Forever a small fish in a big pond

Thursday, 15 February 2018

I was a little girl in a very big city!

One promise I made to myself when I first started University was that I would take every opportunity I was given. Considering the journey, I have taken to get to this point- I want to embrace it. However, when an opportunity arose to travel 350 miles across the world and experience life in Belgium for a week, I was tempted to break my promise. 4 months into Uni life, I was still faced with the weekly battle of commute, the travelling still hurt, the train journeys still daunted me, life away from home even for a couple of days a week still filled me with anxiety- so how on earth was I to prepare myself for such a trip.

In the weeks leading up to our departure, my doubt grew more each day, as did my jealousy of my fellow classmates, to them it was a free holiday, a chance to explore and discover the world, a trip of a lifetime... I wished for it to be that for me to, I wished that the nights it kept me awake was due to excitement not fear, I wished that the conversations had about it filled me with joy, not dread. I wished that for once I could just do and be like everyone else. As they planned their trip I heard them talk about the things they wanted to see, what they wanted to buy... They had so many questions, like where's the nearest bar? What's the food like? My questions however, were a little different...

Where are we staying- Can I access our hostel facilities independently? Can I reach the beds? The showers? Door handles? Light switches?
How far are we walking-Will I be able to manage the distance each day? How high are the pavements? Are they flat? Are there stairs? Will I be able to keep up walking with the rest of the group?
What is the culture like? Has Belgium people ever seen dwarfism before?

That's it. I'm not going. I had decided. It wasn't worth the hassle- and besides no one would want to be burdened with me. Now don't get me wrong, my classmates, my tutors, they're lovely and have accepted me unconditionally since day one, however, they had yet to see me outside of student life, they had yet to see just what life with a little person entails, so far, they had only seen the strong me, the confident me, the me that didn't let life get in her way... I finally had a network around me where no one had belittled me, no one pointed the finger, no one saw me as anything other than just myself. After 12 years in education, never quite fully accepted, I finally had it. And I was going to let nothing take that away-So no, I'm not going.

But by this point... it was a little too late... we were well on our way.... 350 miles away from home.... 350 miles away from everything I had ever know and more to the point had known me. As we stepped foot in Bruges I knew I was about to embark on a journey that had ever potential to break me if I let it.

But I didn't.

Fast forward two weeks as I write this, and still I am trying to take in what was a whirlwind of an experience. I find it hard to put into words... (See my vlog- "A Belgium babble" for the in's and out of my emotions, However two do spring to mind... Life. Changing. In some ways Belgium was everything I feared it to be, physically I exhausted myself each and every day- I pushed myself to my limit. But whilst doing so I also realised that my limits weren't what I thought they were. Despite the pain and the physical weight, I felt on my shoulders, I still got up and embarked on each day's adventure, despite anxieties I mixed with people I'd never met... despite my desire to stay in my comfort zone, I grabbed every opportunity Belgium gave me. I fulfilled my promise.

And ok, I had to ask for help every now and then... But doesn't everyone? Ok, granted, my class mates may not ask me to reach stuff for them (If they did we'd be screwed) but I'm pretty sure in the next three years I'll come in useful for something. One day they'll look to me in a time of need... when they drop a pen on the floor for example...😜 My point is, we can't all do everything, we all have different skills, different talents.... reaching things off tall shelves or climbing 20 flights of stairs just happens to not be one of mine! But that doesn't make us any less of a person than those next to us, and maybe yes, my trip required a little more planning than my class mates, perhaps I did have more to consider than they did. But despite what I first thought, the trip was for me, everything it was for them and in fact was even more.

Because I didn't just get to discover the world, I also discovered myself.

Dedications: A few special thank you's...

To my USW girls,
For being the best bunch of friends, I could ask for. Thank you for making me feel 6ft tall!💗💗

To my tutors,
Mick... For such a fantastic opportunity, which taught me more than I could've ever anticipated
Hannah... For helping me spread my wings but also for being there at times where I forgot how to fly


Saturday, 10 February 2018

Body confidence

People seem to think that because I accept my body it means i'm body confident. Everyone always comments on how brave I am. How strong. But i'm not. I accept my size. I accept that I will always be small, but that's it. I accept it yes, but confident? I don't think so. 
I've been a dancer for 16 months now and I still remember it clearly.... the first day I walked into the studio, the studio that was ceiling to floor in mirrors. I could barely even look. Every time I did I felt sick. And there wasn't a makeup product to fix it.

Before starting college I used to feel like every aspect of me had to be perfect. My make up had to be on fleek.. My hair had to fall into place. My stomach had to be flat, everything had to be perfect- perfect to make up for what wasn't perfect. I thought if I gave this world no opportunity to body shame me for the stereotype features then perhaps they would see past the obvious. I soon learnt otherwise. I could be the most stunning girl in the world and all they seem to see is the body i live in which they will never grow to accept... It doesn't matter what else I do. After realising this my attitude changed and i started to let myself go a bit- what was the point. If i'm gonna get mocked anyway, then who's the effort for? So I stopped working out. I stopped doing my skin care routine, I stopped keeping my hair healthy and no longer bothered with make up. My diet fell off track- adding to my already long list of health issues. But who cares.Well if they're gonna laugh anyway- what's the point of trying? 

But hang on, why am I trying for them? What right do they have in my world? What part have they played, other than making my life hell and as a result causing me to do the same. Since becoming a dancer I've had to take more care of my body, the muscle strength I require in my routines means that I no longer can afford to treat my body with so little worth. I have to make an effort- but this time it's not for them. It's for me. 

If these last couple of years have taught me anything, it's that this world is never satisfied. I could have all those things, a flat stomach, hair that fell into place... I could have all that and all the world would see was that i'm 3ft 11 tall. But equally, I could be 6ft tall and all they would only see was the spots on my face, or the one hair that wasn't in place. They will always find something. Something to pick at- something to mock. They will set their expectations and continue to move them.

Society sucks.

So why even try to please it? Why do we make ourselves so unhappy living by expectations and goalposts which forever continue to move? I learnt the hard way that my life has enough limits without self inflicting more upon myself. Okay so my stomach isn't flat, my hair doesn't all fall in place, under the foundation lies flaws, I have a long way to go- but i'm getting there and in the meantime I'm leaving the life of needing approval. Why? Because Life's too short.

So eat the cake and dance like no ones watching. Embrace the flaws.... they're yours. No one else's.
Be an encourager....  the world has enough critics❤️

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Bullying..... It happens.... It hurts

Bullying affects on average 1 in 4 kids throughout school years, but 60% of them fail to seek support. 

I was in the 60%

September 2010.... the start of my secondary school journey, a time that I got told would be the happiest years of my life, a start of a new chapter.....Everyone told me I was ready. Everyone told me I'd always remember secondary school..... but what they failed to mention was that it would be for all the wrong reasons.

A milestone that was meant to be the start of a new life, resulted in me praying for a new life. Everyday. Everyday I'd come home, slam the door. And hide. Everyday I prayed. Prayed for it to stop. Prayed for someone to take it away. They say sticks and stones break your bones.... but it was their words that destroyed me.

The majority of my school memories take place in one room. I remember it clear as day, a red table with three blue chairs evenly surrounding it. It had pale yellow walls, I remember as I sat there staring at them for hours each day.... in my head I remember it as if I sat there alone. In fact there were lots of people there too, people all offering their help. But how could they help. They didn't understand. They didn't know. I convinced myself it would go away, that I could deal with it on my own..... 

I lost count of how many times I told myself to rise above them. How many times I told myself to be the bigger person.... but how could I be, they kicked me so low, made me so weak, what chance did I have. Each morning I'd try and find a different excuse.... my head hurts.... I feel sick.... technically it wasn't an excuse.... I did feel sick. Everyday. Everyday I had to face those corridors. Everyday I heard the same words over....

But fast forward through three years, I made a decision. A decision that would change my life. A decision that I would change my life! I decided I didn't want to let them win. I decided to talk. They had taken so much, my grades, my attendance, my confidence but they hadn't won, I thought they had, for many years I thought they had.... but there was still fight to be fought. 

Some days the smile was a little more fake than others but still I got through... with the right people on my side, my attendance increased, my grades improved. My confidence grew. I spent less time in the small room. More time in the corridors.... the corridors that I thought had destroyed me. The corridors that in fact shaped me.

Bullying. It happens. It hurts. But it doesn't mean the end...

I left school with 8 GCSES. I finished college with a level 3 diploma. 7 years on..... now a university student, a youth worker, a nursery practitioner, a dancer...... THESE are the real happiest days of my life.... I survived. So can you 💚

It happens. 
It hurts. 
It needs to be spoken about.

To the parent who pulled their child away from me....

To the parent who just pulled their child away....

No need to hush them, I already heard them ask you "what's wrong with that girl". I already saw them stare and I've already seen you pull them away in embarrassment. You hope I don't hear you, but I do, you hope I don't see you but I do.... You're worrying I'll think badly of your parenting for having a child intreged in my difference... I won't. You worry that I'll remember you, that I'll remember what you told them as you pulled them away from me, I won't..... However your child will.

Your child will remember you telling them to be quiet, they'll remember how you told them to stay away from 'that girl'. They'll remember your embarrassement when they wanted to talk to me..... They'll remember never finding out what was "wrong" with that girl because you were too embarrassed to tell them... Maybe you don't even know yourself- don't worry I won't judge you for that either... I won't judge you for the decisions you made.. but because of those decisions, your child will now judge me. Your child will now know, no different than to stare, to laugh, yet to stay away, because they'll remember that that's what they were told to do.

Let me paint you a different picture...

Your child asks the question, you don't have the answers... But I do. You think I'll mind- I won't. Be embarrassed maybe?- I won't. You're worried what your child might ask, but beileve me I've heard it all before!.. So you let them, you let them ask, you let them be intreged, you let them learn that my difference is nothing to be hidden away from nor to be embarrassed of. You walk away. I might not remember our conversation.... However your child will, they'll remember coming up to me, talking to me, perhaps even liking me. They'll remember that you taught them to ask not stare and that there was infact nothing wrong with that girl. They'll grow up being accepting of disabilities and differences because they'll remember they were told to be.

Which one of those scenarios would you want your child to remember? Which parent would you want to be? If I was to remember you, would you really want me to refer to you as the parent who pulled their child away?

You think that it won't matter- it will. You think it won't have a long term impact- well guess what? It will. Please don't be responsible for giving me another ignorant adult to deal with years down the line... Please don't be responsible for giving me someone who pulls their child away from me because they remember that their parent did the same to them.

You think your decision won't make a difference- but it will.

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