Tell us a bit about you, who are you? What do you do? What makes you tick?
My name is Emma and I am 24 years old, living on the Gold Coast in Australia. I spend most of my time travelling, drawing, writing, in the ocean and basically love anything adventurous. Four years ago my life changed dramatically when I was in a crazy skydiving accident and became a paraplegic. I have been super lucky and regained the ability to walk again, but the whole experience has taught me so much about myself and about life. Since then I have focused my time on my rehabilitation as well as writing about all of the lessons I have learnt and sharing them with anyone who wants to listen.
Obviously the past few years has been hugely life altering for you but has there been a moment in your life that put everything in perspective? For some people it’s at the time adversity hits, for others it’s a moment that comes later on.
The moment I realised I was paralysed was definitely the pivotal moment for me but I also remember a day about two weeks after my accident that changed everything. For the first few weeks after I was injured, I was on really heavy pain medications and was also still trying to come to terms with the fact that my legs no longer worked, so I was constantly really confused and upset. But about 2 weeks later, I woke up one morning and can so clearly remember consciously making the decision to change my attitude and to not let this ruin me. I knew at that moment that I had a choice about how I wanted the story to play out and I knew that I could either choose a life full of resentment and depression, or I could choose happiness. I chose happiness and from that moment I decided to always try and look at what I had gained, rather than what I had lost and it is the best decision I have ever made.
Would you be where you are now had you not had your accident? How has it shaped you into the person you are today?/ changed your direction?
I can say with 100% certainty that I would be an entirely different person if I hadn’t had my accident. It actually blows my mind to think about just how different my entire life could have been, had it not been for that one minute that changed everything. I think there are 2 main reasons for that.
The first being that when I was falling to the ground during the skydive, we were going so so fast that in my mind I was absolutely certain I was about to die. You always hear about near death experiences and how they change people’s perception, but I think until you find yourself looking death right in the eye, you can’t really fathom how it feels and the profound impact it can have. It was in that moment when I was falling to my death that I realised just how much I wanted to live. I certainly wasn’t ungrateful for my life before my accident or anything, but I never had the intense desire and gratitude to live like I did in that moment. After falling and thinking that I only had 10 more seconds left on this earth, to landing and realising I had an entire life… that is something that changed me more than I can put into words.
The second thing which has really shaped the person I have become, is the moment I realised I couldn’t feel or move my legs anymore. This is another moment that I really struggle to express because I feel that there are no words in the English language to explain exactly how I felt in that moment. Going from having completely normal and functioning legs one minute, to not being able to move them at all in the blink of an eye, it gave me so much gratitude for my body and all of its abilities that I had always taken for granted. Every single day I am so thankful for the return of my legs, but also for other things I never used to think twice about like my eyes and their ability to see, my heart and its constant ability to keep me alive, my ears for allowing me to hear the people I love. Even though it was a hard lesson to learn, it was a massive wakeup call and I needed to have it.
You seem to remain to happy & positive no matter what life hits you with, how do you keep such a positive spirit? What would be your number one tip for keeping your spirits high?
One of the biggest things I’ve learnt in the past 4 years is gratitude. Gratitude not just for the perceived good things in life, but also for the bad. I have learnt that every single situation we are faced with is there to serve us and help us grow. So it’s up to us to find a way to be grateful for the things we perceive as ‘bad’ and use them to our advantage.
I think one of the easiest ways to put yourself in a more positive mind-frame is to constantly remind yourself of all of the things you have, rather than the things you have lost. For example, some days when I get upset about losing the ability to run or have bladder control, I remind myself how lucky I am to still have movement in my arms because it allows me to draw and write.
Also, I think it’s important to note that I am definitely not happy and positive all the time and I don’t think that anyone is. I think it’s really important to let ourselves feel all of our emotions whenever we need to feel them. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to be angry for a little while, be angry and then let it go. We need to express each emotion, otherwise they will continue to take up space in our minds until they can find a way out.
Do you have a mantra that you live by? How has it helped you or how does it related to your life?
A few days after my accident, I was laying in my hospital bed and wrote something to myself in the notes on my phone. It said ‘if you can, you must’. I remember writing this and referring to my ability to run, because I used to love running but would sometimes get lazy and say ‘I can’t be bothered’. When I was laying in my hospital bed, I would have given anything at all to be able to run again and knew that if I had the chance I would never be lazy about it again. So I made a promise to myself that if I could, then I must.
I didn’t realise this back then, but that little mantra stands for so much more than just running. I can apply it to absolutely any area in my life and you can too. Often we don’t appreciate something until it is gone, so rather than wait until it is too late to realise our gifts, why don’t we make a pact that if we physically can do something that we desire, then we must. Simply because we can.
So many people are inspired by your journey, can you tell us who or what in your life has inspired you?
I have been inspired by soooo many people over the past few years that I couldn’t possibly name them all. All of these people seem to share one main quality and that is their ability to overcome obstacles. These people don’t just get through the hard times, they thrive from them. From the first day of my injury, this is something I have always admired in people and I am so thankful for all of the people that showed me it is possible to create so much good from the bad.
What is something we may not know about you?
I feel like I share pretty much everything on social media so there isn’t much to hide anymore haha. BUT something that probably only a few people know, is that my favourite thing to do on Instagram is watch slime videos (look it up they’re great). Super weird, I know.
What makes you feel alive?
Anything to do with nature. Seeing a sunrise, watching the sunset, diving in the ocean, sitting with my feet over a cliff, climbing mountains. Basically anything and everything that reminds me just how beautiful our earth is.
I think the biggest thing I’ve realised over the years is to trust the process. When life doesn’t turn out exactly as we planned (and I can promise you, it rarely does), we need to put 100% of our trust and faith in the fact that we are exactly where we are meant to be. I know how ridiculous and cliché it is, but I really do believe that everything happens to us for a reason and that something incredible will come from from any situation, if we let it.
When I was laying there on the ground paralysed, there was not a single part of me that thought anything good could possibly come from it. Now its 4 years on and Plan Be has turned out to be better than anything I could have ever even imagined and I am so so thankful that Plan A didn’t work out that way I once wanted.