Why I Don’t Agree with Having a ‘Plan B’

I work a lot with young people, deciding what to do when they leave school/college. The majority of these are performing arts students. When I am talking to them about their future plans, I hear this phrase multiple times every session:

“I really want to be a dancer, that is my absolute passion but I think I am going to do history at university so that I’ve got a backup – like a plan B.”

This phrase really bothers me for the following reasons:

  1. The fact that a history degree is rated so much higher than a performing arts degree is a problem in my eyes. I will challenge anyone to tell me what skills that you learn from a history degree that you do not learn from doing a degree in acting. In fact, communication skills, presentation skills, social skills, interpersonal skills are all traits that an employer would actively seek, not how well you can quote a book from the 1800’s. Now, I am not criticising degree choices because of course, I am hugely biased but I just struggle with the notion that a more academic degree makes you more employable, because I wholeheartedly disagree.
  2. Young people are setting themselves up for failure, and I questions where this has come from. When I first started out doing performing arts, I was told a lot that I would really struggle to find a job and that it was going to be very difficult for me if I chose that career path. To be given a negative at such a young age just sets a young person up for failure. We should be encouraging young people to follow their dreams, because if you are told that you will not make it, it is unlikely that you will try.

My advice would be:

Try plan A first. Give it everything, give it absolutely everything that you have and dream really big. People will always try to push your dream big, so start really big and then when they inevitably push you down, it is still big.

Then, if plan A falls flat, come up with a plan B. Maybe in the same industry or if you want to totally change direction, go for that too! However, let plan A pan out first, because if you spend half your time going for plan A and half your time coming up with a back up plan, you aren’t putting everything into plan A.

Dream big, and who knows, it might happen.

Having the Right to Care

I have been incredibly fortunate in my life.

I grew up part of a stable family who have loved and supported every decision (even the ridiculous ones!) i have ever made. I have never really struggled for money, and have always had shelter, warmth, food and people who loved me.

And I am fully aware that for millions of people around the globe, this would be their dream, and I am so very lucky to have been brought up in that environment, and although my life is not perfect and I am still unsure on so many things, I am far more comfortable than most, and am thankful for being where I am.

However, this comes with its own problem. And this isn’t me moaning about the life I have or being ungrateful, this is just me explaining.

Until my second year of university, I had never really met anyone much different to myself. I had surrounded myself with my friends from school, who all came from a similar background to me, and I hadn’t really been part of many clubs or groups outside of school especially in my teenage years. But, in my second year of university, I was put on a placement at THE COMPANY OF FRIENDS which is a drama group and social club for adults with a range of special needs and complex learning difficulties in Liverpool. Safe to say I was absolutely petrified. I had no idea what to do, how to act, speak, move, and I was so scared that I would say the wrong thing. This is what i will come on to…

I remember walking up the steps to the group on my first session and I have never felt more uncomfortable. I felt like a tiny tiny goldfish in the muddle of the Arctic Ocean, flapping around helplessly, probably whilst plastering a totally fake “I’ve got this” smile on my face.

Well, that placement was the best thing that ever happened to me and I will forever be grateful to the lecturers that places me there, and Company of Friends for being so wonderfully magical. And that is absolutely what they are. I have never in my life met a group of people who uplift me and make me see my glass half full than those group of guys. Their wicked senses of humour and ability to take the absolute piss out of themselves was totally infectious and make me feel at ease almost instantly. They allowed me to become part of their dysfunctional family, and 2 years later, I am still there. I don’t work there. I have done projects there and hopefully will do projects again, and there will be weeks and months that will go by without me going in, but when i do, they greet me with absolute open arms, call me Cher Lloyd (god knows why!) and its as if I have never been away. But they ignited a passion in me to work in this sector.

It is something that I am really good at. And not a lot of people are. And you know what? It is totally okay for me to say that without coming across arrogant or self centred, because I’m not good at a lot, but I am really good at that. However, one barrier that I have struggled with is an attitude, and that attitude is, “what right do you have” or “who do you think you are, you have no idea what it is like.”

Now the second part of that is absolutely true, I do have absolutely no idea what it is like growing up with Downs Syndrome, and I would never ever pretend to. I make no attempt at framing myself as having had to deal with any of these issues that these people have had to battle their entire lives, but I want to be a voice with them. Not for them, they do enough speaking for the rest of the world combined, but with them.

Too often we criticise people for speaking out on behalf, or with others, if they have not come from that background or group. And i ask why?!

Why can’t a heterosexual person be part of a campaign for gay rights?

Why can’t a white person fight for the equal rights of black people?

Why can’t an able-bodied person fight for the rights of disabled people?

We shouldn’t make anyone feel guilty or embarrassed for their upbringing or background, especially if they are choosing to spend their lives giving back to the community and helping other people.

I spent my university life having to apologise and justify the fact that I had been privately educated. I totally understand all of the arguments against private education and i also agree that I was incredibly privileged to receive it, but it doesn’t make me a bad person, nor does it take away my right to work with people, and create work with people, who did not receive this education because I “would never understand…” whereas in actual fact, that is exactly what I am trying to do.

So, yes. I was lucky, I am lucky, and I am so grateful for that, but I also have the right to care about people, regardless of their background, race, colour, or ability.

It is impossible to write a blog like this without sounding like a spoilt little rich kid who wants to do a bit of work for charity to make themselves feel better about their privileged life. I am none of these things, but I know that this is how it comes across.

But yeah, I do care, I will care and will continue to care. Company of Friends made me feel part of something bigger, more important, and worth more than any amount of money can buy, and I will forever be grateful that they opened my eyes to a world outside of my own.

 

It’s Okay to Play: Meeting Marmite

Firstly, Marmite is my dog; a 12 week old chocolate brown Cockapoo; but more about her in a minute.

If you read my last blog, you would know that I have found post-university life quite difficult. Since finishing university, adult life has hit me quite hard and the stark realisation of it is overwhelming. Gone are the days of Netflix binging, staying up till 5am, and running around the room pretending to be walking through treacle whilst making bear noises. Or are they?

My second year was intense, and very hard work, and I was constantly looking forward to each task being over so that I had some down time, and then would be looking forward to the next thing being done, continuing to wish away my degree. My course was different to most people; the hours were long, and the work was intense, and there weren’t societies or loads of socials to attend, so my life was LIPA for three years. Whilst I was busy wishing away the hard work, I wasn’t concentrating on what I was doing which made me feel great everyday. And that was playing. At the core of my degree was the ability to play, and the skills and experiences to encourage others to join, and it is only now, after graduating that I truly appreciate the relevance and importance of this in adult life.

Too often we can get tied down (and I am a culprit of this) with bills, money, work, cleaning the house and making sure your trousers match your top. That isn’t to say that none of these matter, and you should forget to do them all, but in the whole grand scheme of things, they aren’t what I should let my world revolve around. The trousers and top statement has come from a comment that was made to me at the sweet shop I work in last week and for some reason, it bothered me. A member of staff said to me, “why are you wearing those jeans? They look stupid, they don’t match.” I was left feeling totally embarrassed and couldn’t wait to get home to remove my purple jean and blue top combo (which I was rocking by the way!) But then, as I got home, I started to think about why the comment had bothered me so much. As a society, we do not often criticize what other people look like, so the comment appeared rude and therefore made me feel uncomfortable as it is not something I am used to, but I had also been criticized for what I am wearing, which is a personal reflection of how I was feeling that morning when I opted for the purple jeans over the mundane blue ones, that to be honest, deserved a day off. And that comment inspired 50% of this blog, as I said to myself, “if I want to wear a Christmas jumper with matching socks in February, I will, if I want to wear pink shoes, with orange trousers, a pink top and a red hat, I will.” Who says what ‘goes’ and what doesn’t? And who cares?! There are defiantely bigger fish to fry than whether my outfit ‘matches’ and I thought it looked cool, and I will be wearing it to work again.

Too often we tell ourselves that we are grown up now, we have to dress, speak, and behave in a certain way in order to meet some ridiculous expectation we have set ourselves of adulthood. Well, I challenge that.

***

I have never had a dog before, they smell, and they are hard work, and my parents never wanted one, so we had cats, and fish, and the odd worm my sister decided to split in half (she thought they grew into 2 worms). But when we both left for university, my Mum couldn’t quite handle the classic empty nest syndrome, so bought a puppy. I never worried that I wouldn’t like her, anything small and fluffy that has a cute face, I’m sold, but I didn’t expect to feel quite as strongly as I do.

She must know that I am talking about her because she is currently sat chewing my sock.

We have only had her 2 weeks, and I have already been home as much as possible to spend as much time as I possibly can getting to know her, and oh my gosh she is the most fantastic thing. She poo’s a lot, and then eats it, which isn’t so nice, but she is the biggest bundle of energy and has brought nothing but absolute happiness into the house. But one thing that really struck a chord with me is what she has done to my mum and me.

On a normal Sunday night in, we would have tea, natter a bit, watch some telly whilst playing on our phones, natter some more and go to bed. Not anymore. We now sit on the floor, rolling around, throwing various toys to one another and chase a 12-week-old puppy around the garden urging her not to poo on the carpet.

We play, and its great.

I didn’t realise quite how much I missed it. I spent three years at LIPA rolling around the floor and pretending not to enjoy it, but I do and I think everyone loves to play in one way or another. My Dad is the least performing artsy type in the world, he is rarely silly, and I have never ever seen him dance. However, even he likes to play. He loves bikes, everything to do with them, and spends most of the hours of his day cleaning a bike that he cleaned the night before and hasn’t ridden, and messing with all of the little nuts and bolts that attach to the various bits of the framework. This is playing, and he loves it.

My point is, that playing is okay. It doesn’t make you childish, or immature. Run around the park pretending to be a flamingo if you want to, “be the bear” as a lecturer once told me, and wear clothes that don’t match, because life is too short to worry about stuff that doesn’t matter. Meeting Marmite reminded me how great it is to play, and on that note, I’m off to clean up the 2 wee’s she has done whilst I have been writing this, and then we are going to play tug of war with a toy dinosaur.