Sh*t happens. I should know. When it comes to misfortunes, I’ve had my fair share. Indeed, when it comes to life, my guilty teenage crush and former Boyzone frontman Ronan Keating was spot on. Life is a rollercoaster and you’ve just got to ride it. Likewise, whether we like it or not most change is inevitable with some elements being forced on us when we least expect whilst others require precise planning to even get off the ground.
Positive change when you’re hurtling up the rollercoaster can be exhilarating but when forced it can initially leave you feeling angry, anxious or vulnerable. Imagine the nausea induced by hanging upside down on that rollercoaster and the relief that follows when your feet eventually touch terra firma?
See, that’s the case with so many of the hiccups I’ve encountered during my life. Even when I look at something as serious as developing a severe and aggressive form of Rheumatoid Arthritis at the tender age of nine. At the time, my world felt like it was going to collapse and by aged 12 when I’d lost the ability to walk, I was ready to admit defeat. But I fought back, and my determination to get back on my feet, albeit for short distances, even resulted in me winning a Golden Wonder Child award and a year’s supply of – you got it Golden Wonder crisps!
Fast forward to 2020 and I’m sure the COVID19 pandemic has resulted in all of us experiencing setbacks and complications. Indeed, during lockdown it felt like a day wouldn’t go by without a family member, friend or work contact telling me stories about all the crap stuff that’s currently plaguing their lives, including my niece’s wedding being cancelled.
I then got thinking and asked myself – what would my life be like now if the changes that were forced on me never happened? What if I didn’t develop a chronic illness that resulted in my mobility being severely impaired? Like so many other Bangladeshi girls growing up in the 1980s and 1990s – would I have even been encouraged to go to university? Would I have had an arranged marriage? Where would I now be living? Would I be an awesome home cook and just like my mum be knocking out showstoppers and hosting dinner parties for endless members of my extended family?
As crass as this may sound – my disability was ultimately my ticket to freedom. As soon as it became obvious to my parents that no family would be interested in matching their son with a disabled suitor and with the influence of a former teacher my future was instantly redefined and progressing onto A Levels and then to university became a realistic goal.
Meanwhile, though not entirely forced, my switch from law to journalism was also a result of my disability. Working crazy long hours as a transactional lawyer was not compatible with Rheumatoid Arthritis, as it triggered a string of flare-ups some of which resulted in hospital admissions. So, I made the difficult decision to quit and pursue journalism.
At the time, I felt my change in career direction was pushed on me and naturally I felt angry. But again it was definitely for the best as a I loved being a journalist and without the pressure imposed on me as a result of my failing health I may have just plugged away as a lawyer even though I knew it wasn’t really for me and couldn’t see myself practising law longer-term.
Other positives that have resulted from my disability include self-confidence and standing up for myself. Mostly, because I got so fed up with the micro aggressions and having questions about me directed to my companions. Also, spending months on end in hospital meant I had to grow up pretty quickly because when talking to my doctors I played the combined role of patient and my parents’ interpreters as they didn’t have a brilliant command of English.
But the most significant positive by-product was of course meeting my amazing husband. We met at a party hosted by an integrated theatre company for aspiring disabled actors. In case you’re wondering, I was one of the company’s directors whilst my husband was the thespian because I can’t act.
Change or navigating a transition, including changing careers can make even the most resilient amongst us feel anxious or uneasy. Especially, if it’s forced such as a health issue or redundancy. But as I’ve just highlighted some of the most terrifying moments when we feel like the rollercoaster is going to fall out of the sky will eventually pass. And even though it may not feel like it at the time the change you were most fearing could be the best thing that could’ve ever happened to you.
Be brave and embrace change and aim to move forward positively.