I’m enjoying my last evening of quiet before another action packed week. I say action packed, but I mean busy. I am reluctant to use the term busy as I am aware I am always talking about how busy I am and I feel like I bore or annoy people with my constant claims to busyness. I tell people I’m busy mainly to explain my disorganisation and/or lack of focus. My I’m busy is shorthand for Please forgive me, I’m all over the place right now.
I actually feel like I’m learning a lot this month. As someone who is not very confident, I struggle with communication. But I met up with a museum colleague this week and we were chatting about the school system. I spoke about my experiences but as I was doing so I began to have flashbacks of a bad time in my life. I remembered a schoolfriend’s father who made fun of me regularly because I was doing a GNVQ in something media-ish (the course was later cancelled, as my school realised the students on the course were doing well and all likely to get C or above if the course was changed to GCSE Graphics). I don’t want to criticise him because life is hard and I’d rather focus on the positive. But I remember caring more about whether people thought of me as clever or successful than I did about doing something that made me happy.
My favourite early memory was visiting the Tate on a school trip. I was thirteen and my family were worried because it was the first time a member of our family had been to London for decades. I’ve loved museums ever since. A year afterwards my class visited Arts University Bournemouth and I remember wishing I could study there. I still feel a sense of excitement when I see printmaking equipment. I briefly did a college art course but I had to drop out because of expenses and deteriorating relationships at home.
Anyway, this is just a ranting way of saying that I always was steered away from doing things I love. In later years, external pressure was replaced by internal pressure. I felt like the struggles I had in the workplace were a result of my lack of formal educational qualifications (which illustrated my being thick). And I remember just feeling like I missed out on the rite of passage that is student life; that university was a doorway into a better life for myself.
I had all these thoughts and memories swishing around in my head that I had to let something out. I was afraid of talking about this because I thought I’d sound like a bitter drop-out (believe me, I’m not – dropping out was very good for me).
After I started talking to people I found my friends, and people they know, had similar experiences. And it felt good to know I wasn’t alone.
Now I feel like my thickness is irrelevant. You know, I excel at what I love and fail at things I find boring? Academia isn’t for me. Maybe I’ll never understand the readings I’m given about the intersection between art and politics, but I’m in a museum working with a team who are finding practical ways to make art accessible to all. So aren’t we all just fighting the same battle? Except I’m using my favourite tools.
Do you ever have those moments when you overhear someone struggling with something and you think you know the answer but it seems rude to interrupt? Or you want to suggest something but it seems like you’re stating the obvious? Or when faced with a challenge you visualise multiple possible consequences and imagine ways to tackle/avoid/reduce the challenge? Well, this month I’ve found out I’m good at creative problem-solving. I didn’t even know that was a thing. And the only reason I found out is because three people gave me positive feedback in one week. Weird, because I thought my creative problem-solving with a result of my anxiety trying to organise my experiences into manageable scenarios. My mental health is a funny thing sometimes; it closes doors to normal life but it rips open walls to new worlds. Celebrate your weirdness, folks.
I touch on mental health in this blog. It’s something that I may go into in more detail in the future. But if you know me in person you’ve probably noticed I talk about it more than I used to. Talking about it has been a key part of my healing process. I was chatting to my friend who was telling me that she finds it difficult to talk about depression because she knows people who have faced more hardship than her. I understand. I felt the same way for a long time.
After going to a UNISON Disabled Members (also known as UNISON Members with Disabilities) conference I met with people who were more vocal than I was about mental health. And I really felt, for the first time in my life, that is was OK to say I’m not OK. Incidentally Brighton Student Union have an It’s OK Not To Be OK campaign and I think it’s brilliant. Since then I have made a conscious effort to check in my mental health status to friends, colleagues and family. I have taken TOIL when I am really unwell, I have asked for space when I need it and I have refused to let people police my feelings.
So goodnight everyone. I’m doing OK.