It’s time for the next round of awards. The above video was made by Mediacorp to herald this upcoming event.

I mean it when I say simply that I am at best a reluctant disability advocate. My worldly “achievements” have never been a part of my conscious goals, whether long or short term. There was just one dream that I made huge effort, and ultimately extreme sacrifice, to attain: my Ph.D and the journey towards finding Selfhood, which are intertwined and inseparable. Those years as a Ph.D scholar were the very best years of my life. No regrets at all. The best thing I have done for myself. The subsequent awards, accolades, recognition and media attention were and still are secondary, quite unexpected and, to me, a burden even, which I bear as a consequence of the universe’s generosity towards me. Paying it forward.

My worth is not even remotely associated in any way any social commendation. I said it very clearly in the first chapter of my Ph.D dissertation, my path is an inexorable one, I am merely custodian and facilitator to the artistry that seems to emanate from me, but which I know is actually the result of my connection with the vastness of the universe. It is an entity in itself, with a path of its own. I follow and I allow myself to be a channel for its expressions, to the best of my capabilities. The process – the journey itself – is my reward and honour. I am less interested in the final product or what the system refers to as “outcomes” which I find dreary and at odds with my artistic quest. How does a true artist actually measure “outcomes” in terms of clicks, views, audience numbers, churning and turning statistics? It cheapens the art, and produces mediocrity. The same with measurements for prizes and awards. The structure itself is faulty. Not every winner is a true winner. Some winners are there because of political and social reasons, some because of sheer determination and relentless, repeated attempts, and then the few who truly deserve the recognition. I am Autistic, the social-political mechanisms of the normative world are a puzzle to me, but I accept that I have to live in and try to survive and even thrive in this alienating clime. Yet, in my quest to navigate this minefield, I am not at all competitive. Yes, I do speak out when I see an injustice or moral / ethical aberration – often bluntly, without the nice-nice frills and embellishments that normative society so values and insists on – but in truth, I am no warrior at heart. I merely wish to Be – undisturbed, well supported, and freed to give back to others the blessings I have received.

Thank you, world, for the amazing awards and tributes, I am grateful to have somehow unwittingly stumbled upon them. But all I really wish and yearn for is Clement Space, with Lucy, and facilitation to follow what is organic and intrinsic.

So, if there is one takeaway from this part of my adventure, as a ‘prominent’ disability advocate, it is this: YOU are worth it. Disabled or not. Your worth is within you. And only you can determine this. All else is ancillary.

Goh Chok Tong Enable Awards 2021

Yesterday was International Day of Persons with Disabilities. I had the honour of receiving the Goh Chok Tong Enable Awards 2021 UBS Achievement Award. Thank you to ARTDIS (formerly Very Special Arts) for nominating me, and to all my steadfast and loyal supporters in my personal and professional life who’ve believed in my journey and my quest, many of whom have gone outside of their own comfort zones to support me without ever once trying to manipulate or dictate my chosen path. It is this privilege of supported autonomy that is driving me to pay it forward, to offer what I have been given to those who may not have the same supports. This is my wish for all persons with disabilities, that we are given our rights for autonomy with the supports that will help us grow into our dreams and visions. Presume competence. Always. Even though it may not look the same as what you envision it to be.

My raison d’être:

It is not my purpose to ‘fix’ what is ‘broken’ but to empower beauty in the vulnerable and unseen. (©Dawn-joy Leong, 2010)