Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 | My Best Year Yet

2018, what a year! 2018 had the potential to either be the worst year of my life or the best year, there was never going to be any middle ground and I think it's clear to see that it's thankfully been my best year yet. Something happened in my life this year that is probably one of the toughest things I will ever experience, but the gift of getting my new powerchair in February meant I could fill my time with distractions to make it the best year of my life so far. Now, I knew that I'd done a lot this year but I didn't realise the extent until I wrote this post, and most of what I've done and achieved wouldn't have been possible without my powerchair. I joked about wanting to catch up on the years of life and experiences that I'd missed out on and I think I more than succeeded in doing just that!


JANUARY

I really thought that I wouldn't have anything to write about for January since my powerchair wasn't delivered until February, but it turns out I was pretty busy in the media talking about pre-packaged food! I found myself on Channel 4 news and writing for Metro about how necessary pre-packaged food is for some disabled people, this was my first step towards tackling the ableism found within the conversations that are being had about packaging and plastic in particular. I also started swimming again for the first time in years and documented my journey with it throughout the year in blog posts for Activity Alliance, I'll definitely be continuing swimming in 2019! I also interviewed Paralympic skier Millie Knight as part of my In Conversation With series, something I will be bringing back very soon so keep an eye out for a new interview soon.


FEBRUARY

On February 1st my powerchair was delivered, and one of the first big things that I did was take my Mum to see Les Mis in London. She'd wanted to go for all of my life and I always promised I'd take her one day, the look on her face as we entered the theatre is something I will never forget. She cried all the way through the show, it was such a special experience to share and the beginning of many theatre trips together! I also had a photoshoot with the lovely Kaye so I could show you my powerchair in all it's glory, as well as enjoying my new-found confidence!

The conversations surrounding plastic were also still ongoing and I found myself going on the Channel 5 news live to talk about plastic straws, from the point of view of a disabled person who relies on them. I was absolutely terrified, more so than I was before some of my surgeries I think but I did it and I'm glad I did because it meant some filming I did later on in the year wasn't quite as terrifying as I imagined. I also took part in my first podcast for In Visibility Today with the wonderful Laura, it was a lot of fun and podcasts are something I would love to do more of in 2019!


MARCH

March marked the first time I'd been able to go outside in the snow as a powerchair user, it's something that wasn't at all possible in my old powerchair so it was exciting! An interview I did for Enable Magazine about pre-packaged food came out in March also, it doesn't matter how many times I see myself in print, it's always as exciting as the first time! We very sadly lost Stephen Hawking in March 2018 and images depicting him being free from his wheelchair inspired me to write about how my wheelchair has been my freedom, not a prison that I need freeing from. It ended up being one of my most popular posts on my blog this year!


APRIL

It seems April was a quiet month for me, the calm before the storm if you will! I did however take part in the Behind The Scars series, a photoshoot documenting people's scars and stories. Ever since my first surgery I'd wanted my scars photographed, I've always thought they were beautiful and hated that I was being offered advice on how to make them fade. They tell a story and are a constant reminder of my strength. I was really nervous about doing the photoshoot, it was totally out of my comfort zone and the idea of stripping down to nothing more than my underwear and a vest in front of strangers was terrifying. But, it took no more than 30 seconds for me to feel comfortable and before I knew it I was actually enjoying myself! I had convinced myself I'd hate the photos though, so when they came through and I loved them, I had a good cry. They are some of my favourite photos of me and I am forever grateful to Sophie for capturing a side of me I hadn't seen previously.


MAY

By this point I'd only had my powerchair for 3 months and so right now I'm slightly concerned about how long this post is going to be because I already did so much in just a few months! May was another relatively quiet month (compared to later on in the year!) but I did attend the Changing Places Looathon. This was the brainchild of Sarah Brisdion, herself and others sat on toilets outside of a Bathstore in London to raise awareness of the need for more Changing Places, a type of accessible toilet with a hoist and height adjustable changing bench. It was a lot of fun to take part in and we've finally seen some progress as the government recently announced that they would act to increase the number of Changing Places in the UK. Hopefully 2019 is the year where we see real change on this issue!

I also headed up to Leeds for a few days, a short trip I'd booked not long after I'd received my powerchair. Some of you might remember that I lived in Hull for a year and I really loved living so close to Leeds, I fell in love with the city so I knew I wanted to plan a trip for when I had my new powerchair and as a bonus, some of my friends live up there which meant I got to finally meet Kat and Chloe for the first time!


JUNE

Despite an ambulance trip and a hospital stay, I had a lot of fun in June! June marked the beginning of reigniting my love for theatre. I inherited a love of musicals from my Mum but before this year I hadn't been to the theatre in about 2 years but it only took one day in London at West End Live to remind me of how much I loved musicals and how happy seeing shows makes me. Just about every show Mum and I have seen this year was thanks to seeing them perform at West End Live. We had so much fun that day and we are already planning to make a weekend of it next year!

I also visited the wonderful Quantum team for the first time, we spent a day in Oxford taking some photos and exploring the city and then I went to their HQ where I had a tour of the build line where the powerchairs are made. It was fascinating, I love seeing the behind the scenes of things so despite them insisting it wasn't that interesting, I loved it!


JULY

I think July was when I really found my confidence, I started doing more spontaneous things and I think I settled into the mindset that so many new opportunities and experiences were open to me now. One thing on my list that I'd always wanted to do was attend London Pride, I went to my first Pride (Hull Pride) in 2017 after I came out as bisexual but I'd always wanted to go to London Pride, so when I moved back down south I knew I had to tick it off my list! It landed right in the middle of the heatwave we were having so I only lasted a few hours but those few hours were just incredible, I really felt like I belonged that day.

Not long after that I saw Bat Out Of Hell for the first time, this show has truly changed my life and got me through the toughest thing I've ever been through. My only wish is that I'd seen it earlier as it sadly closes in less than a week's time! All the memories will last forever though. I loved the show so much I saw it again the week after and the rest is history! I did see another show that month though, Everybody's Talking About Jamie! This was the first time I'd sat in the stalls in a theatre as a wheelchair user, and also the first time that I had a totally unrestricted view. It was amazing! Mum and I laughed so much and it was just a really heartwarming show, I can't wait to return to see it again in just a few weeks time!

I also took over the NHS Twitter at the end of August and start of September, I talked all about Marfan Syndrome and my experience of growing up with a genetic condition. It was a lot of fun and incredible to have taken part in it!


AUGUST

By this point I'd had my powerchair for 6 months and I'd definitely found my feet as August was an an incredibly busy month! My love for Bat continued as I saw the show 3 times but I also attended my first theatre press night, the Eugenius acoustic media night at The Other Palace. This was my first invite after I'd started reviewing shows and talking about access at theatres not long before so it was so lovely to be invited and it was the start of my love for Eugenius, a show I really hope to see return in 2019! This is also where I met the wonderful Perry for the first time!

It was also my 21st birthday in August and I headed up to Leeds again to spend a few days seeing friends, shopping and generally relaxing to celebrate! It was so lovely to see Chloe again and it was the few days away I needed to recharge because the day after I returned, I took part in the Superhero Series Triathlon! I teamed up with Lyndsay and Barry, 2 physios, to complete the triathlon, with me doing the push/run section in a lightweight manual wheelchair kindly lent to me by RGK. 1km seemed a lot longer than I imagined whilst I was doing it but I was so proud of myself that day and the smile on my face as I crossed that finish line said it all.

I also visited the Quantum team again to do one of the most exciting but nerve wracking things I've ever done! Quantum brought out a new and improved version of my Edge 2.0 powerchair this year and I was in Leeds at the time when I got a phonecall from the team offering to upgrade my Edge 2.0 to the new Edge 3.0. It was the most incredible offer that I couldn't turn down! Not long after, I found myself in Oxford, spending a day filming a video for the launch of the Edge 3.0. It was a fascinating experience getting to see how much work goes into a video that is just a few minutes long, I was nervous but I had no reason to be as I really love the finished video!


SEPTEMBER

Let's call this the month of theatre, because that's basically all I did! I saw Eugenius, Six, Heathers and Bat in September and thoroughly enjoyed being in London so much, I've lived a 20 minute train ride away from central London just about all my life but it's only this year that I've really taken advantage of that.


OCTOBER

I started October off by being on the cover of Thiis Magazine, a trade magazine for the mobility industry, it might not be Vogue but I'm still super proud of this and don't think it'll ever sink in seeing my face on the cover of a magazine! I also saw Six twice more and had the pleasure of finally meeting the wonderful Pippa during one of those trips, 2018 was definitely the year of meeting Twitter friends in real life. I also went to the circus for the first time in my life during October, I was kindly invited along to a Circus Starr performance, they put on inclusive and accessible circus shows and provide free tickets for disabled, disadvantaged and vulnerable children. It was a really fun experience!

One of my biggest achievements of 2018 was announced in October, I could finally share that I had made it on to the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 list, a list of 100 of the most influential disabled people in the UK. I got to share the evening with so many friends who had also made the list, but it's still not sunk in that I'm on it!

I finished off the month on Halloween, one of the best nights of my life. Mum and I started the day off by finally going to the Sky Garden in London, something we'd both wanted to do for a while despite neither of us being a fan of heights. We did it though and we even went right to the edge! The views were stunning and it was beautiful inside as well, if you're looking for things to do in 2019 then you have to add this to your list!

For us it was just the starter to our main plans for the day though, the Bat Out Of Hell Halloween Singalong! My costume only came together in the days before the show but it did come together in the end and I loved it. Everyone looked incredible that night and the atmosphere was like nothing I've ever experienced before, the theatre wasn't even full but we were making enough noise for 2 theatres worth of people! Having the cast member who plays the character I dressed up as and head of wardrobe compliment my costume meant the world and that night will also hold a special place in my heart.


NOVEMBER

November saw me finally post my plastic straw ban piece on here and the reaction it got was better than I ever could have expected! It's been the most popular post on my blog this year so I'm so glad I took my time with it to make it the best I could, something tells me the plastic straw fight will continue in 2019.

Theatre wise, I saw Bat 4 times, once with Perry, revisited Heathers and still didn't like it and went to the West End Live Lounge at The Other Palace to see some incredible West End stars perform! I also went to a concert in November as well, booking to see Christine and The Queens in Birmingham was one of the first big things I did once I got my powerchair and it came round so quickly. I had the best time, despite ending up ill, I've still no idea how I managed the 4 hour journey home!

I also went on a trip to Manchester to attend Kidz to Adultz North with Quantum where I spent the day on the stand getting to talk about how much I love my powerchair, as well as meeting friends and exploring the exhibition! I even found a car that would be ideal for me one day. This was also where I saw the giant posters of myself for the first time, a little weird but also exciting! A piece that I'd been involved with for the Evening Standard also came out in November, it was all about how technology has changed people's lives and it was amazing to have been asked to be part of it, the photoshoot was a lot of fun and I think we all look so badass in the photo!


DECEMBER

I finished my year in exactly the way I intend to start 2019, in a theatre! December was when the 'Bat is closing' panic set in and I saw the show 10 times after I found a taxi company that has cars I can fit in to get home after evening performances, which also meant I went out on a Friday night for the first time in my life! On that Friday I also attended a performance at The Theatre Cafe by Bat cast members Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton, it was the first time I'd visited The Theatre Cafe after they invested in a ramp recently, here's to many more trips there in 2019!

I also went back to Manchester to do a double show day of Doctor Dolittle (review coming soon!), which was the sweetest family show, and to see the wonderful Six ladies again who blew me away even more! Stage dooring after that Six performance has to be one of my favourite stage door memories ever and I cannot wait for Six to return to London in just a few weeks time! I also finally saw Kinky Boots ahead of it closing in January, I'm so glad Mum and I managed to squeeze in a trip because it was incredible! We laughed so much and it was such a feel good show, I've a review coming soon because whilst it might be leaving the West End, it's still touring the country!

So, that's my 2018! I saw 8 shows a total of 37 times, visited several new cities, started swimming, embraced being spontaneous, found myself popping up in the media more times than I can count, took part in several different photoshoots and gained so much confidence! 2018 was the year I found myself, my powerchair gave me the confidence I needed to figure out exactly who I am. I went into 2018 being newly single, living back at home with my family and truly believing that it would be the worst year of my life. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Here's to many more adventures in 2019!
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4 comments

  1. Hi Shona

    What a great summary. A fantastic year for you!

    Wishing you all the best in 2019 and more theatre!

    A
    ~

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  2. Sounds Like a fab year Shona. I work for the National Federation of shopmobility and I like to share some of your blogs on our facebook page. We are loosely connected to Thiis Magazine I work in the office next door to the editor. I had no idea you were the lady on the cover of the October issue until I read this blog. :) Congrats on a fab year and hope 2019 is a fab one for you

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! You are very welcome to share some of my posts on the FB page, would love that!

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