As ever, this blog is starting with an apology! Just for a change, there are not enough hours in the day and I haven't been able blog. University very kindly decided that they were going to put the majority of our deadlines in the space of 2 weeks, so blogging kind of went out the window! I do actually get extra time for deadlines, and most people don't understand why I am against using this extra time. I wouldn't say I am dead against it, and it is handy to have the option there if need be, but I just think why drag the strain out for longer than it needs to be?! I much prefer to get things done and out of the way ... and, maybe I do have a level of pride in the fact that as of yet I have not asked for a deadline extension?! Haha.
I am now more than half way through my degree, which I just can't get my head around! It literally seems like yesterday that I was blogging in the lead up to starting at University and then again after my first week. I can remember how worried I was and how convinced I was that it wasn't going to work at all. To be honest, it has been far from plain sailing, but if I sit back and look at it as one big picture, I would say I'm a much more rounded, confident person (nothing like blowing my own trumpet, I know!) because of the whole University experience and it has been really positive. I won't go into details otherwise we'll be here all day, but during my first year, I think the fact that there was no one there for me to rely on whilst on campus, it made me speak for myself and made me more physically sufficient, and looking back it did me the world of good.
When I started at University back in 2014, a sort of 'triangle' was formed in my life which consisted of my Athletics, CP Teens UK and University. I never knew how well they would 'fit' together and feed off of one another. I can't quite believe how well my little 'triangle' has turned out to be - each segment kind of gives opportunities to another segment if that makes sense. I suppose a good example of this is RaceRunning - I got into this through my own involvement in Athletics, from this I set up the 'CP Teens UK RaceRunning Club', and then I've been able to use RaceRunning and the club in my University work and University has heavily promoted the club, even making a really professional video on the CP Teen UK RaceRunning Club.
Photo credit: http://www.se16.info/hgb/2opt.gif
For me, I don't really understand people who say that their disability 100% stops opportunities. Yes, I would agree that disability can stop you from having and carrying out a lot of opportunites, which at the time can be really annoying, especially when you're a teenager/young person. But, I would also argue that having a disability can open up unique and exciting opportunities that are not available to those who are able-bodied. Maybe I have just been lucky, but I would say that I have had some amazing opportunities as a pure result of having Cerebral Palsy. What bothers me though is the outside world's viewpoint on these opportunities - some people can often view me as 'spoilt', maybe even 'over the top', as from their eyes, all they can see from where they're sat is these 'fantastic' opportunities being 'thrown' at me. But, what they don't see is the 'normal' everyday opportunities that I often have to turn down. Whilst having to say 'no' to these 'normal' opportunities is decreasing as I become older due to a number of different factors, when I was at secondary school I had to turn opportunities down on a daily basis, e.g. going out around town on a Saturday night with my so-called then 'friends'. They weren't willing to physically help me on a night out, so I just had to say no.
However, although it certainly didn't feel like it at the time, the fact that my 'friends' weren't willing to lend a hand in situations such as nights out, created a massive opportunity. This is fundamentally why CP Teens UK exists - without their actions, it wouldn't exist. I would have gone on with my life selfishly assuming that teenagers and young people with Cerebral Palsy/similar disabilites were always socially included. Of course, as a person with Cerebral Palsy, I know I am 'normal' (well ... haha!) so if I was always included, I would have had no reason to assume why other's would think I wasn't, if that makes sense?
But, as I said, those so-called 'friends' did me possibly the biggest favour ever. Creating CP Teens UK, being behind it and watching it grow and grow at my fingertips has been an incredible and rewarding experience. I have met so many wonderful, like-minded people and made life-long friends, so much so I struggle to remember life before CP Teens UK!
Its really funny as this time 4 years ago, I was coming up to leaving school in the May and the thought of leaving school literally kept me up at night. I didn't have a clue what I was going to do, I had no confidence whatsoever, and I was one of those kids who went to school and then went home again. I didn't really have much else going on, mainly because getting up at 7am and being in school until 3pm five days a week virtually wiped me out. So, aside from the worry of what I was going to do, I literally had nothing on me other than my GCSE's & A Levels. And, lets be honest, many places in the outside world disregard able-bodied people with no life experiences, let alone someone with Cerebral Palsy!
Took in May 2013 when I returned home from school for the last time!
Fast forward 4 years, and without sounding too big headed, I've had more experiences and opportunities that I can shake a stick at ... and, there all down to having Cerebral Palsy! It might sound a bit cliche, but you know when you get asked that stupid question, 'can you tell us something interesting about yourself?', 4 years ago I would have not had a single thing to say, whereas now, I am struggling to pick which factor in my life I should talk about!
I didn't believe people when they told me that I would be okay when I left school and I didn't understand the saying that I heard a lot - "Life will begin after you've walked out of those gates". These words were so, so true. In these past 4 years, by accident, I've used Cerebral Palsy as an opportunity finder and my life is so much better because of it.
I suppose the message of this blog is to try not to worry about the opportunities you have to miss out on. Try to turn things on their head and you never know what might happen. I am a true believer in the fact that everything happens for a reason, and although it might not be clear at the time why it has happened, it will eventually become very clear.
Photo credit: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0171/2222/files/everything_happens_for_a_reason.jpg?1367
Some of you may have noticed that CP Teens UK has a new team of Ambassadors! There are some old faces and some new faces:
- Chloe Tear (Head Ambassador)
- Cat Lee (Head Ambassador)
- Chris Slater
- Katie Toft
- Josh Halliday
- Abbie Smart
- Gavin Drysdale
- Charlotte Smith
- Nathan Giles
- Cerys Giles
- Matthew Humphreys
- Zahra Clembintson
- Josh Taylor
- Chloe Smith
Please do go and check out the brand new Ambassadors page and get to know them! There will be more from your Ambassadors in due course.
I know I always say this and often fail to deliver, but I'm going to say it anyway - I am going to try and blog a little more often from now on. Technically, today I finished my second year at University, which I know sounds a little crazy as it is only Feb 18th! I have a 6-week work placement starting on Monday, which takes me up to mid-April and then apart from going back in to present my 'findings' on my work placement at the end of April, that's me done until September! It is such a weird, weird feeling! Although, as ever, lots to do over the summer with competitions (including my first trip competing abroad in Copenhagen!) and the 2nd CP Teens UK Ball to organise, which is on Oct 8th - busy, busy, busy!