Live At Your Own Pace

This piece was written for the August 2022 issue of Caitlyn Raymond’s fantastic Details Magazine, which is out now – you can find out more about it by clicking here!

It all started with talk of first kisses.

“I was 16 when I had mine…”, said Caitlyn, as we discussed how we might incorporate the theme of ‘coming of age’ into this issue. Oh dear, I thought. She thinks 16 is late? I was 21! It was then that I realised it was going to be hard to relate to any of the typical teenage experiences the others were going to talk about. I often tell people that a disabled life isn’t a bad one, just a different one, and what that can mean is that it moves more slowly than everyone else’s. Admittedly, I’ve always been somewhat shy and introverted, so you could argue that that’s partly been down to choice. But there’s no doubt that I have had a sheltered upbringing, one that led me down another path, and perhaps that meant that I was never in the right places – or the right circles – for certain things.

I’ve always been lucky in that I’ve always got on pretty well with most people, and I was never really subjected to any of the bullying that some other disabled kids get at school. On the other hand, I wasn’t exactly what you’d call popular either. For a long time, I didn’t really see the few friends I had at weekends or during holidays, and I certainly wasn’t invited to any parties or other gatherings as I got older. I’d listen to the stories people would tell about getting drunk on cider in a field, or finally getting off with someone they’d been pursuing for months, or the amazing trip they’d just been on with their very best buddies, and I’d feel like those things were happening in a completely different world. Of course, at least two of them aren’t massively important, but back then they seemed huge and unattainable, and I’ve never felt less normal (whatever that is) than I did at times like that. And that was just adolescence.

Even now, in my mid-twenties, I still can’t truthfully say I really feel like an adult. Maybe it’s good to retain youthfulness, but I can’t help feeling I might have retained a little too much – and that must surely be because I missed out on many of those formative rituals that develop you to a certain extent. Whenever I’m explaining life with cerebral palsy to someone, I always emphasise how independent I am – how I get out and about in my chair, wash and dress myself, et cetera – but how independent am I really? Sometimes it feels like I should have gotten to 25 with a little more to show for those years. If I’d had more of those aforementioned experiences, maybe I’d have gone further, met more people, and been a more social creature than the generally withdrawn one I’ve come to regard myself as. But then again, I’m still only 25. As I’m continually reminded, we only get one go at this thing called life, and none of us should rush it. 

Some people pack more into ten years than others do into eighty, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to. Like a lot of people, I’m often prone to scrolling through social media, seeing people who were in my class with jobs, houses, husbands and wives, and wondering why I’m not at the same point. Given my condition and the difficulties it poses, it might take me longer to obtain all of those anyway, but I still fall into the same trap almost every time. Perhaps I ought to heed a quote I saw recently, attributed to Noel Gallagher. When asked about the meaning of life in an interview, he said:

“I enjoy the trip. Wherever you’re going is where you’ll end up. Don’t worry about that. Enjoy the scenery on the way.”

Now, a rock star may not be the best person to be taking life advice from, and I certainly don’t agree with everything Noel says, but I think those words make perfect sense. Whatever happens, I should always remember to live at my own pace and never lose hope. However long it might take, I will be less boring – and perhaps a little more grown up – eventually…

Mason

Broken Record

I’m always thinking about what I can try on this blog that’s new and different – even though you might not think so, given that the material never strays far from what’s going on in my own life. Every element of it has been carefully considered in some way at one time or another, from the text, to the imagery, to the design of the site itself. Unfortunately, none of the vague plans that exist in my head have come to fruition just yet. I haven’t even used that aforementioned imagery nearly as often as I should, but that hasn’t stopped me creating little quirks and continuities that might have passed you by. Up to now, at least!

There are things I’ve become quite fond of including over the last couple of years in particular. I treat them as private self-deprecating jokes, and by that, I mean really private – between me and myself, to be precise. I realised one day that I’ve developed two accidental habits while writing these posts, and the first is my tendency to contradict myself. This most often happens when I announce my intention to focus on or pursue something, only for it to be mentioned once months later or simply never again. The second habit is my continued use of the phrase “…as I’ve said before”, or variations thereof. At first, this appeared genuinely innocently, but I eventually realised just how often it popped up and decided to keep it in. It’s arguably also there to save me having to rifle back through to the previous post where I mentioned the thing in question, but it mainly makes me smile, even if nobody else notices or appreciates it. Whatever the case, it demonstrates how not everything in life can be linear. We all make mistakes, and we all contradict and repeat ourselves now and again, so sounding like a broken record sometimes can’t be all bad, can it? The world is full of these fluctuations, so I’m embracing them in my own little way, and giving this blog a discreet and somewhat ironic pair of stylistic hallmarks in the process.

Mason

Souligner!

You know when you make notes on something to refer back to later, but when you do they’ve been scribbled so hurriedly that they no longer make sense even to you? I’ve found that that’s happened rather a lot lately as I try to adjust to my new job. The notes have been growing by the day, whether I’ve been recording new conversations, methods or even interviews, but with every new scribbling has come the increased risk of confusion. Ironically, though, these may still be more of a help than a hindrance.

Back in Year 8, when I was doing French at school, I found myself doing pretty well (a few years later, I decided not to do the subject at GCSE, and my teacher was devastated after I broke the news). I could write it confidently and I wasn’t bad at speaking it either, with an increasingly accurate accent. There was, however, one small thing I couldn’t quite master doing work in my textbook – using a ruler. That wasn’t exclusive to any one subject – in every class, I thought the lines already on the page would be sufficient to keep my writing straight – but in French it seemed to be a particular problem for my teacher. With every passing week, it would slope further and further downward, and the same word would appear next to it without fail: “souligner!”

What does it mean, I hear you ask? Simple. “Underline.” It must have been there for weeks or even months on end, but I still wouldn’t make the effort to hold that ruler straight. When you have cerebral palsy, fine motor skills can be a tricky thing to master, but eventually, having seen one “souligner!” too many, I realised that particular ability was one I really needed to get on top of. Ultimately, of course, I did, and I’m willing to bet I did so much quicker than I expected to beforehand. I’ve never forgotten it, because it’s one of those tiny things that taught me never to be afraid of notes or feedback, regardless of how harsh they might seem, because at the end of the day they’re there to push you forward. That time in Year 8 taught me two things – a piece of French vocabulary and the correct way to use a ruler – and I’m keeping that in mind with every note I’m given in my new job. I’m bound to slip up mere weeks in, or even once I’m firmly established there, but what matters most is not the mistakes I make, but how I learn from them. Life is, after all, one big learning curve.

Mason

Graduation

My graduation ceremony is now just under four weeks away, and I write this having recently booked my tickets, photographs, and gown for the event. Clicking those confirmation buttons made my one remaining university obligation seem that little bit more real, but I’m nevertheless looking forward to seeing everyone and celebrating their achievements, even if it is the last time I’ll see certain people (such as Lara and Nora) for a while – or ever, as the case may be. That’s both a sad and slightly odd thought, isn’t it?

In a stroke of amazing coincidence, I finalised all of that almost three years to the day since I moved into halls in Winchester, and it’s come at a time when I’m graduating in a couple of other areas of life too. In my last post, I alluded to an exciting new opportunity coming my way, and at long last I feel it’s advanced far enough that I can talk about it (for those who don’t already know). Very soon, I’ll be starting as an Editorial Apprentice at Haymarket Media Group, rotating through the three car magazines they own over a period of 18 months. It’s an invaluable chance I can’t wait to get started with, but besides being a new job, it also means I have to relocate to the bright lights of London – so it’s not only a professional change, but a personal one too. One I’ve never seen the like of before, in fact.

Given my disability and its associated challenges, I need to find somewhere that is accessible as well as relatively affordable (although, as I’ve said to several people, the latter in particular can be easier said than done in London). This is the main barrier to taking up my new post, so even though I’ve signed and returned my contract, I don’t have a start date yet – the idea is that I and my three fellow apprentices will all start at the same time, so I need to have some idea of where I’m going before that can happen. Thankfully, Haymarket have stepped in to offer whatever help they can, and I’ve been doing a spot of networking myself to get the ball rolling as much as possible. This has led to a small breakthrough, as Mum and I have a Zoom consultation booked in for Monday afternoon with a company who help disabled people into appropriate accommodation. I’m not sure quite what it’ll lead to, but it’s nice to know there are people out there willing to fight my corner and help me to reach my goals. You can rest assured I’ll update you very enthusiastically when I do find the right place from which to start my next journey. Let’s just hope it isn’t too long before that comes along!

Mason

Four In July

As I’ve been taking these first, somewhat tentative steps into a post-uni world since returning to Somerset, I’ve heard a lot of chatter – from family and friends alike – about “getting myself out there”. Now that I have a Creative Writing degree, and ambitions to write for a living, exposure and how to get it is one of the biggest question marks I’m facing. When I think about it, there are quite a few of those, actually. They all reared their ugly heads at once as soon as I started searching for jobs, but they were personal as well as professional. What job will I end up in? When I get it, where will I live? What do I search for first – work or accommodation? What do I do in two months’ time if things haven’t worked themselves out? When will I next have friends I see regularly? Will I ever get a girlfriend?

You get the picture. There’s a lot to think about, and making myself seen as a writer is an ever-present objective. It therefore seems logical that that should start with this blog – in fact, something Mum said last week is the inspiration for this very post. If I remember correctly, they were words to the effect of “get back into blogging. You want to write, so write more regularly.” As always, she wasn’t wrong, and any visitor to Third Time Enabled will surely have noticed that it isn’t updated as regularly as it used to be. Not since January 2019 – when a global pandemic was something you only ever saw on the silver screen – have there been more than three posts in a calendar month.

Although there have been several abortive attempts at surpassing that amount since, none have been successful. As of today, however, that will change – I will aim to have published at least four by the end of July. To make that even easier, I’m already halfway there, because this is the second! What that means is that this time, there really is no excuse. As those of you who read my last post will know, I’ve been challenging myself as a writer with the book club notes I’ve been making, and this gives me one additional creative opportunity to relish. Let’s hope I can stick to it – and, for once in my life, go without contradicting something I’ve promised on this blog!

Mason

The Fire Still Burns

A little while ago, while we were all fully housebound by lockdown, my friends and I discussed our favourite songs of all time. We challenged each other to create Spotify playlists of these songs so we could all browse and comment on them, and – although we intended to list a Top 50 and I only got to 25 – the exercise reminded me of two posts I wrote here back in 2018 on the subject. One contained the first half of the then-definitive list, the other the second half.

As I gradually compiled this new Spotify selection, I realised that I now disagreed with every song choice I’d made in those posts two years ago. I thought of that revelation as another indication of how things change in life, how they fluctuate at a moment’s notice, even when it comes to personal tastes. Such changes can also be seen in Third Time Enabled, which as of two days ago is now five years old. More recently, you might have noticed a significant drop in the number of actual posts. It’s a decline that began in 2019, and that I was adamant wouldn’t continue in 2020, but life clearly had other ideas.

I’m still not entirely sure why I’ve had so little to write about, but it’s something I’ll continue to try to get to the bottom of privately. All I know for sure is that after five years, despite what the numbers may say, I’m still passionate about this blog. As I’ve already made very clear, it’s an ongoing portfolio of my innermost thoughts, feelings and ideas, and an invaluable outlet regardless of how often I update it. I feel as though every new Third Time Enabled post is the next step in a journey of some kind, one I’m committed to no matter what, and one that I hope might open a door or two for me along the way. The fire still burns, and I can’t wait to continue proving that wherever I can. Here’s to the next five years – and beyond…

Mason

 

 

Solid Proof

I may only be at the end of my first year of uni, but it’s never too early to start looking to the future. I’ve recently started thinking more and more about what my next move will be post-graduation, and it seems that one particular area may end up providing the answer. Obviously, my ultimate goal in life is to be a writer for a living, but that’ll have to be a target I work towards over time. If I’m to reach that stage, I’ll need to look for something that is relevant to both my ambition and the skills I have, and that also provides good experience. Having done some research, it transpires that proofreading may be just the thing.

It’s something that has often been suggested to me for a number of years now. As I’ve always been so focused on writing, I’ll admit that I haven’t always been warmly receptive to the idea, but since the start of my degree it’s become increasingly clear that it’s definitely something to consider. I’ve definitely been a stickler for good spelling, punctuation and grammar for as long as I can remember! My research into the matter began, as always, with some simple Google searches and emails. The former revealed that most professional proofreaders and copyeditors take industry-recognised qualifications before they begin work – and I quickly discovered that there are many on offer to novices like me. Those that seem to be especially well-regarded, however, come from the Publishing Training Centre and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Both were heartily endorsed by the people I emailed, including a lecturer from Winchester whose name had been passed to me by a friend.

These two institutions are therefore my next port of call, and I’m glad that all of my original options have been narrowed down to make this process easier. I need to look carefully through both websites to see what they can offer me in terms of distance learning, since that’ll probably be easier than attending a workshop (which is also more expensive). From what I’ve seen so far, they could both be excellent choices, so there’s much more digging to be done if I’m going to pick one over the other. The ball is now rolling, though – so you’ll have to watch this space.

Mason

A Heart Full Of Hope

Here we are, folks – my very first post for 2019. I can safely say that 2018 was a corker of a year for me, and although I spent the last few hours of New Year’s Eve alone at home, I did so with a belly full of pizza and a heart full of hope, so I was more than happy. I used some of that quality time to continue reading a book Lara bought me as a Christmas present, Agatha Christie’s Evil Under The Sun, which features none other than Hercule Poirot himself. She got it upon hearing that I’d never read any of Christie’s work, and told me that I’d find it very easy to become immersed in the story. She was absolutely right – as I write this, I am 93 pages and seven chapters in, at a point where many probing questions are being asked of every potential murderer. I got there in no time, and my enjoyment of this new book in my spare time has subsequently increased my excitement for what lies ahead at Winchester even more.

Of course, nothing by Agatha Christie is on the reading list, but a few other books are, and two of them arrived yesterday. I am yet to look at them properly, but both are works of non-fiction – and as you might have gathered, I’m rather fond of life writing. The opportunity to read about the experiences, trials and tribulations of others is always tantalising, as is the opportunity to write straight from the heart about my own. The prospect of so much creativity from that and my other modules – including one actually called “Creativity”, and one on poetry, which I have always enjoyed – makes this January much more inviting, since I can’t yet tell what new ideas will manifest themselves, or how. I don’t know what will happen outside of my work either. The world is once again my oyster and as always, the unknown is very exciting. I can’t wait to go and see what it’s all about! Before that, though, I have another very precious fortnight left here at home – and before that, there is a brand new episode of Doctor Who for me to enjoy coming tonight. I fully intend to make the most of both.

Happy New Year to you all!

Mason

Me And My Microphone

I am now on the brink of Week 10 of my first university semester, and the first nine weeks alone have taught me many things about how to write and what I can do to improve my writing. Two of the more recent lessons have come in Publishing and Social Media, which I had as usual yesterday morning. As a blogger, the first was one that I found particularly useful. Even as someone who is a stickler for good spelling, punctuation and grammar, it wasn’t something that had occurred to me before. We were taught that before a post is published on any given blog, it should always be written up on Word first, so that any mistakes can be exposed by the processor. Once it has been tidied up as necessary, it can be freely copied and pasted across. This method is – as of this post – one I am officially adopting for Third Time Enabled, as it’s more than likely that one or two keyboard slips have occurred over the last three years, in spite of all my best efforts to avoid them.

We have also learned that as this is a creative degree, we are free to explore new artistic horizons that stretch beyond writing alone. This is especially true in the Publishing module, since I will soon have to submit a piece that can take almost any form I want it to. As I have a microphone sitting idle in my bag (which hasn’t had to record any lectures recently), I have decided to try something totally new – a podcast. I am neither an entirely confident speaker nor an expert on technology, but doing this will add to my skill set and – at the very least – I will be able to write what I need to say. Thankfully, I will be graded based on the actual content of the podcast, and not on its sound quality!

When I made the decision to do this, I obviously had to consider what I would talk about, and the inspiration behind what I eventually chose came at the most unlikely time. Heading towards Winchester High Street last week, I passed a rather nice hotel, which looked it must cost an arm and a leg to eat in. Leaning against the railings outside was a pizza delivery bicycle, and sure enough, I saw that a pizza was on its way in through the front door. I immediately took out my phone and made a note of what I’d seen. Call it a writer’s curiosity – I couldn’t help but wonder who would order pizza to a place like that, and why. My mind was full of stories and explanations, so there was no way I was going to ignore something that was apparently so out of place. I may have spoken before about how I am often inspired by the smallest words, phrases and observations, since I believe even the most insignificant things can bear fruit. This was no exception, and it led me to base my planned podcast on what can result from such things. My current intentions therefore look something like this – I’ll talk about the latest little source of inspiration at the start, before I read a story or other piece of writing that I have managed to develop from it. It’s a simple concept, but if it is executed well, I am confident that its unpredictability could make for an entertaining listen – and yes, we do have to publish the podcast when it’s complete! Now that I have the basic idea established, all that’s left to do is write my script and do my best to record, and I have a feeling that could involve some trial and error at first. Uncharted territory can be daunting, but also very intriguing…

Mason

The Pull, Part 13

I am writing this only a day after officially half-registering as a student at the University of Winchester. I’m only half-registered because I still need to enrol formally on the day I arrive, but the first part of the process has all been done online. I had no real expectations of it before diving in, but as it turned out I would have had absolutely no reason to be intimidated – the registration only needed me to confirm or correct various personal details the university held for me. It was a most straightforward step-by-step task that took no longer than 15 minutes, by my reckoning. Once I had given Winchester all they needed to know, I was sent a confirmation email. You know what those can be like – they’re generally fairly run-of-the-mill acknowledgements of whatever it is you’ve done or provided for someone. In this case, however, the email acted not only as thanks, but also as a reminder of the increasing number of responsibilities entering my life as I approach my university adventure.

Some of these have been written down on the new to-do list Mum has created. As things stand, three items have been ticked off, but several more remain and time isn’t totally on our side. They include especially important money-based matters, and as someone with a particularly appalling track record in Maths, it’s fair to say I am unsettled by the prospect of making sure it is all in the right places and dealt with sensibly when I am living alone. Thankfully, I still have the wisdom of others to lean on until the end of next week, and this afternoon the building society will get involved when Mum and I go for a meeting there. It might be my money that we’ll be discussing, but I think I might let Mum do the majority of the talking – there are still a few things I need to get my head around before I fully understand my financial situation. I think it needs to be explained a few more times, so I’m very fortunate to still have eleven days to figure it out. Are all aspects of independent living as complicated?

Mason