Recently I have been nominated for positive role model of the National Diversity Awards in the disability category. Receiving his nomination was wonderful in itself, but then more and more people began voting for me which has been really very special (in more ways than I can find the words for.) So after reading through every vote and smiling happily at my computer screen, I wanted to write something to say THANK YOU to everyone who has taken the time to write so many lovely words- it means more to me than you probably realise.
The National Diversity Awards ”celebrates the excellent achievements of grass- roots communities that tackle the issues in today’s society, giving them recognition for their dedication and hard work.” When I first saw that I had been nominated via twitter (yay twitter!) and read the above statement on the NDA website I struggled to believe how I could possibly fall into this category in any way, shape or form, but then realised that my friends, colleagues and family were actually voting for me, and explaining why to them I can be described as a positive role model. I found this to be very empowering. As part of this nomination I have been told to publicise myself, try and get into the media (how I don’t know!) and ask people to vote for me, as someone who’s never really liked to be the centre of attention, this terrifies me more than clumsily running up a mountain.
Writing this blog, volunteering and working as a youth worker is something I feel that I have to do, I’ve always wanted to enable others to have a voice, especially those who are going through the confusion and misunderstandings of a Dyspraxia diagnosis that I experienced when I was younger and in some ways still do. I want people to be able to talk about being Dyspraxic, to understand that it’s okay to be different and for it to be acceptable to bring up down the pub. A few years ago in my early 20’s, I was told by someone who turned out to not be as genuine as I first thought that ‘I keep living in the past.’ For a while I brushed this off, tried to ignore how it made me feel and hoped that her comments came from a good place. It was only when a few months later I heard her say ‘you should never be a youth worker’ that I stopped to think about the previous words about living in the past. I realised that this is exactly what I do not want to do and that looking up to older women who in your eyes seem to have it all isn’t always a wise move, I didn’t want to live my life in the shadow of the early experiences of my teens and 20’s. Feeling like you don’t belong or fit in anywhere into this world is a very frightening place to be, but being told that you don’t belong where you thought you had a place, can be even more terrifying (especially by older women who you respected and looked up to as someone who knows what they’re talking about) When a bereavement of a close friend was treated as anything but the understanding I needed at the time, I realised that something had to change. I’ve since learned that ‘hero-worshipping can be very common amongst Dyspraxic women and girls or with any other disability. The feelings of isolation, fear, awkwardness, wanting to be accepted by those you see as more capable than you – the list is endless. At this stage in my life I realised that I had to move away from the people, who even many years after I had left school and travelled to India and back, had told me that I wasn’t good enough. I was broken, my mental health felt irreparable and I questioned whether I’d ever get that sense of belonging again, after having to take a whole group of people and places out of my life- to at least try and build my shattered self esteem. I may not be the loud, jump straight in there kind of youth worker, but I can be calm, considerate and thoughtful- and sometimes that’s just what young people need. It was at this moment in my life when I rediscovered writing, and that I could write because I wanted to and not because I had essay deadlines looming. This felt exhilarating, and slowly helped me rebuild what I’d worked so hard for. Making the past become my past and not my future became a new goal. Writing gave me a place I could belong, after all sense of belonging disappeared overnight, I finally felt part of something. At this point, when I felt comfortable expressing myself through words again, I started to write this blog because I wanted others to understand. I was misunderstood, and I can’t express enough how demoralising it feels to work hard to build a career and future, for those I respected as much as my best friends, to nearly take it away by telling me that I won’t get there. I’m all for honesty, but not this kind of honesty. I started blogging under alittlemoreunderstanding, blogging has now consumed my life and so far this has been the best anti depressant going.
I want to demonstrate to others that they will eventually get there and achieve what others have said they wouldn’t be able to do. I want the best for everyone, as a youth worker, a friend or family member (I’m pretty sure most of us want the same.) I’ve always just wanted to be Alice and for that to be acceptable and good enough. I don’t expect to be short-listed for this award (although it would be lovely if I do) but what I do hope for others to take away from my nomination and this blog in general, is that no matter how impossible life may seem to you, how many setbacks that get in your way and the frustrations that seem never ending, there will be someone somewhere in this world, who will be able to understand and tell you that ‘you can.’ As a youth worker, during my time volunteering for Woodcraft Folk and more recently The Dyspraxia Foundation- this is all I’ve ever wanted for people I work with to realise. I am over the moon that so many of you believe that this attitude that I had engrained in me, as a small child getting muddy at Woodcraft Folk camps, is worthy of being nominated for an award as high profile as ‘National Diversity.’
So thank you SO SO MUCH to all of you who’ve taken the time out to vote, and hopefully I’ll be able to thank some of you in person too. If you’d still like to vote for me you can do so by following this link: https://nominate.nationaldiversityawards.co.uk/nominate/endorse/29906.
THANKS! And to those who have voted so far- you have made my world a very shiny and happy place to be.