Define yourself: Choices are personal


MANY times, we allow others to define who we are. We tend to be affected in the first instance by others and learn as time goes on to listen to ourselves. Two life experiences are my guides when I am faced with a tricky issue, or I am vacillating on a decision.

Fifteen years ago, I slipped at Victoria Falls on the Livingstone side. It was in May and very wet. The cobblestone path following the Knife Edge Bridge was overgrown with moss. As I stepped forward, I slipped and attempted to put on brakes with my feet and track shoes to stop the fall. And landed on the ground with both fibula and tibia bones breaking through the skin and my ankle fractured, hanging on a thread.

The paramedic told me that it was a serious injury, and I would not walk for six months and could lose my foot. I looked at him and, in my head, said no one makes such a statement — I will walk and without a limp.

Fast-forward to Milpark Hospital in South Africa and six operations. The plastic surgeon two weeks later warned me that if the open wound did not respond quickly enough to the suction pump draining it there was a strong chance that my foot would be amputated.

He said that the orthopedic surgeon was not being honest with me. I still cannot fathom how he could have said that to me at night.

I was distraught and prayed and placed my left foot on the injured right foot. All night repeating that I would not be defined by that diagnosis.

And asking God to heal my foot.

I listened to the doctors and did what I was told but did not embrace the worst-case scenarios. Forty days immobilised in hospital and thereafter another 14 days to mobilise and remove the pin was arduous.

My miracle foot has been pampered and cared for and last week the x-ray showed that at last the soft tissue and bone had totally healed. It has taken 12-15 years for this to happen, and I am so thankful. The ankle joint and top of the foot is arthritic but not deformed. How grateful I am to have this foot as sore as it is.

Throughout our lives we have experiences where we have the choice to buckle or bend. A childhood saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me”, comes to mind. We do take too much notice of what family and friends and work colleagues say to us. It is always our choice how we consider what is said.

Not taking things to heart has been a lifelong challenge. My tenacity started at high school. At O-level mock exams in June the Maths teacher said she had an important announcement to make.

The school had received the incorrect curriculum. The teacher would select only those pupils with acumen to give crash course lessons with the correct curriculum.

From a class of over 30 pupils, I do not recall how many were selected but the majority, including me, were not. Thinking about this now invokes that feeling of not just accepting the situation. I knew that I had to have both Maths and English as a minimum for future studies.

During the school holidays I worked in a hairdressing salon, washing hair and passing rollers to the qualified hair stylists. Each day of work equated to one Maths lesson. Lugging my bicycle up and over the North End bridge in Bulawayo, I cycled to Mr Pillay's house with such determination.

We worked through past O-level Maths papers, and he discovered that I was good at geometry and so he really worked on that with me.

When announcing the O-level Maths results, the teacher with a frown on her forehead said it’s remarkable that Carol White has a credit, and the top of the class student scored lower. What an opening remark. The teacher and students commiserated with the chosen ones that did not pass.

In that moment I promised myself to never allow anyone to define me.

Some years back that same school friend asked me to speak to his son. He had told his son the story and I encouraged him not to give up and work at his mathematics.

We do know ourselves best and we certainly do not have the answers or always the acumen however applying ourselves and really positioning ourselves for a favourable outcome does work.

Choices are so personal and the ones we make affect our lives, especially relationships. We must make a call and not sit and wait or complain.

Take the emotions of the situation and feel them. Define what is non-negotiable for you. Start with a first step. I am not a great supporter of fancy action plans. They take up a lot of management time and then sit in the business plan and get dusty!

I work with checklists.

Life goals become too heavy to implement and we make excuses.

And end up adjusting or abandoning as we go along.

It works for me to have a big picture in my mind and then start taking steps.

White is a born and bred Zimbabwean. A career spanning banking, hospitality and courier/logistics. She wrote a column in The Post newspaper in Zambia for five years and published a book, Conversations with Carol as well as hosting a TV programme featuring entrepreneurs and small businesses. Passionate about team transformation, customer experience mapping, sales and marketing and leadership which combines increases in profitability and performance, she connects the dots. — [email protected].

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