My Name Means Victorious
By Vicki, age 22, South Africa
Editor's Note: Vicki was crowned Miss Deaf South Africa 2009/2010, and was also 1st Princess, Miss Deaf International 2010. Vicki joined the SDM staff in April 2011 and contributed "8 Things We Can Learn from Taylor Swift" (June 2011). With some recent life changes, she has been unable to contribute regularly as she had hoped, but I asked her to share her story, as I feel our readers will find it quite interesting.
Even though I have 97% hearing loss, I learned how to speak like a hearing person and I am extremely good at lipreading. I used to think that my hearing aids are just a normal thing you put on, like using glasses for reading. I still think that way. People always come up to me and say, "It's amazing how easily you adapt with hearing people. You have no stumbling blocks or holdbacks."
To me it's interesting because my reaction is always this: "God gave me this situation, and I have made the best of it. I've overcome it, and therefore I can go forward in life."
We were born not to survive, but to thrive. I detest the attitude of "I'm a victim, so the world owes me something." The world owes us nothing! We should be victorious over our circumstances. It is possible. My name's meaning is significant to this. "Vicki" comes from the word "Victory." I was meant to be victorious, and not a victim.
My parents, whom I am so thankful for every day, are my biggest encouragers. It is because of my parents' stubbornness that they put me in an English school, and now I am fluent in both languages, English and Afrikaans. (Most deaf or hard of hearing people can only speak one language.) My parents realized back then that I should be placed in an environment where I could be stimulated vocally and verbally, without communication barriers.
In that way I am able to explore the world by means of lip-reading and using my hearing aids to grasp music and voices.
Currently, I am a motivational speaker at schools, events and functions. With primary schools, I share about how I struggled sometimes as a deaf girl in a hearing school; the topic is 'I Know I Can.' With high school kids, I tell them that 'Courage isn't a gift, it's a decision.' So many kids today are struggling with drug abuse, self-harming, cursing, etc.
I also share with the students on how I struggled with depression as a teen. When I was 14 years old, I was accidentally shot with a gun - the bullet entered at the back of my shoulder and exited in the front. This accident changed my whole life - in a good way. Before this happened, I always thought that my life was about me, about what I wanted, what I needed. I also struggled with depression.
After the accident, my attitude towards life changed. I decided not to be selfish anymore and not to feel sorry for myself. Life owes you nothing - it's your responsibility to make something out of it.
The more I shared my story with others, the more I received healing. When something traumatic happens to you, you tend to keep it inside. It's not the right thing to do. If you don't talk about it, you will die within yourself.
In high school, my biggest challenge was large groups. Everyone would speak all at once, and when you have a profound hearing loss, you can't really follow what's going on. And when someone makes a joke and everyone laughs but you didn't get the joke - that's when it hurts the most. You feel like an outcast.
I try to avoid these kinds of situations, but there are times when you simply cannot, and you have to make the best of it. My advice: Don't be shy to ask questions. He who asks is a fool for a moment, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
Today, I still have my moments when I feel left out. For instance, I can't speak on the phone, listen to the radio, or go to the movies. But I have adapted to my situation. Instead of speaking on the phone, I SMS or send emails. Instead of going out to the movies, I rent a DVD and watch it with subtitles. Instead of listening to the radio, I buy the newspaper. All of us are strong survivors with even stronger survival instincts. We learn how to make the best of our situations.
I am, first and foremost, a writer. At the moment I am writing my memoir, and I plan on getting it published in 2012.
As a kid, I knew that God had a great purpose for my life. I just didn't know what that purpose would be. As I grew older, I realized that life is not about what I want and what I need; it's about others. Whenever I meet people and they tell me that I have changed their lives, I know that I'm right on track in my life. It's not about how many times I'm on TV, or how many articles are written about me - it's all about the people.
I loved doing drama in high school, but I was still taken by surprise when someone offered me a role in a movie after I competed in the Miss Deaf World. I never dreamed this would happen. I never thought I could add 'actress' to my resume.
I never try to plan too far ahead, because I want to leave room for the Lord to surprise me. And surprise me He does! That's exactly what happened with the movie deal. All throughout the Miss Deaf World pageant, I kept telling God that I still have the rest of this year, and I haven't really planned anything. I asked Him to be wild and surprise me. And He did!
I competed in the Miss Deaf World last month, and I didn't win a place at the Miss Deaf World pageant ... but about an hour after the crowning someone came up to me, asking whether I'd be interested in playing opposite an Oscar-winner in a new movie. It's a small role, but it's a start!! I'm not really allowed to reveal more details yet - the contract has to be finalized and everything. But I'm majorly excited!!!
Also, a psychologist from Germany has invited me to be a guest speaker in her country. I'll get more details on that later.
So, I didn't win the Miss Deaf World title, but I came back a winner in other areas of my career. I'm going forward!!
I do not consider myself a deaf woman. Your circumstances do not need to define you. I consider myself as Vicki - my name means 'Victorious.' I refuse to be a 'Victim' to my circumstances and surroundings.
I believe South Africa has many opportunities. Life is full of choices, and having a positive attitude doesn't just fall on one's lap. You need to make a choice to practice this attitude in life. It's like a muscle - at first it's not that easy, but with the seasons it becomes easier, and then one wonders, Why did I ever doubt myself?
There are some people who wallow in self-pity and bitterness, and that doesn't bring you very far in life. Stop complaining - you are alive, and your disability or circumstance is nothing compared to what you have - the gift of life. The world doesn't owe you a thing - it's your responsibility to make something out of your life.
Be bold - don't be shy. Always ask questions. Be curious about everything. The more you learn, the more you realize you still have a lot to learn. The world owes you nothing - it's your responsibility to make something of it. It doesn't help feeling angry towards God or people about your disability or situation. Believe me, it's a waste of time. Find out what your talents and gifts are, and focus on them. Embrace who you are. Your disability does not need to define you. Be courageous!
Readers are welcome to read Vicki's blog: www.vickifourie.blogspot.com.