If you have me on Facebook, recently you might have noticed I've been unashamedly spamming about a certain Fixers project. If you go to Uni with me, you might have seen me and Reubs walking with a mini camera crew and praying for the ground to swallow us up. Or if you don't know me at all, you might have been like a guy in my class who was innocently eating his lasagne on a Sunday evening and was rudely interrupted by my excitedly nervous but weirdly manly voice on the TV. Either way, you probably haven't been able to escape my Fixers project, and for that I both apologise and thank you for the support/for putting up with me.
Fixers is an organisation that allows young people to use their past to fix the future. Very cool, am I right? We all know I certainly have a past. Anyone who becomes a Fixer is motivated by personal experience to make a positive change for themselves and others around them. Using the skills of a team of creative experts, they work out how to make sure their message is heard by the right people, whether that's through a unique film, a poster campaign, a website, an event, or workshop. All that being said, when the wonderful Chris asked me to get involved... I said no. There was no way I would have the time! But after meeting Chris and his secretary ( his 1 year old daughter Erin) it all sounded very exciting and too good of an opportunity to let pass me by! The team are committed and passionate about having each voice heard.
As you all probably know, when I was sitting my A levels I had everything planned to a tee. But 4 weeks before I was due to step on a flight to India to begin my gap year travels... I found out I was pregnant. (6 months pregnant at that... but that's a whole other story. You can read about it here.) And I. Was. Devastated. My life was over. In that moment I couldn't see how that baby was going to be a blessing in my life. I went through every emotion under the sun; sadness, regret, anger, fear, guilt, acceptance.
To cut a long and hormonal story short... I got very stubborn, very quickly, and I refused to give up on University altogether. I re-evaluated what I could and should do and realised there were courses at QUB that were right for me. For 2 years I repeated A levels, did a part time counselling course, and worked in retail before getting into Queen's to study Theology full time. And here I am! 6 months in and I couldn't imagine my life any other way. Well, actually, I could imagine it but I most definitely don't want to live it. For my Fixers project I wanted to encourage anyone who has been hit with a curve-ball or their life has taken an unexpected turn. I'm not just talking unexpected pregnancy here, it can apply to many situations. An example that springs to mind is the 1000's of jobs lost at Michelin/JTI/Bombadier recently. After Reuben was born I spent a long time mourning the life I could have had, to the point where it became unhealthy. But that life was never actually mine to mourn! And by regretting losing something I never had, it just robs me of the time and energy to live, enjoy and make the best of the life I have now!
The life I have now with Reuben certainly isn't the life I imagined for myself a couple of years ago, but by accepting and embracing it I can still live life to the fullest. I thank God every day for the joy I now have. Not even my teen pregnancy was too big for Him to work through. I hope that my story encourages anyone who is in the shoes I was in 2 years ago. They are very uncomfortable shoes, but you can cope and it's not the end. It's actually just a new beginning if you allow it to be! Trust me, this is coming from the gal who cried for 3 months straight, tried to convince her mum she had an immaculate conception, and googled how to get boogers out of a newborns nose. If I can survive the curve-ball, anyone can.
The majority of amazingly kind feedback from the broadcast has made walking past everyone at uni in the rain, with a camera crew following me, very worth the embarrassment. In fact, the aim of the piece was to positively impact ONE person. And I have had multiple conversations with people who have been encouraged by the video. Some were people I've met this year. Some were people who knew me at the lowest part of my journey. And some were people I don't know at all! But my favourite conversation has been with a 'teen mum' who is about to give birth and is pretty fed up with people telling her that her life is over. She now has every intention of going to university next year! The need to eradicate the 'teen mum' stigma is on my heart more than ever.
As with all projects like this, there was also some negative feedback. From past experience, I know my natural instinct can go two ways to such comments; I might run the other way and pretend it didn't happen, possibly fleeing the country in tears. Or I could hunt them down and give them a mouthful of sass that would make them question my sanity and I would later regret it. In light of that, I've been advised that I should respond to those comments here, even if those people never read my blog.
IT CROWD - It was honestly never my, nor Fixers agenda to contrive anything in regard to recent coverage of the abortion issue. I really just wanted to show that no matter what course life takes, it is still possible to achieve and succeed. The context of my story meant that ‘Young Mums’ were the centrepiece and target audience of the story, but my point in sharing my story is that anyone can adapt positively to a change in circumstance. In that respect it is as relevant for the 1000+ people who have recently been told that they are soon to lose their jobs at JTI and Michelin as it is to any ‘gymslip mum’. P.S. It is very unnecessary/mean to remind me 'life with a baby is damn hard even with a financial cushion'. I am quite aware, thank you very much.
PUZZLED - I 100% agree that in an ideal world young people wouldn't have sex until they understand the consequences. That is the dream. In saying this, I sat through approx. 4 of those 'Sex Education' talks when I was at school... and I still got pregnant. I wasn't the first and I certainly won't be the last. The point of my project was to encourage those in the same situation. I spent way too long regretting what I'd done and wasting time that I will never get back. The 'safe sex' education for young people is essential. But so is the support and encouragement for those who are on the other side. And telling them that prevention would have been better, isn't going to help anyone. You are also so right to raise concerns about the 'babies and benefits' culture. I was on benefits when I worked part time and I can wholeheartedly understand how easy it would be to get trapped in that downward spiral. I think people, all people, should be supported to live 'up to potential' and not 'down to stereotype'. I am so done with that 'Teen Mum' stereotype! However, in all of this there is a need for fresh and positive voices, young voices who are living it, and they need to be heard. We need to raise concerns, highlight issues, champion positive choices and attitudes, and acknowledge that change is possible! Fixers gave me that opportunity and I am thankful for it. I hope they can do the same for others.
To end on a much lighter note, here are some super cute photos of Reuben (and me) from the day we filmed the piece. It is an experience I will never forget, or let Reubs forget!
|Expensive/shiny/breakable equipment. Reubens dream.|
|Overjoyed about naming all of the animals on the ark. For the 10000000th time.|
|Reubens 'no cares' face. My 'there are 4 other adults listening to this story' face.|
|I spent this whole part wishing I'd put a bib on Reubs.|
|Writing down the things I needed to remember to say in my interview.|
|Smiling because I forgot my name.|