Monday 23 November 2015

Letter To Thrive - Joey Writes To Her Younger Self

There is a wonderful Tumblr blog called letterstothrive which has disabled woman write to their younger selves. I decided to send a letter to my fifteen year old self (posted here), as a way to show her, and me, how far I have come and how becoming disabled at nineteen and having what I thought would be my future changed, did not destroy me, or my plans. I may not have known it at the time, but even back then I was doing what would become my career. I decided to share it here in case other indie authors fancy doing something similar, especially if they are also disabled.


Dear fifteen year old Joey,

I'm you, from nearly two decades into the future and I'm writing to tell you things that may not have seemed that important to you, but ended up changing the course of our lives. You're probably reading this while working on chapters for that story. Maybe you're with B and writing the story about the twins. I know one thing is for certain, you are very sure about where your life is going and what comes next in your path. I'm writing to tell you that you're wrong.

Right now, you'll have nearly finished your first GCSE year. Your lungs are getting worse, but you figure it's just the stress and upset of being a teenager. You know that you need to do well on the science exams because you plan to become a doctor - a paediatrician to be exact. You're probably wondering how that went. Well, it's a long story, but I have the time, so here we go.

You do well in your GCSE's, you get the grades you need to go to college and you do just that. You sign up for the A-level classes you need to go to medical school, but then things start to go a little wrong. Your health isn't the best and due to a number of other circumstances you end up dropping out of college. For a long time you feel like you've let your parents down, let yourself down but you hide it by throwing yourself into the working world. Your dream seems to be over before it's even started and for a long time, you struggle to find out exactly what it is you want to do with your life.

Even though you find yourself a good job, you don't stay there long. A year later and with the additional diagnoses of M.E and Fibromyalgia, you find yourself under the heading of "medically retired." I know that for a long time after that you're not really sure what to do with your life. I mean, you have to move out of the room you rented, back in with mum, and then move again. You fight to get the benefits you need to be able to live and for a fair few years you are not stable medically. By the time you hit twenty - five years from now - you'll be using a wheelchair.

It's not all bad, B turns out to be the best friend you always knew she was and together life goes on, but still you ask yourself what can you do with your life? How can you become a "productive member of society"? You are not well enough to go back into the working world, but you have dreams of doing *something*. You're just not sure what. That's when it comes to you, to work on one of the stories you wrote all those years ago. You've gone back to it before, re-writing and hoping that you can make it as good as it can be. You also find you have more ideas, some that have been brewing for almost as long. Remember the coma girl story you told B about on the way to school when we were thirteen? Well, that becomes your focus now. You write it in ten days and suddenly, that feeling of pride that you'd missed came back.

As more stories appeared, you settled into your own routine of writing. You even sent off manuscripts to publishing houses. You are desperate to get published, and you do, at age twenty-three, your first book is released. It's a massive achievement for you, as you've gotten more books written, your health has declined. Now B is taking care of you, and you are an inseparable pair. I'm sorry to say that only one other friend stays in contact with you from your school days, but you find that you have a lot of friends online and although some go, others stay.

I'm writing to you now as thirty-three year old Joey. I, well we, have seven books published, twelve completed and two more on the go. There will be a launch for our eighth book this autumn. You are also very much disabled. The chair started as an only long distance thing, and then you became sicker and it became a constant need for you. I know that you, at the age you are now, may struggle with knowing what this future holds for you, but I can tell you this. You are happy. You love your job, love writing, adore the community of indie authors you're a member of and you are good at what you do. You may not yet be on the best sellers list - maybe the letter from the future for me will arrive any day now saying that is to come - but people do like and cherish the work you do. Your disability is just another part of the identity you have made for yourself, just part of you like the colour of your eyes is part of you. It's not to be feared, but to be embraced.

You may wonder why I'm writing this letter, if the future changes so much from what we thought it would be all that time ago. I'm writing to tell you that even the small decisions you made at fifteen, still influenced who you became. You graduated last year from the Open University with an honours degree in Health & Social Care. It's not medical school, but it's still something you love. I know that at fifteen, life seemed to be just one path, but I'm telling you that it's not. It's a myriad of paths and they all end up in different places. The diagnoses and getting sick led me down this path and I don't look back and see missed opportunities, but highlights of my life that I wouldn't change. While I may never have seen that one day I would be the person I am, I'm telling you that you will be, and you'll be proud of that too.

So, keep writing those stories, some will be buried in my attic for years and never spoken of again, but others become books and they help shape your career even if you don't think so at the time. Don't be scared of getting sicker, it happens and you come through it strong. Be nicer to Mum too, she becomes our biggest supporter in the darker times coming, I know you want to take control of things, but try to remember that she does it not to baby you, but because she cares.

I'll see you soon.

Love and *squishes*

Joey (age 33)

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