Life so far: growing up, autism, and 100 blog posts!

Years ago, I often thought about starting a blog. With my big dreams of becoming an author, it sounded like the sort of thing that all the high-flying writers are doing. Of course, it was just a crazy idea I had. Nothing serious. Right?

On receiving Blogging for Dummies for Christmas, I thought I’d at least show my appreciation by doing a quick summary of my world as a trial blog post. Now, four years and 99 posts later, my blog has definitely stood the test of time. It’s my way of reaching out, entertaining, and making my mark.

And this is my 100th post! So I thought I’d offer a much bigger summary of my life up until now.

Starting with Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday 17th March 1993 at 1.13pm. My parents joke about how typical it was of me to come out at lunchtime. To which I say, how many people do YOU know who were born in the middle of the day, week, month, and academic year, on their due date?

People sometimes ask me what I remember about Taiwan. Kind of awkward because my earliest memories include me and my (British) mum hiding from my (Taiwanese) dad after they had been fighting. But hey, I also remember playing with our pets, walking through mountain scenery, and my 4th birthday party. It wasn’t all bad!

Just after said birthday, my pregnant mother and I hastily headed my grandparents’ way – Cam, Gloucestershire. My sister was born. I started school, and was happily oblivious to my teachers telling Mum how weird I was and blaming it on bad parenting. Then we found a council flat.

A year later, while we were on holiday, my now-stepdad made his debut. From then on, he kept turning up on our doorstep. And we on his. This went on for about three years, until he and Mum married, and we invaded his house for good. Did I mention what a cute bridesmaid I was?

Now in Loughborough, I ended up at a school that was actually competent, and hey presto, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. My response to the news? “Oh…can I have a piece of cheese?”

Secondary school pulled my head out of the clouds with a jolt. It was a scary world of social hierarchies, sport, and teachers with varying levels of empathy. I struggled with friendships. I struggled in classes. Most of all, I struggled to accept that autism was nothing to be ashamed of.

But gradually, I got involved with various social groups at church, and I finally started to make friends and open up about my difficulties. Meanwhile, I was studying animal care at Brooksby College. It comprised manhandling animals of every size and species, essays, poo, and overnight lambing. Pretty grim, but I passed with straight distinctions!

Because I wasn’t ready for uni afterwards, I did a couple of years of home study, and realised that my heart was in becoming an author, not a vet nurse. The second year proved eventful when my Grannie died of cancer, and I still regret not visiting more. But it was also the year I started at De Montfort University, studying Creative Writing and Journalism. It was challenging, and falling out with my friend when we tried living together was hard. That said, I learned more about writing than I ever had before, and I don’t regret it for a second.

And now, here I am, coming to the end of my Christian bookshop internship. It’s been a great year, with great people, and I can’t help wishing I had more time left. But few things in life are permanent, and as I reflect on my significant life events, I do wonder what the next one will be.

 

 

Dyspraxia

Safely away from the room full of over exuberant preschoolers!

Physical co-ordination, like too many things, has never been my strong point. This may have been obvious on my grandad‘s video of three year old me at Kindergarten in Taiwan, just sitting on a tricycle, fiddling with the parts but not zooming around the room with my peers. Or maybe later on, when Mum signed me up for ballet classes to improve my physical skills, only to spend weeks teaching me how to skip. Step, and hop, and repeat…

Actually, I’ve pretty much alluded to my dyspraxic tendencies here. Sport at school was my own hell on earth. Picture it: being surrounded by a field of people who may or may not be on your side running everywhere, shouting all at once, and a ball that you are supposed to be running after and moving in a certain direction, while being scolded for being so slow. Yes, it seems I am dyspraxic.

In general, I’m not a fan of self diagnosis. But most people on the autistic spectrum have dyspraxia. And my gross motor co-ordination* skills have always been sub average.

Which is basically what dyspraxia is. And when you already have to stretch your brain extra hard just to be nearly as socially skilled as most people, it can be a bummer to put up with. I didn’t learn to swim until I was nine. I needed parental help with learning to catch a ball. And there are some skills I never mastered: cycling, skipping with a rope, and walking on slippery surfaces.

By adulthood, if not adolescence, it often becomes less obvious. But even then, you may be aware of little ways in which you struggle. Like balancing. Or multitasking – yes, even if you are a woman! One thing I’ve noticed is that I tend to be slower on stairs (except the ones at home), especially when walking down. I can often make myself go faster, but it requires concentration.

Plus physical work. I spent my sixth form years (age 16 – 18) at Brooksby College studying animal care. This was a very hands-on course, 40% of which comprised farm practicals. Checking up on the new kittens was my favourite part. Trying to herd stampeding pigs or sheep into a confined space without getting laughed at by certain other students wasn’t. Similar to the dogs at a kennel and cattery I volunteered at. I put up with my boss yelling at me for two years before I decided I’d had enough.

I realise I’ve given a rather negative overview of dyspraxia. Truth be told, I’m just trying to explain how frustrating it can be, and to give others on the spectrum something to relate to. Besides, when I’m not wallowing in self-doubt, I know what I’m good at. I’m studious, physically fit, a careful thinker, detailed writer, and – despite the dyspraxia – a moderately competent violinist. Just not a dancer, footballer, acrobat or farmer. We all have limitations, but don’t let them stop you from recognising your talents.

Oh and I can also skip. Almost forgot that one.

 

 

*physical