Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A twice-exceptional woman among us is breaking the mold and thriving

The winning speech...

Ceanlia Vermeulen, who boasts four teacher qualifications, is also a writer, speaker, weaver, painter, dreamer and a mom to her 20-year-old daughter.

"I want to change people’s worlds and make it better. So, I give myself permission to try," says the 47-year-old from Durban.

Here she shares with us her passion and philosophy of life...

Hobbies & Passion

I love reading, writing, painting (I’m an acrylic artist), meeting and helping new people (yes, Toastmasters is a hobby), swimming, walking to enjoy nature, camping.

One of my greatest desires in life is to leave a positive impression, example and meaningful works to the world and most importantly my family. I believe in what Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Change always starts with us. Great leaders get this. They understand that no one is inspired to follow leaders who aren't willing to do those things they are asking others to do.
There is something charismatic about people who understand all change starts with them.

If the job you do is NOT your passion then how do you balance the two?

If you value growth and learning over stability I would say quit your job. If the job leaves your most important values unfulfilled and another job would be better of fulfilling them, go for it. Don’t settle for less, it’s your life. Some decisions in life can be quite tricky. When you have a life purpose these tricky decisions become easier, your decisions will be more consistent. As you can see it’s more important for me to care about people and make honourable choices than it is to increase my personal wealth and abundance.
How important is financial independence to you on a scale of 10, with 1 being the least.

Scale: 9
Your biggest achievement/s to date and why?

I feel that my biggest achievement is yet to come. I’m always looking to achieve more tomorrow than I did today and I’m striving to improve myself all the time.
However, I would say that I have had several notable accomplishments in both my education and my work experience. Probably the most notable accomplishment was finishing school. My mom never thought that would be possible. Then I went to college and academically was a low achiever until my final exams when I learned “how to study” based on my brain profile. I now have 4 educational qualifications and many certificates.

Giftedness does not immunize a person against any other problems. In fact, an exceptional person displays both or one of the following:
    * Learning disability (like dyslexia in my case)
    * Other cognitive disorders (I also have Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD))

One of the biggest misconceptions is that dyslexic brains differ only in the ways they process printed symbols, when in reality they show an alternative pattern of processing that affects the way they process information across the board. Dyslexic brains are organized in a way that maximizes strength in making big picture connections at the expense of weaknesses in processing fine details. I was diagnosed at the age of 30! Massive accomplishment to have completed school and 2 qualifications by this time.

Another accomplishment was to have my art work selected as some of the top work in the province during an exhibition at the Natal Opera house, apart from taking part in art exhibitions. One of my dreams is to have a solo exhibition.
As a Toastmaster I competed in a highly competitive International speech contest where I took the 1st prize at the Area Contest this year.  

Competing in a speech contest is fun, challenging, nerve-wracking, but most of all – rewarding! I learn so much about myself and make new friends along the way. The "competition" in speech contests isn't really "against" others – it's a competition "against" myself! How good can I be? Am I improving? What can I learn from other speakers?

Ceanlia also makes short films. She has been a lead actress, script writer and assistant producer on 5 projects so far. Here she receives the winning price for 'Rotana Hotel' project.
One incident that was your lowest. And how it reshaped your life?

Divorce was my lowest point  – and it reshaped my life into my new beginning.
After my divorce I felt overwhelmed, stressed, sad, frustrated, excited, enthusiastic, full of anticipation... all of the above, sometime all at once.
The great news about my life-changing period of divorce is this: I got to shake things up and try new things, go to new places, and meet new people – I moved to Dubai. I also got a new haircut, wardrobe and occupation. I did my Honours degree in Inclusive Education. I couldn't completely just lose my mind, turn my back on real-life obligations, and throw caution to the wind (although that sounds fun and exciting, doesn't it?). 

I had some very real considerations like my daughter, my work, and my budget {one that has been seriously impacted by the divorce}.

I'm going to bet there are some new beginnings, real changes and opportunities that are well within your reach also. As long as the changes you make are healthy and constructive, my advice is go for it!
Aha moment/s

It is very hard to separate the person and the teacher.  The values, morals, and methodologies one has as a person and as a teacher intertwine so intricately, that is in difficult to find the exact point at where one ends and the other begins.  The concept of caring is also intricately woven throughout the personal and professional being I am as a teacher.  A person who cares in life is a person who cares in their profession as well.  Therefore, my personal and professional goals as a teacher are inseparable.  As much as caring should be part of my practice, I want to cultivate a caring capacity in my students as well.  I want my students to know that not only do I care about them as my students; I care about them as people as well.  I want them to know I am not here to “do a job” or merely claim a pay check.  I am here, with them, because I honestly care about them and their future. I will not be satisfied in reaching only one or two students. I want to reach them all. My goal is to touch their lives, their minds, and their futures. So, professionally I had many 'aha' moments.

On a personal level I would say my aha moments were:

As a final year student I attended a study method course. It changed my life! I learned about brain profiling and how we all learn differently. I passed that year with the highest marks ever! (My mom always felt so sorry for me. As a child with an IQ off scale why did I battle to study and score so low? I learn differently. That’s the reason). I now use this knowledge whenever I deal with teacher training, working with students or empowering parents.

As a remedial teacher specialist I could see how frustrating it was for remedial students to learn basic concepts.  I created with a software programmer in 2001-2005 a maths, reading and spelling software program. It’s simple but profound. To see that light goes on in a student’s eyes were beyond 'aha'! (The company was sold for a massive price.)

After my divorce I found that I was seeking the approval and advice from others. People who love you will not give you a negative response. My 'aha' moment arrived when I realised this and instead asked myself what I wanted in life.

With her favourite painting....

Regret/s in life

I regret that it took me this long to understanding the concept of transformation. I divorced in 2000.

Before my divorce I was angry and upset. All my husband had to do is to make a conscious choice to change the things he did. He didn’t change and we ended up getting divorced. My life changed the day I realised to take responsibility for my part in the marriage failing. I learned that understanding is love’s other name, that to love another means to fully understand his or her suffering.

Understanding, after all, is what everybody needs (I know this from working as special education needs coordinator) — but even if we grasp this on a hypothetical level, we usually get too caught in the smallness of our fixations to be able to offer such expansive understanding. Let me illustrates this through a metaphor:

If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink.

The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer.

We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change (like what I wanted my husband to do, change). But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. Through my painful divorce I’ve learned to accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.
Your advice to young women who are attempting to choose a career for themselves?

Coming from South Africa cultural diversity is important to me. Diversity provides a lesson for each of us to be okay with and open to those things that set us apart (not apartheid) – race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, physical and mental ability, language (the list goes on) and understanding and accepting of people for who they are.

With the new democracy in South Africa (23 years ago) now I’ve learned that being culturally aware provides an opportunity to stand back and consider that there are certain backgrounds, personal values, beliefs and upbringings that shape the things we all do. Something that is considered inappropriate behaviour in one culture may be perfectly appropriate in another.

Learning about other cultures helps us relate to one another and be okay with different perspectives.

I saw this quote on a poster recently, and it’s stuck with me. “Diversity is the one true thing we have in common.” Now that’s something to embrace.
Biggest strength and weakness

My spirit is beautiful. I never judge people and I always treat others the way I want to be treated myself. My friends and family value me because of my loyalty and my flexibility. And when I meet new people they are impressed by my reliability. These words truly capture the essence of my spirit.

I would say that my biggest strength is that I’m emotionally connected to my work and success. My success is the result of my resiliency and that I love what I’m doing.

At the same time this becomes my weakness. I tend to work very long hours, you could say I’m a workaholic. I avoid burnout, however, because I love what I do.

Four years ago... when she set foot in Dubai

10 years from now, how do you see yourself?

As Morpheus in 'The Matrix' says: “You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
I choose the red pill, because I intend to stay in this land of Divine Wonder that God has given us, as God’s plan for inclusion is revealed, to see just how far the rabbit hole goes.

In 10 years I’ll be radically inclusive because we have been radically included. It links with my life purpose: To care deeply, connect playfully, love intensely, and share generously. To joyfully explore, learn, grow, and prosper. And to creatively, brilliantly, and honourably serve the highest good of all.


1 comment:

  1. Dear Nisha. Thank You so very much for this amazing piece of writing about my life...