Before our big event on November 30 this year, we reflect on the incredible women who spoke at last year’s TEDxTinHauWomen event “Bridges: Two Become One.” Last year’s theme inspired us to feature a diverse cohort of Hong Kong-based women to bridge different ideas and people. One of those women was Fiona Callahan-Thorsby, a corporate lawyer whose life was forever changed by the massive tsunami that hit Thailand in 2004. Here are some big lessons that she shared with us.
In 2004, Fiona Callahan-Thorsby was a 27-year old corporate lawyer who was working abroad in Thailand. She felt the most liberated she had ever felt – she was working her dream job, living in an exciting part of the world, and travelling to places on her bucket list. When the tsunami hit Thailand, Fiona survived, but she lost her bottom right leg. These are some of the lessons she shared with us in her captivating talk last year. You can watch it yourself here https://youtu.be/RRirte8mIWc
- Use past accomplishments as fuel to topple current challenges.
Back in London after the Tsunami, Fiona wished for her old life as a regular 27-year old lawyer. It was a trying time facing this new reality. To cope, she reminded herself of past challenges she had overcome – notably, when following her teenage boyfriend resulted in poor grades and not heading straight to university. With hard work and perseverance, Fiona made it back on track to becoming a corporate lawyer. Like everyone else, Fiona has good days and bad days, but whenever she reaches a low point she reminds herself of how she dealt with challenges in the past. You never know – you might surprise yourself with your own strength.
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Fiona was terrified of using crutches to navigate the busy city of London, but with some patience and practice, Fiona mastered getting around with crutches. The next mobility challenge was when she got her first prosthetic leg. To push herself, she signed up for a charity bike ride in Vietnam and began to teach herself how to cycle with her new prosthetic. Starting with the quiet streets of her London neighbourhood and moving on to train for the ride by commuting to and from work by cycling. Through the commute, Fiona had to abandon her crutches (they couldn’t quite fit on her bike) and this pushed her to master walking with her prosthetic. Step by step, Fiona overcame her fear of relearning how to move. She even did another charity bike ride in Peru.
- Always get good travel insurance.
A difficult reality to accept is that sometimes people make it through accidents out of sheer luck – something that Fiona recognizes about her own survival of the tsunami. Had it not been a speedboat that whisked her out of the danger zone and her travel insurance plan that covered an airlift to a hospital in Bangkok, it is possible that Fiona would not have made it through. Fiona now lives as normal and humble a life as possible, but reminds us that we should never overlook travel insurance when booking our next holiday.
Fiona now lives in Hong Kong with her two children and continues to work as a corporate lawyer while making it a mission to give back through work with NGOs, CSR initiatives, and helping people less fortunate. Notably, she is a member of the 2018 TEDxTinHauWomen organizing committee. To meet her in person, attend our next event. Tickets on sale here: http://pelago.me/TEDxTinHauWomen
Retold by: Roseanne on behalf of TEDxTinHauWomen