In 2012, three days after my grandfather died, I went to the charity’s flagship Games Inspired Muscle Dreams event. During a period of deep grief, to be surrounded by people filled with so much passion, enthusiasm and care for people with Muscular Dystrophy, I felt the love. I haven’t looked back.
When I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy as a baby, the doctors told my parents I was unlikely to live past the age of five. Over the years, this gloomy prognosis increased bit by bit. At the time of writing this, I’m 32.
Aside from the shadow of this hanging over my head, I didn’t learn to read and write until I was ten. The school I went to catered to a broad church of disability, but unfortunately too broad for me to learn the basics as someone with an exclusively physical disability, rather than mental. I was lucky enough to travel around the world with my parents – all experiences that I suspect helped shape my current attitude towards life: go for it!
With a gargantuan effort, and with support from my family, friends and carers, I graduated in 2012 with a degree in Advertising and Brand Communication. This was another bright spot in life – especially as I had no functioning wheelchair during much of my final year of the degree! Less of a bright spot was three years spent looking for work in the advertising and creative industries. For the most part, I found this already challenging industry to crack into was rife with even more challenges for someone with a disability. The struggle to find work and acceptance as someone who wanted to work and contribute to society, despite a severe disability, left me feeling lacking in confidence and deflated. I did find a job, but the barriers were still there and I found myself out of work again after eight months. This left me re-evaluating everything as I found my usually unfaltering enthusiasm was fairly dented by this point.
I’d previously experimented with ideas around creativity and disability on and off for some time – they were after all, two of the biggest factors in my life. So, in 2012, after losing my last grandparent, I found myself surrounded by people who had been through their own adversities and were there and present very much going for it. Not to mention the Paralympians that the world had just seen seemed to leave everyone (including me) feeling energised about how much those with disabilities have to offer. It was all exactly what I needed to re-find my fearlessness and start getting out of my comfort zone again.
I decided to embrace my passion for the creative industries but not wait for these industries to let me in. Basically, I’ve got a sledgehammer and I’m bashing my way through. My focus is now to find and match great disabled talent with creative institutions and agencies.
Being around, and working with, the lovely people at the Muscle Help Foundation taught me that it’s okay not to do things the traditional way, to find my own path and to be comfortable with what I’m doing and who I am. They’ve helped me see that scary predictions can be wrong, and even if they’re not wrong, there’s a way to make an impact and help others along life’s adventures. The future is as bright as I want it to be, and we all have the right and ability to be bold, wild, and fearless along the way.
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