No one could accuse Sally Marston of wasting her time, with commitments almost every day of the week to social groups, sport and volunteering.
What may surprise many is how Sally, 32, fits it all in, crisscrossing Hamilton City by bus, the occasional lift from friends and on her own two feet. Sally doesn’t drive. She lives with vision impairment.
“I can see well enough to get around, but I have to go up really close for reading.”
Sally is also on the autism spectrum. She says it sometimes affects her confidence. She can be shy and feel uncomfortable when confronted with new experiences.
“I tend to shy away from a lot of things, especially if it’s something new. If it’s a normal routine, it doesn’t seem to affect me, or if I’ve been to that place plenty of times before, I tend to be okay. But, if it’s a new place that I haven’t been, I don’t feel comfortable.”
But despite this, Sally enjoys a full life volunteering and taking part in a wide array of recreational and social activities.
Monday is movie day at Event Cinema. Later in the day, she attends a social group organised by Aspergers Connections Waikato called Monday Mates.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are for indoor bowls, while on Wednesday mornings Sally volunteers at Selwyn Sunningdale retirement village where she reads out the bingo numbers and chats with residents. She enjoys helping out.
“The residents appreciate what I do there.”
On Wednesday evenings Sally joins her local Achilles group, an organisation that supports people with disabilities to take part in athletic events. She’s just achieved a personal best, running 3km in 19 and a half minutes.
Achilles gets together on Sundays too at Hamilton Lake, so Sally occasionally drops by — that’s if she’s not visiting her parents in Te Aroha or attending church.
Friday, says Sally, is her chill-out day. That’s not to say she takes it easy. It’s the day she does chores around the flat she shares with a friend or visits her grandparents, who also live in Hamilton.
There are other activities too. When the weather warms up she tries to play outdoor bowls at least once a week, and she’s been on the committee that organises the Launched Disability Pride Festival in Hamilton for the last five years.
She’s still working on some goals. She’d like to find a job working in administration or a library — she worked in the Hamilton Girls’ High School library for two years — but her confidence sometimes holds her back.
But one thing Sally’s certain about is the value of being independent.
“I don’t like being bossed around,” she insists.
Having “more freedom” is what she enjoys most about living independently in a flatting situation.
“It makes you feel like you’re more in charge.”
“I’ve got a flatmate. She’s called Keryn. We get along really well.”
“I think it’s nicer living with someone because I’ve been living on my own for quite a while, just the company and watching TV together at night.”
‘Home and Away’, ‘Survivor’ and the News are favourites. Sally and Keryn also share two meals together each week and they take turns to cook.
“I think I’m a good cook. I cook lasagne, nachos and stir fry. Sausages, sometimes steak.”
They also share jobs around the house. Sally cleans the bathroom; her flatmate vacuums the floor. They take turns putting the rubbish out each week.
It can take time to find a good living situation, but Sally reckons she understands what it takes to live with someone else successfully.
“It takes, like, being yourself. I try to keep calm and just accept people for who they are and have a good attitude and be kind.”
Read our other stories about flatting and living independently
Moving into her own flat meant Darya Small was able to achieve one of her personal goals.
Kym O’Grady values her independence and having control over her life. She shares a flat with a friend and works two days a week at Aspire Community Support. Kym credits her parents for supporting her to be independent and encouraging her to succeed even when she doubted herself.