On Course And Giving Back
I was born in Vienna, Austria in 1981 and grew up in Calgary, Alberta. Shortly after my seventeenth birthday, while on an exchange program in France, I broke my neck diving off rocks with friends. After months of rehabilitation and therapy, I decided to get back to school, now as a C 5 quadriplegic with limited shoulder movement and weak biceps. I graduated high school with my class in the spring of 1999, and went on to earn my BA and MSc in psychology at the University of Calgary. In the fall of 2012, I completed a Ph.D. in educational contexts.
In the years since my accident, I have struggled against debilitating health problems which have necessitated several operations and countless visits to doctors and hospitals. Being almost completely paralyzed has drastically reduced my mobility. Other than being able to brush my teeth, use my voice-activated computer and eat with the help of splints, I depend entirely on the help of others.
Getting back into my studies might not sound like "active living" but let me guarantee you that it is. It takes discipline, perseverance, physical stamina, mental concentration, a desire to roll out in -30° weather to catch the C. train or the bus in order to get to class on time, and so on. So, although my experiences have a large educational component to them, they engage me on every level: physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual.
The university setting has been a positive environment for me to learn and grow since my accident. The study of Psychology has allowed me to understand more about myself and the ways in which I can help others to cope with their difficulties. More broadly, however, I am fascinated by coping and the various ways humans have of overcoming challenges. Counselling Psychology, in particular, has been a fascination of mine because of the direct impact it has had on my life. I received the counselling help I needed when I was first injured and I am now prepared to have a positive impact on others who are suffering similar traumas. This counseling provides me with the impetus to be more physically active, be more engaged in my community, take part in interesting leisure activities (e.g. opera, sailing, creating music), and truly enjoy my life.
Because of my life experiences, I believe I have something unique to offer in the field of Educational Psychology and the active living philosophy more generally. For instance, I have been recruited as a community ambassador by the Canadian Paraplegic Association to visit newly injured patients at hospitals, on a weekly basis, to encourage them and serve as a role model. I have also been an active volunteer at the PARTY Program (Prevent Alcohol and Risk Related Trauma in Youth) for the past 8 years. I am also able to effectively share my experiences with disabilities with high school and junior high students through the Easter Seals, speakers in schools program.
The twin career intentions I set many years ago are now becoming a reality: 1) to become a registered psychologist and 2) to become a speaker/lecturer in the field of motivation and personal development. May this simple story inspire you to live out your deepest wishes.