Do you ever find yourself dreaming about the impossible, fascinating over the idea of a ‘better life’, or simply wishing you had the will power to face your greatest fears? It’s not in any way unreasonable to think this way. In fact, it’s one of the many common characteristics that makes us human.
We all have big dreams. You may not tell anybody what they are, but deep down you know them back to front. And when you allow yourself to wander on these wonderful ‘what ifs’, you are in your element whilst entertaining their boundless possibilities, right?
Here’s my final question. Do you admire people who step outside the box and make history by setting seemingly impossible goals and achieving them?
Let me introduce you to my mentor Dianne Yoong, a mum of two from Melbourne. This wonderful human being has a huge heart and an even bigger story.
Let me paint a picture for you.
Over the last twenty years Dianne has devoted her life to supporting hundreds of children in need as a Case Manager within the social work sector. The emotionally demanding job also happened to be her greatest passion. Being a positive light in a child’s world was her mission and that’s what gave her the energy and drive to excel, despite the often incredibly long and strenuous hours.
Just days after her 40th birthday, Dianne was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), an incurable disease of the central nervous system that affects the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Nine years on, Dianne has never let her disease completely hijack her world, instead she simply made alterations to her lifestyle to accommodate her new life.
In recent years, Dianne decided to not only open her heart but open her home. Alongside her husband Kiam, together they became foster carers, giving vulnerable children the gift of love, care and compassion they so deeply desired.
Last year she decided to take life to the next level despite the challenges of her debilitating illness. Dianne, Kiam and their daughter Jasmine sailed down the entire 2,300 km Mighty Murray River to raise awareness and much needed funds for MS Australia. FYI Dianne cannot swim.
This year she’s stepping things up. Dianne, Kiam and Jasmine will be heading out on a 3,800km road trip to central Australia, then to Darwin. From there it’s a 90km boat trip by barge. For eight weeks they will be guests on the beautiful Tiwi Islands which are inhabited by Indigenous Tiwi Australians. She, along with her family will completely live off the land, hunting and gathering with very little assistance. OMG is all I can say considering the islands are known to have crocodiles, snakes, wild boars and jellyfish just to name a few!
Dianne is set to leave in a matter of weeks so I thought it’s only fitting that I ask her how she has found the strength, will power and determination to set goals that most of us would be too scared to even fathom.
Dianne, what is the driving force behind your exponential expeditions?
Basically it’s a spiritual quest. I have never been able to let go of suburban safety which exists in the community. I can take risks when it comes to my career and family, but I could never consider stepping out of my comfort zone when it being adventurous. I truly believe we sleep walk through life, so immersing myself into nature forces me out of that feeling.
It’s a cultural experience like no other which enables me to learn about myself whilst understanding that I’m a part of a much bigger picture. Being amongst nature reminds me to live in the moment. It makes me feel alive and helps me to be aware of any illusions that surround me.
How have you managed to overcome your fears?
When I was first diagnosed with MS I was scared. I had to feel every fear. I often hear people say, ‘If you don’t have health, you don’t have anything.’ I don’t believe in this saying. I feel more alive being closer to the knife edge.
In recent years I also discovered that I have a genetic heart condition, so I now live with a defibrillator in me. I likely won’t live to 100 and I’m ok with this. I have become less attached to the daily norms. I have the greatest gift even though others might think I have the greatest curse; bliss comes with absolute suffering.
Every expedition I do taps into a fear I have. By facing my fears I am forced to rely on the strengths I do possess. I can’t swim and I hate social isolation, but I’ll never let these fears take over me.
I know that I might be eaten by a crocodile. I love that I’m not going to be the top of the food chain. As soon as I walk on that island, I know I am no more important than the many incredible species that live there. There is a rich lesson to be learned here.
Society has most certainly evolved over the last few years. So how can we as individuals learn to embrace life to the fullest in this digital age?
Think globally but act locally. We are all so busy that we forget to live in the moment.
Learn to linger longer in your relationships. When you sit in the presence of another person, step into their life and feel their experience. Take the time to learn their spiritual values.
We need to learn how to emotionally connect with others, like we once did before the age of social media. Life is about joy and suffering. Corresponding with somebody on Facebook isn’t going to cut it. It’s only a minor connection. Being genuinely invested in another person’s life will also change your life in ways you can’t even imagine.
Dianne is incredibly passionate about social justice and Indigenous culture, so there is no doubt this is going to be one amazing expedition.
Once Dianne returns from the Tiwi Islands, she is set to release a book and mini doco detailing her adventure, with all funds going to MS Australia. For more info or to donate to MS Australia, simply head to dianneyoong.com.
Gianna Lucas xx