A week before my first exam, I received an email which changed the way I look at my blog and which could lead to something exceptionally exciting. I’ve got permission from the people involved to post about it and so here goes!
This email was from a girl called Silva, who had found my blog whilst looking for ways to procrastinate revision, which I thought was absolutely hilarious. Silva comes from a school in Dorset called Bryanston, an independent school; it also has students who live there in a boarding school setting. In this school, there’s an Equality Society which is pretty much run by her. They discuss and debate issues pertaining to wider problems in society.
Because I have strong views on that which I express through my posts, Silva asked me if I would like to come to their school and speak to the Equality Society about inequalities I face in education as a result of my disability and how I’ve overcome challenges to do with it. She said that it was a “tall offer” and that it may be far-fetched but that she loved my content and thought it was just what they needed.
As I’m an incredibly put together, professional person, naturally I started screaming as soon as I had processed what was happening, which took about 5 minutes. It was 10 o’clock at night and I was so shocked by the email that I couldn’t have replied to it if I had tried; it was only the next day, at school, that I answered. For me, that was more important than revision at that stage. After all, when would this opportunity happen again?
Of course, my first thought was that it was a scam as I was disbelieving that anything so momentous could happen to me. However, I searched up the school, managed to work out how far I lived from it and heavily analysed the email to check for any inconsistencies. After surmising that there was a 99% chance it was legitimate, I began to truly think about whether I wanted to do this. It only took me a day or so to come up with the answer: yes. I did.
Over the next few days, I was still surprised: it may not seem like much but to me, to be contacted on the platform which I love with everything I have, to be asked to talk about something I’m so passionate about and to have my opinions listened to is a dream come true. I know that here, I can make a difference. I started to plan how it would happen, emailing Silva when I could in the mayhem of exam preparation.
Silva gave me her number and after we’d spoken for a while, she asked me if I would like to talk to the Equality Society on the Monday preceding half term. Upon agreeing, we arranged a time and called. It was utterly surreal; I was sitting in my bedroom having a discussion with people I’d never talked to before, about something which was so huge to me.
I answered a few of their questions and it felt wonderful to be able to talk about my feelings. Questions I was asked ranged from how I knew what colour clothing I was putting on in the morning (that has to be one of the best questions) to how I access my work. I had an answer for each and felt almost like a fire was being lit inside me because I felt purposeful, comfortable and most of all? Powerful. One of the things I said was the smallest actions can mean the most or hurt the most and I needed to speak to the people there like I would talk to any other: without patronising, without treating them differently because everyone’s human.
According to Silva, when we spoke afterwards, more than 30 people turned up and were in a small geography classroom, with more arriving as I was speaking. It made me feel so accomplished. Though it was Silva who had advertised the event so brilliantly, it was my words to which they were listening. It’s a foreign feeling that I’ll never get used to because then, I wasn’t just that weird Elm girl. I was somebody who could change the opinions of people I didn’t know, using the only resource I can: my words.
I have barely told anyone about this but I’m still so incredibly excited. The first person to know was my dad who is totally on board with it; sadly, my mum can’t know the true origin of this as I refuse to tell her about my blog. We need to get the logistics sorted but at some point, we can make more sound preparations.
Hopefully this September, I’m going to travel down to Dorset to speak to them. Even some of the staff members know which is mildly terrifying. However, doing this is something which I’ve set my heart on. I want to help; I want to show people that even if disabled people have difficulties, it’s not the end of the world and there are ways to live and be happy.
Not only is this a dream for me but this is also drawing my blog out into the “offline” world. The people at Silva’s school know my real name as they would have to. One wrong word or accidental blogging or real life name reveal would end my anonymity but strangely, I don’t care as much. The fact that I was specifically contacted through my blog, not a VI charity or otherwise, shows how blogging doesn’t just have to be reserved for the online world. I am both my blogging and real-life persona: they aren’t two separate people.
Blogging got me to this stage in my life and will continue to shape how I act, how I feel and what opportunities can be gained. I couldn’t be more thankful for that; instead of being the “visually impaired one”, I want to be the one who can help people. Having a blog has let me be that person.
I’m really, really looking forward to this; it’s possibly the most exciting thing that has ever happened to my blog. Remember that your words can mean something; it’s words that can change people’s minds and let them understand things which they otherwise wouldn’t.
I may not be able to help everyone or do everything I want to do. However, what I can do is worth it. What I can do is help as many people as I can and speak as loudly as I can.
Don’t be afraid of taking new, potentially scary opportunities. It could change your life, or the lives of others, one day.
From Elm 🙂