From Bradford to Kent: How Did I end up Down Here? – by Saliha Rashid

My name is Saliha and, as some of you may know, I had the privilege of being elected as a VI Talk trustee a few months ago.
By way of introduction, I come from a South Asian background and a community where blindness is viewed as something negative. A community where blind women such as myself, are often told that we are not capable of being independent or having high aspirations, due to our gender and disability. As well as this, we are shackled by outdated concepts of honour and shame, something which I will explore in a future blog.
I wasn’t going to stand for this! So 4 years ago, I decided to break away from this, and embrace a life of independence and choice.
After obtaining a Psychology degree and a post-graduate diploma in Law, I decided that the next step for me is to study for a Master’s in Social Work. But where, was the question!
In 2012, I moved from my home town of Bradford to Leeds, which is just down the road! For me, this was a massive achievement in itself, as I thought that even this was beyond my capabilities. Although we received Mobility training and lessons in daily living skills from school, opportunities to put them into practice were very few.
I’ve always wanted to move and experience the fast paced London life and the opportunities it has to offer, but always shrugged off the idea, because I could never be capable of such a thing! So, I had applied for courses at Local universities and got accepted on to them.
However, in March of this year, I went on holiday to Rome, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had. It was then that it hit me that the world is my oyster; we get one life, and one opportunity to do what we want to do.
So upon returning, I decided to apply to a few universities down South. Because it was so late, I thought I missed the opportunity. I was delighted when I was invited to an interview at the University of Kent, and even more so when they offered me a place a few weeks later! Kent was the ideal place to be, as it was less than an hour away from London, but not as expensive to live. So I could have my cake, and eat it!
Not really knowing what I was doing, I accepted the place, and that’s when panic hit! How could I move to the other side of the country, to somewhere where I know only a few people, when I had already built up my life from nothing? Could I do that again? Well it was tough! I had no choice now but to go for it!
My anxiety started turning into excitement, as I looked into the opportunities Kent and London had to offer and how I would be able to further my campaigning work. This was a dream!
However, two weeks before moving, panic hit again. I would be leaving my lovely flat, which already had a new tenant lined up, I would be leaving everyone and everything I know behind, to start a fresh. Could I do this? What if I didn’t make any friends?
Again, it was tough! I had already made arrangements for accommodation, and firmly accepted the place at the university, so there was no going back now. I either choose to embrace this, to get to know people, or I wallow in self-pity. The choice is mine.
So, with this in mind, I made the big move on the 14th of August, which is coincidentally Pakistan Independence Day, where my family come from originally!
I remember walking in to the studio apartment, thinking “oh this is a bit small”. But again, I either choose to wallow or make the most of it. I chose the latter.
I have now been here for 3 weeks, and I know that it is the best decision I have made, because it has forced me to get my act together, to become more independent. Within a week of being here, I learned the route to the local shops, something which I have never done before in my life. And it won’t stop there!
My message to you is that you get one life, you, and only you, choose how you use it. Please don’t waste it. Dare to take risks and push yourself. As Helen Keller said, “Security is an illusion. Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all.”