A few seconds decision, a life-changing water event two weeks before University.
Being the first to complete high school and go to university was a big deal in my family, so we decided to make the most out of summer before I moved to the city. Weekly road trips, looking for different swimming spots broke our bank accounts but filled us with joy, that was until my decision to jump 15m into the lake meant I had reached the surface with a spinal cord injury.
They say your life is just beginning once you leave high school. The world is your oyster and you have so much to experience. What I didn't know was that it included having to learn almost everything from the beginning.
I had a lot of firsts.
Just not in the way you think;
my first broken bone,
my first helicopter ride,
and my first time in surgery.
Then came relearning everyday tasks, from sitting up on my own to vacuuming the floor and everything in between. 4 years later and I’m still learning, but that’s the beauty about life; you never stop learning, do you?
Don’t get me wrong.
I had some of the lowest of lows during the first couple of years after my spinal cord injury, but I also had some of the greatest times of my life and still do.
I found that one of life’s adjustments after acquiring a disability is that you have to figure out what helps you towards acceptance and trying to move on because the reality is that if I could go back and change what happened, I would.
But I can’t, and so all you can do is try to find a way to accept instead of dwell on the unchangeable, enjoy those highlight moments and work towards moving on, because once you can do that, you have the rest of your life to create more of those highlight moments.
My family got me through the storm. They understood and were imperative in my recovery and adjusting to my new life with a disability. Because despite not having a spinal cord injury, they were there when it happened and were by my side through it all, even now. From pushing me in my wheelchair to sneaking me out of the spinal unit in between my medication times or driving me 3-4 hours to photoshoots for work. It means the world to me, and it pushed me to keep going and find joy in life even amongst the chaos because that’s life; chaotic, fun, complex, yet so worth living.
My anxiety means I can fixate and overcompensate on everything big or small that is wrong with my life, but thanks to my wonderful friends, colleagues and whanau, it made me realise a few things. You’re going to struggle. You’re going to feel depressed, angry, sad and lonely; it’s only natural. But what helped push me past those feelings and adjust to my new life was being surrounded by people who understand and care, finding joy in little things like finally being able to do my laundry and creating goals and opportunities.
So much has changed for me. Opportunities presented themselves and took me in a direction I had never foreseen for myself. I may not be doing a degree like planned but I get to work alongside an amazing group of people, learn as I go and have been exposed to a world of opportunities including casting and modelling for brands, tv commercials and more.
Life doesn’t stop after a disability; it just makes it that much more interesting. I mean, you’re bound to bump into someone so intrigued by you they can’t help but start a conversation with you. Right?
Chelsea (Ngāti Tuwharetoa and Ngāti Rangitihi)
Born and raised in Rotorua where she had also sustained a Spinal Cord Injury in 2018 before joining allisforall (creative and consultant agency) as a talent and model in 2020 and a year later took on the role as assistant content producer- from modelling in front of the camera to being a part of a team that bring campaigns together behind the scenes. “I get the joy of experiencing life on both sides of the camera.”