Sunday, 12 June 2016

School Reunion and tackling being Disabled! 2

This post was actually published on 04/06/16 but I had some editing problems which is why it's been published again.....sorry lol!!

So last Saturday I attended a school reunion at the secondary school that I went to from the ages of 11 to 16 years old.......or 18 if you stayed on in the sixth form! 

I attended Torquay Grammar School for Girls from the years 1984 to 1989. I didn't stay on in the sixth form, I left and went to the local collage to do a BTEC National Diploma in Performing Arts. 
I went to the Girls Grammar school because I passed my 11+ exam, it was also the school that my mum had gone to so I was quite proud to follow in her footsteps.....the problem was that I wasn't particularly academic and I had my heart set on going to London, to go to a theatre school and train in musical theatre. The trouble was the grammar school didn't really concentrate on many of the creative elements. There was no drama or dance....there was a choir & also an orchestra, except I couldn't play an instrument! I don't feel that I was encouraged in any of the areas that I was actually good at!
I had wanted to be on stage for as long as I could remember......I was 3 years old when I started dancing, I eventually took lessons and exams in ballet, modern/jazz, tap, national (National dances from around the world) and I would eat, sleep and breathe anything to do with musical theatre!

It's safe to say that I was an active child! In fact I carried on dancing up until I was at least 21. I had fulfilled my dream and gone to a stage school in London doing a three year musical theatre diploma. 
When I finished college I got a few different jobs and I even got my Equity card......Equity is a union for people within the theatre but it's not something you can just sign up to, you have to earn it by working in the profession.......I was very proud to have achieved that! 
I actually met Martin while doing one of the jobs and we moved to London after we'd finished it. We had planned to carry on auditioning for things so while we were doing that, we got jobs ushering at a West End theatre. We ended up at the Shaftesbury Theatre and after a little while working there I was asked to interview for one of the deputy manager jobs.....I got the job and spent the next couple of years as Deputy Duty Manager at the Shaftesbury Theatre, another achievement that I'm very proud of! 
We left London after a few years and ended up back in Devon.....after we'd done a bit of travelling around Europe......We got an Inter-rail ticket and with a tent & a large back pack each, we travelled to France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Southern France and Italy! 😯😋😯 I will just say that anyone thinking of travelling or taking a gap year, I would really encourage it. Looking back on our lives, I am so glad that we did it because I would never be able to do something like that now. Take your chances when you get them! 
It had never been in my plan to move back to Devon, it just kind of happened and at the time I wasn't sure how I felt about it but as time went on we settled down here, we found somewhere to live and we both got jobs, in fact we managed to buy our own house but we were in that house for less than twelve months when my first symptoms of MS started. It was a scary time because I wasn't able to work for a while, we'd just got a mortgage and the future seemed really uncertain. 

But as always things have a habit of working out and fourteen years on we are in our flat, our "forever home" and we're all very happy here! 

Now back to the reunion, it had been in the planning for some time and I had been told about it last year sometime. I was fairly adamant to begin with that I wasn't going to go. I had shut that door a long time ago and was sure I didn't want to open it! Apart from not wanting to go to the actual school again, I wasn't sure that I wanted people to see me as I am now, after all I'm not the active girl that I was at school. 
The beauty of Facebook is that it connects people, it brings people together, whether they are going through similar things or whether they knew each other in the past, it connects and reconnects! 
I was able to reconnect with a few of my old friends from school, one of which was helping to organise this reunion. She knew how terrified I was of being a part of it. I guess a part of it was that I wasn't the girl they'd remember (but then who was?) but also the way society makes us feel about how we are or what we have done made me scared to show myself.
I'm slightly ashamed to say that I felt embarrassed.....embarrassed about being disabled and yet now, as I write this, I realise just how ridiculous that sounds.......I just knew that I didn't want people to feel sorry for me.......and they didn't! 

In the end I was persuaded to go and I am so so happy that I was! 

I started the afternoon off on my crutches but quite soon had to get my wheelchair, we were going on a tour of the school and I knew I wouldn't be able to manage walking that far. While I was sat talking to a friend, Martin had taken my crutches back to the car and he'd brought my wheelchair up to where I was sitting. I don't know why but just that change from using crutches to getting in my chair made me feel really emotional. I was so conscious about getting in and being in my chair and about being different, that it almost took my breath away. But that was all me, no one else made anything of it! I don't like having to use my chair even though I know it is there to help me but having said that, I am much better at using it than when I first got it lol!!! Not one person made anything of my situation and nobody made me feel awkward at all throughout the day....I'm hoping I didn't make any of them feel awkward either! 
We had a fantastic day, catching up with old friends, reconnecting and making plans to see each other again in the future. 
A very special day, let's not leave it another 25 years eh?!?! 😜

I just want to add that it was great to go and look around the school again, after all these years! It was another thing that I'd felt fairly adamant about, I didn't have great memories of it and so why would I want to go and see it again? But over the last 25 years, I am pleased to say that things have changed! The one thing that I will take away from it was that it now feels like a proper school. There were pictures, the pupils art work and school projects all over the walls of the corridors. There has been extensive development and new buildings, a sports hall, gym etc. It's fantastic and a school to be proud of........not like 25 years ago! 😋  

1 comment:

  1. It was lovely to see you and I'm so glad you decided to go. I was also nervous - I guess we all were - but the years melted away and a lot of ghosts were put to bed that day for all of us. As a fellow student who ended up in the arts - despite very little encouragement - I'm glad we got the chance to do that! Lovely post xxx btw