Toward the end of last year, just as my sorry self was beginning to think I was running out of anything important enough to offer the world, I received an email that heralded a big change. It was from Kylie at the Be.Accessible organisation. I’ve written about them before, here. They do excellent work in New Zealand: working onsite to improve accessibility across the country, increasing employment prospects for graduates with accessibility issues, championing the thinking about accessibility and community with the big thinkers of the private sector and developing leaders for social change.
I had written a piece about my birthday shopping expedition. It was an accessibility nightmare. You might have seen that piece, it was called Gone Girl. Well, Kylie read it and emailed me, inviting me to a meeting to discuss ‘synergies’. I thought that maybe she wanted to talk to me about my writing, so I went prepared. I took a copy of my stats from the blog and had prepared to answer questions of the commercial kind. But Kylie and her colleague Iris, wanted to know about my philosophy. My core beliefs. My illness journey and why I write; they asked if I knew what my audience was and for the first time I had an objective measure of what those stats meant. It was a turning point for me. Kylie asked if I had thought much about the future of my blog and the directions my writing might take. And she outlined the Be.Leadership program. They invited me to apply.
I came home fizzing. My whole body was shaking with the effort of the meeting, the nervousness I had felt and then the excitement as a whole new possibility opened up for me. It’s one of the things I have learned to love about having a life that has swerved so far from my original plans. It keeps surprising me! I applied, and then, on Christmas Eve I received the message I had been hoping for. I had been accepted into the program. Every year, 20 people from the disability community are selected to undertake a year of inquiry, reflection and growth in the field of social leadership. We’ll be engaging with leaders from a range of industries and sectors. We’ll be workshopping, discussing, thinking and growing as leaders ourselves.
One of the things I thought had passed me by when I got ill, was the opportunity to do further study. I just didn’t know how I would manage to physically do all the things required to even begin. How I would be able to manage a fixed schedule with an unpredictable illness? But life seems to be smiling my way. I will be studying, after all. I’ll be studying with an organisation who are committed to accessibility, they are perfectly positioned to understand diversity. So it will be possible for me to make the accommodations I need, to do what I need to do. And I will be studying something I am passionate about: how to help make our society one “where everyone can just BE.” (Minnie Baragwanath). I’ll be representing the unique perspective of people suffering with invisible illness and disabilities. I’ll be writing. And if I continue to feel as I do now on pulse steroid therapy, I’ll be able to do it with so much more energy.
After years of pushing against a tide of impossibility, my own sea of troubles, there’s a ship on my horizon. Once upon a time Shakespeare penned the timeless question; “To be or not to be?”. I smile, as I write the following words: ‘to Be.’ is my answer. To be all that I can be. The programme starts in March, I am gathering together my reading list and filling my head with all manner of anticipations! But before I get all carried away with it, I want to say thank you; because in all truth, this pathway has opened up for me because of this blog… and that wouldn’t exist without my readers. That’s YOU! I have found that writing about the things that matter gives me purpose, knowing you care about these things too gives me hope. Thank you for giving my words the chance to enter your space. Thank you for reading and encouraging and helping me through all of the difficulties. Thank you for sharing with me a passion for growing a compassionate, understanding community for people with invisible illness and disability. Now, it’s time for us to celebrate something great. The start of an exciting new learning journey. I can’t wait to share it with you!
I’m off to Be.Leadership!
P.S The above quote was mentioned by Bear Grylls in his show, The Island, on the telly last night. He was talking about great leadership. It stuck with me because I think it is a vital part of leadership. How important it is to show people you care before you can hope to lead them. It is my desire to be that kind of leader. I’ll be thinking about that while I prepare for my first ‘Be.Leadership’ task. Watch this space!
To be or not to be?