Syarnissa Ahmad reckons that the one thing that sets her apart from most people is her absolute refusal to believe that she cannot achieve her dreams.
“As a young girl, I had big, big dreams. First, I wanted to become a singer. And then I wanted to be a professor. My dreams kept getting bigger.
“My loved ones, to help me avoid getting disappointed or hurt, tried to manage my enthusiasm but my spirit wouldn’t be dampened. I wanted great things for myself in life, ” says the 31-year-old from Pasir Mas, Kelantan.
Syarnissa was born with bilateral congenital glaucoma, a chronic eye condition that resulted in her being completely blind in her left eye and with just 20% vision in her right.
She was also born with spina bifida, a malformed vertebrae with a tumour on her backbone.
And, she has weak lungs that sometimes, without warning, leaves her blue in the face.
“I was offered two full-ride scholarships, one to a local university and another abroad. I chose to study abroad and I went to Queensland University of Technology to study accounting.
“I managed to complete the three-year degree course in 20 months, thanks to the support I had from my teachers and buddies, ” she says, beaming with pride.
Syarnissa is now a performance excellence advisor at Sarawak Shell Berhad and is based in Miri, Sarawak, where she lives in her own apartment.
She loves going to work everyday as she gets to do what she loves best – empower others to do better. “I’m part of a think tank, sort of. And I get to share my ideas to help the company achieve their goals. It’s really exciting and I am lucky to have leaders and colleagues who empower me, ” she says.
Syarnissa hopes that her story can encourage others like her – especially those with disabilities – to never give up.
“I am not going to say that my life is easy. I am not this positive all the time. Every day is a battle and some days I am in such pain that I have to keep my eyes closed and stay in. So I do that.
“When my doctors tell me I am losing my vision, I feel disappointed and sad. I have self-doubt and insecurity.
“But I pull myself up again and again. That’s what differentiates me from the rest of the world. Not my disabilities.
“My determination to keep rising up after every setback, criticism, doubt. That’s something I wish to share. Positivity is a choice. If I had chosen to feel sad and sorry for myself, I would still be in my room in Pasir Mas. But I chose to see life as something beautiful.
“No matter the cards we are dealt – whether we are born with or without limbs, sight, hearing – we are enough and we are capable of enormous success, ” she says.
When she was in university and even now, at her workplace, Syarnissa is often asked to share her story. This is something she loves to do.
“I have always loved to talk, ” she jokes. “I spent much of my childhood in hospitals and I would talk to all the parents, the patients and the doctors that came into my ward.
“I hope my story can encourage others who may have challenges, like me, to be brave.
“People with disabilities have to be extra patient, you know, because things don’t come to us easily.
“We have to dare to approach people and show them what we have to offer. If we don’t show them, how are they to know? We have to advocate for ourselves, ” she says.
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