This is something that we can all do . . . it's called being mindful.
So, let's start with "rationalising" - I am many things, I am a Paralympic Medallist, I am an academic, I am a disability activist, I am a woman, I am a motivational speaker, I am a daughter, sister, Aunt, and niece, but, I do not have to be all of these things in one moment. So, when I am going into schools I am Paralympic Medallist and motivational Elizabeth, there to inspire the students to live life to their full potential. When I am writing on my activate disability blog I am activist and academic Elizabeth, and when I am back in Australia I am daughter, sister, Aunt, and niece Elizabeth. I am all of these things all the time, but I can select what to bring forward, what to show, at whatever moment I am in life.
Which brings me to "addressing" - When I am speaking in a school I address the issues that are relevant for the students. Positivity, understanding, motivation, achievement, and the like. If I fail to address the right issues for the right audience, then I have failed in my purpose for being there. You have to be mindful of your approach, be honest, and always remember, ALWAYS remember who it is that you are talking to, and don't let your passion for one topic overtake your focus topic of the moment
And then you come to "impact" - Without rationalising your passion with your topic you will address the wrong issues/audience and therefore have no impact. As speakers, we need have impact . . . otherwise we will shrivel up into a little insignificant dot of "no impact." When I go to speak to children I know what stories will have the best impact on them, the issues that will inspire and motivate. I know that they don't really care that the changes to the NHS are going to prove to be an expensive challenge for people with disabilities. WHAT they DO care about is what it was like to stand on the podium receiving my silver medal or how I tie up shoe laces . . . and yet, somehow, the impact is just as powerful as the political one, just as important.
Having written my thoughts out, mulled over the issue of passion v positivity, I have come to the conclusion that they can both have powerful impacts for the same purpose. Those children that I speak to, they will grow up and know that what it politically said about disability (disability activism being my passion) can't all be correct - because they met me, and (hopefully) I have helped them realise that disability is not a negative, sad thing, that disability is just another example of the human experience. They will grow up knowing that we are all equals and all deserve to have our basic human rights met. So all that positivity talk (that happy, shiny, fun stuff that I like to talk about to children) is just as much an impact as all the passion/political talk.
Passion v positivity . . . more like Passion + Positivity = IMPACT.