Forever a small fish in a big pond

Thursday, 12 December 2019

G-Expressions...... A whole new adventure!






Written for www.g-expressions.co.uk

Hey! I'm Danielle and I'm Creative Arts Assistant for G-Expressions. My role means I support both the dance and drama elements of G-Expressions. Despite only being in the role for a couple of months, my journey with G-Expressions began way before then.


So let me take you way back to the beginning..... 





My story starts here, on this stage, where I was performing with my organisation 'Portishead Youth Centre' back in October 2018. I produced the showcase as part of my BAhons degree, and as a result had invited members and partners of the University South Wales along to watch. We sold out, filling a room with 250 audience members...... within these, were the G-Expressions team. This is where I first come to know of exactly who these people were, and what they strived for, and I think it's fair to say I was inspired from day one.

Fast forward a couple more months, and the link between my organisation and G-Expressions grew stronger, as my dance crew were invited to perform as part of the opening of 'Hard Knock Life' a recent production by G-Expressions. Watching the show, and also seeing an incline of the back stage action only rose this organisation even higher in my admiration, as a dancer and youth worker myself, the show I saw in front of me was basically everything I was striving for in my own development. I wanted my own work to be of this standard, with this response.... having this impact! I remember one of my colleauges dropping into conversation on the way home, 'Dan this could be you one day'. And I quote my exact words were.....

"What a dream they'd be to work with''. 


Fast forward eight months.... and I can in fact confirm that they are a dream!

After deciding to move over the bridge to Newport in September 2019 in order to complete my third and final year at Uni without the pressures of 6am trains and long winter commutes.... I found myself on placement, with the organisation who for the last year had inspired and shaped the professional I had strived to become. I felt like I had hit the ultimate jackpot, after persuring a passion in dance for the last 4 years, how lucky was I that in the mayhem of the move, this was the one thing I didn't need to leave behind. But with this came some nerves... Did I have what it took? I may have been a confident spark on stage, but that spark dimmed when it came to my own self-beilef. But here I was amoungst a team of professionals who were trusting me.... trusting me to make a lasting impact on their organsiation... trusting me to deliver, represent and promote what they had been building for the last 10 years.....Me? ....Really?

Well if that's not a confidence boost in itself I don't know what is!




Moving away from home was never on my agenda, Not yet anyway. I never saw myself as the person who would fly the nest at 21, and if I'm honest I don't think part of me even thought I'd be the person who would be graduating with a BAhons degree, but yet here we are.... 2 months into my time living in Newport, 6 months away from Graduation day.... and a massive part of that is down to the team who inspired me. The team I now get to be a part of. 

Looking over the past 9 weeks, I every now and then in moments of quiet amoungst the busyness,I still question how I really ended up here.... getting to persue my two passions... Youth work and performing arts... and more than that, getting to support young people in bringing their own passions to life. But the development doesn't end in the studio. G-Expressions has grown my confidence and skills, in many aspects of my life, my academics, my professionalism... but most importantly in myself., and the person I have the potential to become.

So now it's my turn to do the same!

The support I have recieved from the organisation, and the spark they have put back in me, is what now drives me in my new role, to promote and find that same confidence in the young people we work with. I'd like to beileve that I can create the same oppitunities for them as I have had created for me and support them in their own journey of self-discovery and following their own dreams.   
G-Expressions has opened so many doors for me, doors I didn't even know existed... Doors I defintly didn't beileve I had the potential to open and if I can give even a percentage of that back for future generations... then I'll call my career a success! 

I am so grateful to G-Expressions, for the example they set me from early on, which inspired development in my career in the first place.... but more so, for the support, oppitunities and experiences I now am living and working everyday. From supporting dance leaders courses, writing funding applications, leading classes, planning events, organising fundraising events, creating and running my own sessions... Most students can only dream of that in a 9 month period! Which only gets me thinking.....If this is month 2...... where will we be on month 9???


If you had asked me three months ago my plan for life after graduation, I don't think I could answer, and part of me, still hasn't quite worked it out yet... but one thing I do know, is that my journey with G-Expressions, is a journey I hope is only just beginning.






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Thursday, 7 November 2019

No one tells you about the little things.....








When people talk about the challenges of being small, there's things that are the obvious- the not being able to reach the top shelf, or the not being able to walk into a shop and try on any pair of jeans. Everyone knows about that. I always knew about that. From an early age my size was spoken about, even through the years I chose not to speak about it, I still knew, I knew things weren't going to be as straight forward as some of the people around me.... I knew there were big things I needed to overcome.... but no one ever told me about the little things. 

No one told me about the bottles my hands would be too small to open, or the folders my arms were too small to hold. No one said about the ruck sacks that would be too strong for me... or the chairs I'd struggle to climb. 

No one told me that my energy would be mainly used, not in the bigger of tasks, but instead in the small things. The things no one talks about. The things I see so many others do with ease. When you google dwarfism, no finding is going to tell you "Struggles to open drinks bottle". No finding is going to admit the struggles that no one seems to talk about. So how is anyone supposed to know? How was I supposed to know? 

A few months ago, a close friend of mine Rebecca, tweeted a tweet that has stuck with me, about a similar situation she was in, with a bottle of orange juice.... and one sentence that stuck with me.... "It's taken me an hour to open a bottle of orange juice. That's not what everyone else does!"

That got me thinking. And she's right. It's not what everyone else does... similarly to how I just had to ask my class mate to open my drink for me... I don't see anyone else doing that either? 

So when we say... "We can do anything anyone else can do?"  
The thing is we can't... not really. We can find alternatives and ultimately the outcome we reach can be the same... but we can't do everything that others can. That's not negativity... That's just fact.

But let's turn this around a minute... I may not be able to open a drinks bottle like all my friends can... but hey.. I don't see many of my friends competing in dance nationals. Or even studying a BA in university. So I can't do things they can, but some may say I can do things they can't... or perhaps haven't even considered yet. 

Does that make these little things any easier? No, because in the mix of preparing for a dance nationals or in the whirlwind of university life... you think I really want to spend more than a semi fraction of a second of my day contemplating how I'm gonna open a drinks bottle? No. Because they're just little things... but sometimes the little things are the big things. The things that no one talks about, the things that no one teaches you how to overcome... 

Sometimes the smallest hurdles, takes the biggest jump and whilst I may have mastered the trains.. I've taught my body to dance and learned how to juggle a BA degree in the mix of life's medical hurdles... I'm in fact still learning... to do all the things that my body presents me with everyday, all the things that I discover as I go.. about the things that we need to start talking about. 





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Thursday, 10 October 2019

Some days it sucks.

I'm a true believer in everything happening for a reason and that people are only dealt with what they have the strength and ability to overcome. Therefore, I try really hard to not moan, or complain about my hurdles, because I don't believe they are any harder or harsher than those faced, by anyone else... they are just different. 

That being said. Some days?

It sucks.

And no motivational saying or uplifting statement, can take away that feeling.

Some days it just frickin sucks. 

Being starred at on the street by strangers- sucks.
Not finding clothes to fit- sucks.
The aches and pains- Suck.
The hours sat in a doctors surgery. Suck.

BEING SMALL SUCKS. 

For a while, I beat myself up for these feelings... and some days I still do.... after getting through such a dark time in my life as a teenager, when I hit 18/19 I thought right that's it now, adulthood... Life will be on the up form now. No more weaknesses, no more struggles. Only positivity. I thought I'd be the person who embraced life and saw the good in every situation, the one who had their sh*** together. Because as an adult isn't that what you do?

Yeah.... this lasted for all of a week maybe? Turns out being an adult, doesn't magically make any of your troubles go away, nor does it give you the ability to suddenly know how to deal with any of them? Just like no one told me how to feel as a child, no one told me how to as an adult either, and despite being "grown up" I still was none the wiser.

Because as an adult, still no one tells you how to feel when you're walking to work and someone who you don't know calls you a freak.
No one tells you how to explain to a child you work with, why they're taller than you and yet you are still the adult.
No one tells you how to cook when you can't reach the cooker, or how to go to the shops when half of the contents is above your head height.

or how to be an adult, in a body smaller than most children.

No one tells you any of this. You learn as you go, and with learning.... comes failing.... messing up.... breaking down.... with good days, come bad days.... and days where things just suck. When I first started this blog, I thought the only way to inspire people, was to show them a source of strength and positivity, something I needed when I was younger, but then I thought, actually what I really needed growing up, was real life... to see that other people felt the way I did, that not everyone I saw on social media really had their life together in the way it was displayed- and in fact, everyone was just doing a good job of winging it as much as I was.



              INSTAGRAM VS REALITY







This isn't to say that next time you see a post on social media of someone who looks happy, you think "Nah they're faking it". Storm clouds come and go, some days can still be sunshine's and rainbows even if other days you feel like you don't know how to swim.

I've yet to learn most of the lessons I had hoped to when I became an adult.
I still don't know how to feel when people call me names.
I still don't know the best way to answer a child when they ask "why"
I don't know the best way to do a lot of the things my tall friends do without a second thought.

Some days, I don't know how to be small. But you know what, that's ok. Because what I do know is that i'm not supposed to know. I'm not supposed to have the answers. That's ok. and if things suck some days... that's ok too! Storms pass, and with the bad days....good ones come along too.

So next time you see someone on social media, who is "doing better than you" or someone who "has it easier"... Just remember we're all in the same boat here. None of us were given life jackets... and no one got handed a manual either. We are all writing our own stories and like most authors I imagine, most of us are making it up as we go along. So you're allowed to scream. And cry. You're allowed the breakdown.... Just don't unpack there. Stop for a while, allow the storm to fall, and then after... go dance in the rain.. Because when we step back and look around, we may realise there's a lot, that perhaps doesn't suck after all.
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Wednesday, 25 September 2019

They don't like you..... But they'll be checking your page religiously.




Building my blog, has been a blessing in many ways, it has amazed me how far some of my posts have stretched and how many people have taken the time to read my stories, in that sense it has made me feel proud, proud that my stories, my writing, has played a part in spreading awareness, even if only in a small way. It's also been responsible for giving me the opportunity to meet some wonderful people. In December 2018 I held my first Bristol Dwarfism Social, I met some amazing individuals who had all learnt about me through my blog. My blog brought that group of people together. My blog was responsible for the friendships made. It was responsible for people realising they weren't on their own.. as crazy as it seems.. my blog, changed lives.


It most certainly changed mine. Sometimes things are easier to put in writing. Sometimes when my voice shakes, my keyboard does the talking for me. It's been something which has developed my confidence massively, the response I have received, the love, support, messages of encouragement. The messages saying "Thank you", the messages saying I had made a "Difference" to someones live. That's something I never imagined was possible when I first started writing.



I never imaged the happiness my blog would bring, but likewise, I never could've dreamt of the sadness that came with it.

5

That's the record. The most I've ever received in a day. 5. That's how many people. How many messages. How many comments. How many times my heart has sunk in one day.

-Ugly
-Midget
-Freak
-Weirdo
-Physco
-Fat
-Circus act

Ok they're just words. But they're words that hurt. Especially when sprung on you without warning, in a supermarket, in a dance rehearsal... In the middle of a university lecture. They are words that are hard to ignore when they are right there in front of you in the notification tab.

For a while I thought about giving it all in, packing up the blog and every comment that went with it. The grief I get on the streets, that's enough.. More than enough, but that has an escape. That stops when I walk in my door, however where one stops, another starts, only this time, I have the power to end it.

(DELETE)

I can't begin to even try and tally, the times my hand has been shaking over that button, It would be so easy. So easy to wipe it all, in one click of  a button it can be gone, the comments, the words, the hurt... just like that.... but with it, goes the work, the heart, the passion, the achievements.... the three years spent connecting with people, all because they clicked on the blog, the three years of positive messages saying thank you, saying that I had helped them, saying that I had reassured them.... three years of making a difference.

I don't have to open the messages, most of the time I don't. Sometimes social media gives me no choice and the message appears there, loud and clear on my screen. That's the times I fight the urge to delete. But why reject my hard work, when I can reject one stupid sentence sent to me by someone who probably couldn't even tell you my name, in one click of a button the message can be gone... and sometimes, it sticks, and it lingers, and sometimes the pain stays a while, sometimes it takes me a while to forget.... but it takes me even longer to forget the messages of love, grattitude, appreciation and support I recieve. They are the ones that stick most, the ones that matter. The ones that remind me everyday why I don't press delete, why I don't give in.... and don't give up.

So if you have a passion follow it, have a dream chase it.... will everyone like it? No? Will everyone appreciate it... defintely not... but whether it was a blog, a career, a song, a book.... someone would find something, somehwhere to not be happy about- but surely all that matters is that we're happy. Because if we're happy, those who are true to us will be happy for us. And you know what they say... those who matter don't mind..... and those who mind... certainly do not matter.







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Saturday, 6 April 2019

Moving out





"Moving out"

Well that's certainly two words I didn't think I would say... Not yet anyway, not now... and most certainly not as a university student. Growing up, the world was a scary place. And as a school girl, home was the only place I felt safe. The streets were full of bitterness, the school corridors filled with bullies... I never wanted to leave home on the weekend, not even for 10 minutes. So how is it possible for me to leave for 10 months?

This was never part of my plan! When I applied for University 18 months ago, I insisted the halls weren't for me. The commute was enough, enough to almost make me not want to go, so you're kidding yourself if you think I was gonna add any more worry to my plate. And then when year 2's application came through, again I ticked the same box. [X] Living at  Home
in the craziness of uni life, home was the only normality, the only place that wasn't challenging me, I was already out of my depth... Working full time whilst studying a BA degree at a campus 2 hours away... I was exhausted, and of course my body wasn't making this any easier. Six weeks before my final portfolio was due for year 1. When all my class mates sat frantically typing away in the library, I sat frantically in two hospital rooms, Injections, MRI scans, Physiotherapy... all these words fried my head more than any textbook could... Suddenly I was given so much more to learn about, all on top of the heavy modules I was already studying. I thought I was going to fail. In fact I had convinced myself I had. There was no way I was capable, to add a professional degree into my mix. I cried. So much. My body had disappointed me. My body was stopping me. Stopping me achieving what I thought I could...... Well at least that's what it felt like.

But to my surprise I scraped through- Then year 2 came, and again I spent another 3 months in and out of hospital rooms. It didn't feel fair. And it most certainly did not feel possible. My confidence was starting to fall, I told myself I didn't have the strength to go through the same battles again. But again, I did. And I started to realise... perhaps I was more capable than I had first thought.

So year 3 begun to creep up, and the third and final application came through... This was the final time I had to tick these boxes. This time was different to previous, the feelings were different. I was more calm. More in control. I had faced and overcome so much in the last few months, more than I ever thought I could, and because of that... the whole process felt like a breeze in comparison to what I had become used to. I didn't feel so out of my depth this time. And I also didn't tick the same boxes either.... [X] LIVING AWAY FROM HOME

Why? This question is one that I have asked myself about 100 times a day! Why? Why now? Why, just when I was in control. Just when I had overcome what I had, just when I was managing to spin all my plates... I was learning to live the life I was given, and suddenly my decision had meant it was all going to change... More learning, more juggling... More fighting all over again.

Why? Well... Because I didn't fail. Because I wasn't out of my depth. Because I was managing. Because I was capable....

In the last 18 months, I was thrown hurdles I never thought I'd jump, But I did. And it was that, which taught me that anything is possible, even if you've told yourself for 12 years that it isn't. It is. If you really want it to be. I thought it was my body stopping me... From achieving what it was I wanted, but in reality, it was my mindset of believing it did. Yes it still hurts. A lot. Everyday. But I can still do things. Things I've feared over the last year that I wouldn't be able to do. And sure things would be a hell of a lot easier if I stayed home, Safe. But if there's anything this last year has taught me is that you don't grow when you're safe. You grow when you're challenged. When you're tested. When you're doubted....When you're sat in A&E at 4am in the morning surrounded by the beeping of machines. That's when you grow.

You grow in the situations you never thought possible. You grow when you don't stick to your plan. You grow when you learn. When you spin plates.... and for me, I'll grow when I move out.
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Saturday, 16 February 2019

Easy, doesn't always mean happy

University is something that many people dream of, but for me it never really felt like a path I was ever going to walk. Since transitioning to secondary school in 2015 and having my whole world turned upside down.... I guess part of me has just eliminated the thought of ever experiencing another big change. But life has funny ways of working out, and after falling in love with an industry I never pictured myself in- I realised that maybe university was the way forward.

I'd like to think that since leaving secondary school and moving away from the challenges and difficulties that it faced me with, that I'd grown to be stronger, mature and even a little more resilient, but that still didn't take away the daunting feeling I was filled with during my application process. I remember my first open day- all my friends were the first to check out the bars, the clubs, the halls.... my attention however was on the simpler things, libaries, classrooms, canteens.... now don't be fooled, i'm not that much of a geek! I mean I was interested in all that of course, but I wasn't really paying attention to any of the academic stuff, instead my mind focused on door handles, light switches.... how many stairs each block had... how far each classroom was from the next.. I wanted to enjoy the process. I wanted to enjoy becoming a fresher and experiencing all things uni life would have in stall for me, but I knew what uni life had in stall would be a much bigger test than any exam I could ever sit. 

Fast forward to open day for university number four.. now this one was probably the best so far, I liked it a lot. The campus was beautiful. The course was incredible. The people seemed lovely. And all in all everything seemed in my reach. Perfect! Well.... almost..... yes everything was in touching distance but the same could not be said for the uni itself, it was quite a long way from home.... a two hour train journey in fact. It was bitter sweet. I had found the most perfect university. Somewhere I could see myself going. But I'd never been on a train before... I certainly had never travelled on my own. The transition to uni I had just about come to terms with.. but taking on the challenge of commuting just didn't seem thinkable!

University number five had everything that number four had.. the course, the campus.. and what was even better it was right on my doorstep. No trains. No commutes. I was so excited. This university experience actually seemed possible, nothing seemed as if it could be or cause a problem. Well expect for one thing.... I didn't love this one quite as much.. in fact I didn't love it at all, yeah the course seemed interesting, yeah the campus was kinda nice... but I couldn't see myself there, not really. Not like I had done before. I tried for three weeks to love it. I wanted to love it. I wanted to choose it. Because choosing it meant not having to open myself up to the world of challenges that commuting would give me. But I couldn't. 

So maybe I just wasn't cut out for university. Maybe I was right from the start when I thought of it as a path I would never walk... or maybe it was time I put my past behind me, time I took a leap out of my comfort zone... time I listened to my heart and not my body. But what would life have in store if I chose number 4?

Well there was only one way to find out.


Fast forward to now. Mid-way through second year in university that  had captured my heart from the very start. The one that in fact has made university life possible.. The last two years have  taught me a lot.. I have come to realise a lot... for example just how much of this world isn't built for someone who's almost 4ft tall! Ticket machines, automatic doors, card machines, train seats, train platforms... there's a whole world up there I've never had to venture into before. I sometimes get jealous. Jealous of my class mates, who come in at 9am feeling refreshed for morning lecture, when i'm already physically drained. Jealous of everyone who needn't give a second thought to the daily tasks that are made so daunting. Jealous that they can reach textbooks off the shelf without worrying about who they may ask for help..... I've cried a lot this year. Tears of frustration. Tiredness. Fear. Panic. But I've also laughed. A lot. Experienced a lot. Learnt a lot. And loved... a lot. Loved the new life I embarked on, the friends I gained, the memories I've made. And although some days I wonder how the heck i'm ever gonna get through. I'm grateful for the adventure. I'm grateful for everything that being a small student has taught me and everything it has built me up to overcome.

My life may have been easier had I made a different choice. But easy. Doesn't always mean happy. And happy is just what I'm making uni life to be!



                            









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What is Dwarfism?





Many people often ask what is Dwarfism? The simple answer is of course... a condition which means a person is of restricted growth. The truth however....

Dwarfism is.... 
-Being 20 years old and still the size of a six year old. 
-Knowing that even when you are 40 years old.. still you will be the size of a 6 year old. 
-Forever trying to come to terms with this 
-Being too small for adult clothes and yet too big for kids clothes.. 
-Never buying new clothes because well... It's impossible. 
-Learning to dodge rucksacks and briefcases when you're on a busy train
-Jumping off the train and hoping you land on the platform that feels 10 miles away



  -Asking, "Excuse me, can you reach this for me" everytime you enter a shop

-Sometimes leaving the shop without what you went in for because today you just don't have it in you to ask
-Flinching every time you hear the words "Mummy why is she small" and praying you hear the answer you want. 
-Learning to hold back the tears when in fact you don't hear an answer and instead watch as a parent pulls their child away from you. 
-Having 101 step stools everywhere possible in your house 



-Wanting to cry when you realise you've gone away and not taken one of those step stools
-Getting to a bar and realising you can't see over it to order your drink 

-Having to embrace the awkwardness that both you and the person serving you feels at this moment 
-Over thinking even the simplest of tasks and routines all based around what will be in your reach
-Training yourself to not need the bathroom when out because most of the time they're out of your reach anyway

-Feeling like a kid in a sweet shop when you discover something you actually can reach!



-Phoning a friend to come over because your parents are out and your dinner is on the top shelf in the fridge 
-Saying "It's ok I'll stand", When someone offers you a seat when in reality you daren't even attempt to climb onto it in public
-Realising you forgot to ask your Mum for something before she left the house and accepting you now have to go the whole day without it.
-Wondering if, I couldn't reach it, beats the my dog ate it, excuse
-Feeling like a burden when you have to ask for help with almost everything!!
-Being grateful for the friends who put up with helping you with everything!


-Escaping to the toilet in the middle of a 10 hour shift because everything hurts.
-Not knowing why everything hurts. 
-Not being able to explain why you hurt, You just hurt. 
-Trying to make baggy clothes look fashionable 
-Failing at this. 
-Hearing the word freak, weirdo, or loser on a daily basis. 
-Having to pretend like you didn't hear it 
-Having to pretend that it doesn't hurt. 
-Doubting yourself and your ability to carry out even the simplest of tasks
-Calling everything small after you because.. well... it's just what you do!😂


-Getting home from an awful day and then crying.......because you can't reach the light switch 
-Sleepless nights as you pay the price for every single move you made that day



-Going to work the next day and no one knowing of the pain from the night before
-Asking "They know the situation right?" Before you meet anyone new  because you daren't walk into a room and watch everyone's jaws drop... 
-Being afraid of a change of routine because it's taken you 6 months to adapt to managing this one
-Being jealous of your tall friends 

-Wishing you were your tall friends 
-Not really knowing how to explain any of this to your tall friends 
-Keeping your feelings hidden because crying over a light switch isn't really seen as the norm
-Wondering if anyone really understands 
-Worrying that people won't understand 
-Feeling like every hair has to be in place to make up for your obvious flaws
-Not giving a dam what you look like because let's face it... they'll laugh at you anyway
-Feeling both of these feelings at once. 
-Not really knowing how you're feeling
-Being Positive about everything 
-Wishing you didn't have to be 
-Being angry, but knowing it won't change 
-Being upset, but knowing it won't change 
-Forever imagining your life if you weren't small
-Wishing it would go away
-Wishing you were normal
-Accepting that THIS is YOUR normal





And not wanting to change any of it for the world.




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