Before I go into the perhaps not so glamorous details of my time as a now fully-fledged college student, I thought I’d take you back to the beginning of September for a touch of sparkle.
The Creme de la Creme Ball, hosted by Reality TV stars Dawn and Ashley Ward (check out Real Housewives of Cheshire if you haven’t already – I promise you’ll thank me), takes place annually in the most glamorous marquee and plays host to a whole range of huge names, from the stars of Hollyoaks to this year’s Love Islanders themselves. Dawn and Ashley are great supporters of the charity Caudwell Children, and so hold the Crème de la Crème in the grounds of their stunning Cheshire home to raise funds for a cause close to their hearts.
After deciding on an appropriate outfit for the dazzling evening and styling my hair to perfection (creds to PA Sally), we hopped into our trusty Fiat Doblo and joined the queue of Ferraris to enter the breathtaking grounds where the ball was to be held. It’s such an honour to be invited to an event such as this, and that surreal feel of being surround by such stars never quite sinks in.
I’m not really down with red carpet protocol, I mean, do you look straight at the camera? Do you look casually into the distance? I just don’t know. Anyway, we made it to the champagne reception and drank in the fabulousness of it all. I honestly don’t know what I’d do in this kind of situation if my chair didn’t rise up to standing height. Apart from not particularly enjoying being bent down to like a three-year-old, it can be quite overwhelming having hundreds of very tall people in stilettos towering over you. Also, how would I reach the bar?
Just to add to the whole craziness of the evening, we were seated at a table with the stars of Hollyoaks! The food was exquisite, but just as I was about to tuck into my chicken (I think?) main course, I was whisked away to the stage to make my speech.
This by no means was the first speech I’d ever made, but this time felt different. For the first time, I felt I was truly speaking as the person I wanted to be with a confidence I had not experienced before. When I speak about my powered wheelchair, some may say that my words are exaggerated and that a piece of equipment can’t honestly mean that much – it’s no joke when I say the chair is a part of me. When it isn’t just right, it comes with that same crushing feeling of leaving the hairdresser’s with a dodgy haircut or leaving the salon with a wonky set of waxed brows. My chair is not only about practicality and functionality, it’s about feeling exactly how I want to feel.
I’m afraid Cinderella’s night of sparkle was just that – a night – and so it wasn’t long before my Pumpkin carriage pulled up at the gates of my real life, The City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College. As I wrote in my previous blog, college is an entirely new experience for me, and my take on it is perhaps different from the person’s next to me. Then again, I guess everyone has their own unique take on life.
My average college day begins at the ungodly hour of 4:45am when I begin my respiratory workout. This involves a nebuliser to clear my airways and then a Hayek Oscillator (or as I like to call it, the ‘Shaker Maker’) to literally shake out any secretions. I then proceed with what I assume to be a pretty typical morning routine of any sixteen-year-old – showering, choosing an outfit, makeup, hair etc., the only real difference being that I have a PA to assist me, making me an actual, real-life Disney princess (no joke).
Once I arrive at college, the rest is up to me. No longer am I escorted from lesson to lesson or even watched from a few feet away – and I love it. Although it can be pretty terrifying at times, I finally feel as though I can introduce myself as simply me as opposed to me-plus-one. Of course I’ve had some awkward and embarrassing moments (like accidently pressing my horn during a lesson) and of course I’ve found myself in some rather sticky situations (like my head dropping on exiting the lift), but surely this is just part of college life, albeit with a slight twist? I have to be given the opportunity to make mistakes and get lost along the way as, if I spend my entire educational life being protected from such things, how am I expected to cope when these inevitabilities eventually occur when I enter the real world? It’s all been a gradual process, and now I’m just beginning to reach where I want to be.
Finding the confidence to ask for assistance from those around me has probably been my biggest step. I’m not asking anyone to administer intensive respiratory care or anything, but it’s more the simple things like grabbing my homework out of my bag or opening my pencil case. Once people get used to my situation, I’ve come to realise that they honestly don’t mind giving me a hand.
But if I thought I’d made a big step in going to Sixth Form College, how about my big sis heading off to Cambridge University! Last weekend, she packed up her things and made the giant leap into uni life where I’m sure she will thrive. So far she has managed to survive freshers week and is now just beginning to get her head around the beginnings of her degree in Modern and Medieval Languages (French and German).
It’s a strange feeling for me as we literally do everything together, and for the next eight weeks or so, I’ve lost my partner in crime. She’s now living her Hogwarts dream, and I honestly couldn’t be happier for her – now I’m just looking forward to the epic Cambridge parties when I visit! Hearing about her student adventures so far is also making me all the more excited for when my turn comes…
That’s all for now as a great mound of homework – or as they now like to call it, ‘independent learning’ – awaits, but I’m sure I’ll be back shortly to give you the next installment from where I sit.