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Impact 0309: Youth living with paralysis: Having the courage to face life and find happiness

Wong Zi Heng · 3 January 2022
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Wong Zi Heng, 30, suffered a cervical spinal cord injury when he was 21, which left him paralysed from the chest down and in parts of his arms. With the help and support from the people around him, he was able to move forward in life. One of the ways Zi Heng tries to give back to the community is by sharing his story whenever he gets the chance. He shares some of the lessons that he has learnt through his journey.

1.
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain

Life will never be fair or perfect. Some people get to live to an old age, while some lose their lives when they are still young. Some people are born into wealthy families, while some struggle to put food on the table. Happiness does not mean that everything is perfect, it means that we have to look beyond the imperfections. We cannot make things perfect, but we can try to make them better, and that itself is a form of hope and optimism.

2.
Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward

We can’t change the past as it has already happened. What matters is the present as it will soon be the past, which we can only look back on. The present carries the power to influence our future. It is okay if we are uncertain about the future as many people are too. So, we have to learn to take things one step at a time as patience is a form of kindness to ourselves.

3.
Do not regret your decisions because at some point, it could be what you wished for

Sometimes, when we look back on life, it is normal to have regrets over some choices we have made. We can learn to be more mindful when making decisions and remember how we arrived at them. When things don’t happen as we wished for, we can reassure ourselves that it was the best decision that we could have made at that point in time as we did not have knowledge of the future. 

From there, we can also learn from the experience and improve our subsequent choices, which is more helpful than just blaming ourselves. Bonus tip: More people regret what they did not do than what they have done. Let’s do as much as we can before we can’t do them anymore.

4.
It is not happy people who are thankful, but thankful people who are happy

Life is fragile and we should not take things for granted. We should learn to treasure what we have. Many times, we hope that others can learn to treasure what we don’t have, yet we forget that there are also people hoping that we can learn to treasure what they don’t have. A sense of gratitude and contentment is a natural form of wealth, while greed and envy are forms of man-made poverty. Being ordinary can also be a form of happiness.

5.
Kindness begins with an understanding that we all struggle

No one can fully understand how we feel. Two people experiencing the same process will feel differently because of different prior experiences and different mindsets. However, what we should learn from this is not that we are alone in what we go through, but that we cannot understand what other people are facing in their lives. 

This should make us kinder and more understanding to everyone around us, just like we hope they can be kind and understanding to us. While it is a blessing to receive support, it is a greater blessing to be able to provide support.

6.
We can’t control anything but ourselves

The only thing we can control in this world is ourselves. We can’t control what happens around us or to us, but we can try to control how we choose to respond to things. And many times, how we respond to things can then change what happens around us. 

When things do not turn out the way we want, or when we are overwhelmed with stress and pressure, remember that all we need to do is try our best and that is enough. The outcome is beyond us but as long as we know that we did what we could, we do not need to beat ourselves up over things and forget to enjoy what’s there for us to enjoy. We can learn to minimise the attention and negative feelings we give to it, while giving positive attention to other things that await us. It may not be a good day every day, but there is always something to be thankful for.

7.
It’s not the weight of things that matters, it’s all about our balance within

In the end, it all comes down to balance. There is nothing wrong with accepting things as they are and moving on, and it is also okay to strive for excellence and not give up. 

It is okay if we learn to understand everyone that we meet, and it is okay for us to have our bad days as well. We have to find a balance for ourselves as what works is different for each of us and there is no right or wrong way to balance things in our lives. In fact, this balance is fluid and changes as we go. At the end of the day, we are only human and we should learn to embrace that.

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