I would be lying if I said that school is easy. In fact, it has put me through some of the toughest experiences of my life. That can be said for most people. But when you’re ‘different’, it reaches a whole new level. Certainly it did for me anyway. It was so surreal for me to finally see what everyone else saw, and for a long time, it felt like the world was against me.
As many of you will have moved up to high school this week, or moved up a year, I thought it an apt time to share the disability dilemmas I faced (of course, this can apply to any other career path too!). It iss important I mention that I am by no means a professional councillor, but I have learnt many things in my 19 years of life with CP, and I hope that I will be able to offer some help and advice to deal with the difficult times.
The fear of failure
I remember I used to say ‘No’ a lot to new things for the fear of failing at them. Back then, I used to think that failure was the worst thing that could happen to me. On reflection, it wasn’t the failure, it was the fear itself. This is the worst part. Granted, I am still guilty of this as a 19 year old. But one great piece of advice I have been given is to simply ‘own it’. Despite the difficulties this can pose, the best thing to do is to do it anyway. It could lead to great things. And, everyone has to ‘fail’ at something before they get it right. It isn’t a question of failing. It’s all about building a life for yourself that you’ll be content with, whatever that may be. It’s so satisfying to be able to laugh in the face of fear. But it’s even more satisfying to say, I did it.
Without a doubt, there will be things in school that you find difficult. Whether it’s stairs, trying to keep up with people or even the never ending maths lesson. But everyone needs a challenge once in a while, even if it is in the shape of algebra or fractions! If you can’t do things ‘like everyone else’, that’s OK. It took a long time for me to accept that adapting is a part of life. I had been advised to make use of the equipment on offer at school, and it resulted in a bit of a love-hate relationship. But looking back, it was definitely a help. You’ll still get the same result as everyone else, so it doesn’t really matter how you do it. And when you win the race with your friends to the top floor because you used the lift, it will suddenly feel a whole lot better! Of course, it will take time to adjust, and you will have down days, but when you do, just remember – who needs mainstream anyway?
“But I have CP, how do I fit in?” I hear you ask. The answer is, don’t! There are 7.1 billion people on this planet who are trying to do just that. But if you ask me, they’re all too busy focusing on each other when what you really need to do is focus on YOURSELF. I finally realised this in my final years of High School on a visit from a motivational speaker. For the first time in my life, I was inspired and began to believe in myself and my own abilities. So much so that I stood up in front of my whole year group and talked through my experiences. And the reception it received was SO positive. Hearing words like ‘inspiration’, ‘brave’ and ‘proud’ was so fulfilling for me, and that feeling has stayed with me ever since. Ironically, I realised that actually by breaking the mould and trying NOT to fit in, I gained more appreciation, friendships and self-confidence than ever before. As the saying goes, why are you trying to fit in when you were born to stand out?
It’s hard to believe that it has now been a whole three years since I left High School. Back then, I was unsure that the time would ever come for me to leave, but alas, here I am, with GCSE’s, A Levels, a full time job, writing this blog post. How things change. But change is good so embrace it, and make the most of the time. Good luck!