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My Inner Voice

The date was July 19, 1991, when I had my eye surgery due to a retinal detachment. Little did I know then that this would be a turning point in my life--a time which would clearly mark the beginning of a new chapter--a long challenging chapter. I had never taken sight for granted, having had sight in only one eye since birth, but I was not prepared to lose what I did have.

The first few months were terrifying. An uncertainty of what was to happen next, a definite fear of the unknown. It was as though my past flashed before me. A glimpse of everything I had done, gone to school, travelled, worked, danced--everything that may not be again. I would have to start my life over, but with new rules, rules that I didn't know, rules that I didn't like. What do I do, and where do I begin?

It was fast approaching the fall months and holiday season. Diwali, the most auspicious festival of the Hindu faith, was just around the corner, and the organization of different social events was under way. Until now, this was a celebration of which I had always been a part. Since the age of eleven, dancing in the various Diwali celebrations was a tradition for me. A tradition that may no longer be mine. As the date grew closer for one particular event, I could feel the emotions raging. A voice from within telling me that I had to perform.

Performing was something that I had always enjoyed, it was a part of who I was. I listened to this inner voice and decided that I would follow my heart, I would continue doing something I loved. I may have lost my sight, but I wasn't going to lose my vision of who I was. When I shared my thoughts with those closest to me, I was confronted with mixed responses; some of natural concern (for example, falling off the stage or facing the wrong direction), yet others of sheer discouragement and disapproval. Comments such as "are you out of your mind?" Despite all the comments and concerns, I decided to dance.

Finding the perfect song would be a pleasant challenge. In Indian dance, there is usually a story behind each song. Through the use of hand gestures and facial expressions, dance is used as an instrument to interpret the story behind the song. Through much searching, I had found the ideal piece. It was a song which expressed the strength and determination of a young woman who had fallen in love. In love with a man, with life, with everything around her. Her message was one of how she would follow her heart and dance with joy, despite what others thought. Sentiments that expressed exactly how I felt. The symbolism portrayed in that song was, indeed, my reality.

The day of the show had finally arrived, and even the family and friends that were initially concerned and afraid for me were now supportive and encouraging. I was standing back stage as the MC introduced me. The moment felt so surreal. I couldn't believe that I was about to take such a huge step, yet it felt so right. The anticipation and excitement was growing as I felt the rush of adrenalin through my body. Within seconds, the curtain opened--it was time.

As I danced my way to centre stage, I could hear the silence of the audience in sync with the rhythm of the music. As I danced across the hardwood floor, I remember experiencing true joy for the first time since my surgery. As I expressed the meaning of the song through my dancing, I was sending a message to the world--that I was ready to face it head-on with confidence and ready to face the challenges of life--(despite) no matter what others thought.

As the song neared its end, and as I twirled in circles in the final moments of the performance, I heard the roar and applause of the audience grow louder, only to be followed by a standing ovation. A moment which had made all the efforts worthwhile--a moment which will remain engrained in my memory and my heart forever.

Since that first performance, there have been many challenges I have faced, and many obstacles that I have overcome. There have also been many accomplishments, which have made the joy of overcoming those obstacles all the sweeter. From my experiences, I have learned that, if we truly believe in something, we can accomplish it. What made it possible for me was the belief in myself, faith that I was capable of accomplishing anything I set my mind to, and listening to the most important voice of all--my inner voice. It has been said, and I truly believe, that "Life is a gift given by God. What we make of it is a gift from us to God."