I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently, so much more thinking than actual doing but that’s generally the way it goes. Usually involving a bar of chocolate and some sort of appropriate music. I’m now in my late 20’s, still living at home, have a lack of ability to get to places without public transport, long out of university and have been in my current job for almost two years. I realise there are more 20/30 somethings than ever living with parents, basically because our country is rubbish at supporting young people in every way shape and form. You only have to look at the £9,000 university tuition fees to know that. And the future has now become even more uncertain since Brexit.
A few weeks ago I read Maxine’s blog post about learning to drive, some of which echoes my feelings of being worried about getting behind the wheel, but I’m also aware that it is something that I need to try and do. ‘If not now, it’ll be never’ is something that has been going around in my head on repeat. A step towards this was being assessed to drive, that I wrote about here. My assessment was incredibly positive, it’s just finding a driving instructor who understands me and doesn’t pick up on everything I generally find harder than most, that seems to be the challenging bit. I mentioned on twitter that writing an email to potential driving instructors is like ‘applying for a job, but without the job or the making yourself sound good part.’ I have since sent that ‘I struggle with everything that will make a good driver’ email, and will hopefully follow up with a phone call later this week.
As you grow up more expectations are placed on you, at school I heard ‘so you’re going to University aren’t you?’ Once they’d finally realised that I was probably more capable than the school gave me credit for and wasn’t going to completely fail my A levels. As soon as I started university I felt the expectation to move into halls and as if I was an alien from another planet going home every night while everyone else was living the student life. The truth being, that at the time- 18 year old Alice wouldn’t have coped with the change staying in university halls would bring, despite being a slightly isolating choice, it was probably the right choice. When I was a bit older I attempted to move out to Durham for my Masters, but the university messed this up so I ended up staying put- and that’s where I’ve been ever since. When you’re nearer 30 these questions change to ‘So when are you going to settle down?’ I’d love to scream ‘Well, try being Dyspraxic for a day, then you’ll realise it isn’t always that simple.’ As much as that is also on my mind too of course. Explaining why I don’t yet drive and why I haven’t moved out isn’t something I want to discuss with everyone, so I often just use the excuse of money, which is partly true but there are of course more deeper reasons than that. My most commonly asked questions at the moment revolve around my lack of car, lack of living independently and my patchy work hours. All of which are pretty sensitive and emotive topics, hiding some even more sensitive reasons. I didn’t realise that other people’s work, car and house would become so important once you hit the wrong side of 25- but apparently it’s a thing.
I’m 27, and having exceeded everyone’s expectations in education, (a PHD isn’t going to happen anytime soon, but never say never) I need a new challenge. A challenge that will more likely be driving. A goal, something to work towards and to keep me focused on the days when I need reassurance to do the smallest of things. For years I’ve heard from so many different people that I have to move out and learn to drive- almost as if they are life or death decisions. I’ve also heard ‘Alice you’ve been to India or you’ve given speeches to rooms full of people, why can’t you do this?’ This is true, but I also realise that my anxiety can work in strange ways, I can be terrified of the phone one day but able to get a train to a new city the next. SO preaching other hard things I’ve done in the past, doesn’t always help the next hard thing feel more achievable.
This weekend I travelled down to London for the Dyspraxia Foundation AGM, just surviving London without an anxiety attack is an achievement in itself, but whilst there I got thinking and realised that my life has been moving forward at a speed that’s difficult to keep up with at times and I’m doing things now that I would never have imagined. I’ve also reached the conclusion that things, people and places that meant a lot to me before bereavement, India and university, seem to mean less to me now, and there are suddenly lots of new people in my life who I’ve met purely because I’ve come forward about my Dyspraxia and mental health. As much as I treasure my time spent involved in Woodcraft Folk (essentially a hippy, socialist youth organisation for those that don’t know), time spent at Folkworks Summer Schools and on a Youth Assembly, that have all acted as a stepping stone to where I am now- something has changed. Several friends moving away all at once, has made this feeling of ‘moving onto another time’ seem all the more real. Going to Dyspraxia conferences is always an empowering experience, if an exhausting one too, a time to meet people, chat and catch up with friends. You’re generally bombarded with information, but there is often cake to help you get through the day. Feeling ‘not alone’ is something I hear often when coming away from such events. I’m involved in The Dyspraxia Foundation Youth Focus group, so much of Saturday morning was spent discussing ideas for a youth event planned for Dyspraxia awareness week in October, and judging by everyone’s initial ideas is all very exciting.
The next day, my friends Matt, Rosie and Natalie ran/walked the British 10k in London, I am always in awe of people who take part in running events but especially those who are Dyspraxic. It takes so much (probably more than most of you realise) to face the crowds, spectators, elite runners, physical and emotional challenges to take part in events like this, especially for those of us when at school we would (metaphorically) run a mile whenever we heard the word ‘PE’ mentioned. So I really do take my hat off to anyone who is Dyspraxic and embraces events like this to raise money for charity. I’ve never really watched a big running event before, and as a spectator found the atmosphere amazing. We stood at the Dyspraxia Foundation cheering point under big Ben waiting for a glimpse of our runners who were running for the charity. It was a really iconic place to watch a run, something that I’m sure I’ll always remember and I’m so proud of my friends who made it around the course. Meeting & chatting to people who understand always means the world to me- not having to explain things and just being accepted for being Alice really is a wonderful feeling.
Thank you to those who have been there this weekend, but also to everyone from some years ago- I’ve definitely not forgotten you x