Regression to Nicer Times – Part 1

Part the First – An Introduction

It’s early-July. I’ve finished my semester exams and, now that my results have been announced, I know I will be able to graduate my Undergraduate Degree in English Literature and History by the end of this year. To top it off, by early-December, my parents and I will bid a final farewell to Cape Town and embark on a new and exciting journey in England. Things are on the up. The idea of starting a new chapter in a new country where my opportunities increase dramatically is thrilling.

As good and necessary as this move is for me in particular, the organising, down-sizing, and mental shifts that accompany this next phase have left me feeling somewhat like the Roman god, Janus (from which the month ‘January’ is almost certainly derived), who has two faces facing in opposite directions – one to the future, and one to the past. Just as we should be wrapping up our lives with the last few months we have, I find myself reminiscing about many things: my early childhood, the start of school, the seventeen anesthetics I’ve had over the course of my life, writing my school-leaving exams, starting my degree, and, soon, the closing of the introductory chapters of my story.

Part of our leaving process revolves around reducing the amount of stuff we have to take over to the UK with us. Over the last week, I have been going through the several files and folders that my parents have kept on me in the twenty-one years I have been bugging them. They kept everything.

In a single afternoon, I was able to traverse over two decades of my personal history. I was able to read a 1998 letter stating my acceptance into the foundation phase of my school career while, moments later, I could pick up the last school photo taken months before we embarked on the exams that ultimately ended a thirteen-year-long chapter of my life and sent me catapulting into the beginnings of my professional field. All I can say is that holding eighteen years of history in your hands is a strange feeling that I don’t think you can find anywhere else.

No matter how good that feeling is, though, it’s bitter-sweet if I’m honest. Reading the letters and reports, listening to the recordings, and looking at the photographs has distilled the memories across the last lifetime into a purer, clearer rendition. Events I’d long since forgotten come running back like a speeding train, almost as clear as if they were playing out in front of me. In short, it reminded me that while Cape Town may not be perfect for me, it is the stage upon which all the actors in my life work their magic. Leaving might be good for me but I cannot deny that the gains will mean significant loses.

 

A Thought on Photography, Memories, & Identity

Birthdays are weird things. In a world where youth is often considered an ‘ideal,’ the fact that we actively celebrate an occasion that marks our ageing is a strange practice. Still, the fact that we celebrate personal development is fantastic. In that sense, birthdays don’t celebrate ageing so much as growth. As much as birthdays offer an opportunity to dream of the future, they also offer an opportunity to look back down the years and remember the people, places, and experiences that ultimately come to form what we consider to be fundamentally us.

Having come back from England three days ago, where we celebrated my twenty-first, I’ve been slowly sorting through my things and mentally preparing myself to move there at the end of the year. Going through the various cards and photographs that resulted in the celebration and trying to decide where I should keep them, I came across a folder with a whole lot of cards, letters, and photographs collected over several years. Spending the last while reading through all of them again, it got me thinking.

A lot of these photographs I don’t even remember being taken yet just seeing the corner of them throws me back over 10 years in some cases. Thinking about it, the old cliché that ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ comes to mind but I disagree; a picture describes the indescribable. Seeing these photos that, in some cases, I forgot even existed did not merely remind me of the event; they transported me back into that very moment. Photos don’t merely reflect an event; they become them.

Experiencing the profound, emotional influence something as simple as a photograph can have, I’m forced to wonder whether this selfie-loving time we find ourselves in still captures the essence and power of a photograph. Does the higher volume and seeming relative disregard for the importance of the photograph destroy its power? If photography is so emotive, surely our photographs would have a profound influence on our identity – our very ‘us-ness?’

If we consider the importance of photography, social media, and public perception on our identity – our very ‘us-ness’ – I wonder how much of who we are is due to others and how much of who we are is truly our own.

 

What Makes Me Different

Pantehra u3 lightI came across an article recently written by Virali Modi on Slate.com outlining some of her experiences about being in a wheelchair. I know that I’ve explained why I’m in a wheelchair, how I think slightly differently as a result, and how it affects my daily living but what I don’t feel I’ve explained well enough is how my being in a wheelchair makes me feel different… in good ways and bad.

As with anything, the wheelchair has its ups and its downs. In my previous post, Just How Much Does the Wheelchair Affect my Daily Living?I told you that the wheelchair is something I don’t consciously think about that often and that I often ‘see’ myself as standing until there is something that makes it obvious to me (like a bookshelf being too high). While all of that is true, I have become more aware of other little things that I realise behave slightly differently as a result of the chair since I published that article. Since I designed the blog to be a medium for me to express my opinions and experiences on life with a disability, I feel I should provide an update to the original article. So here goes…

1. I’m always seated

Although I’ve been disabled for my entire life, the wheelchair has only been part of my life for the past five or so years. Even when I wasn’t in a wheelchair, though, the nature of how I ‘walked’ was largely based on ‘hanging’ from my arms. In other words, I never truly stood. While I never stood properly (in the sense of weight-bearing through my feet and legs) I was still verticle.

Now some years down the line of being in a wheelchair, I still find myself using words like ‘walking’ or ‘standing’ when referring to what I’m doing. It’s just part of my vocabulary and I don’t notice myself using it until the person I’m talking to has a decidedly puzzled look on their face. Once the initial confusion subsides, however, they don’t seem to mind it too much.

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Leaving South Africa: An Update

For those of you who read The Disability Diaries often, you will know that our family has decided to immigrate to England. In a couple of earlier posts, I explained a little bit about why we decided to leave South Africa. Since today is a special day in the ‘Bizony Family Relocation’ saga, I thought it would be appropriate for me to give you (my readers) an update on how our plans to leave the country have been developing.

Although we’ve decided to leave by the end of my Undergraduate degree – which I am set to complete at the beginning of December 2018 – my sister and her husband moved to London last year. In fact, today is the anniversary of their leaving Cape Town for their new lives in England. Ever since they left South Africa, our emigration plans became all the more certain.

While their year away from us has not entirely isolated my sister and her husband from the ‘Cape Town contingent’ of the family thanks to WhatsApp and Skype calls, the fact remains that my father and I have not seen my sister since the day they left. To think that it has, as of today, now been a full year since my father and I have seen her is a little disturbing given the relationship we’ve had with her up until their leaving but at least it hasn’t been entirely isolating.

Notwithstanding the fact that our leaving plans dictate our leaving South Africa in early 2019 once I graduate, at least my father and I would see my sister before then. Since my 21st birthday is coming up this March, we decided that we will go over for a few weeks in mid-March. The March 2018 trip will serve two purposes: to celebrate my turning 21 with the whole family together again for the first time since they left and, secondly, to begin the various processes that can only be done from England that are necessary for our planned 2019 immigration.

Right now, though, our main concern is finding a place to live when we get to England for the first time as residents. Finding accommodation, at the best of times, is not the easiest thing in the world. This already-difficult problem is made even worse for us when you factor in that, for various reasons, we will not be able to rent property in the UK not to mention that we will be entering the English property ladder with the ‘Mickey Mouse currency’ that is the South African Rand. To say, then, that our property search is ‘difficult’ is an understatement.

Naturally, before we can decide on which house to buy in England we have to decide exactly where in England we plan to live. Considering that we need a minimum of three bedrooms and space for two adult Golden Retrievers, the factors we have to take into account in planning this monumental endeavour just continue to mount. Since my parents have decided that I “must be living on my own after a year in England,” they have focused more on where they’d like to live that would be near to London but far enough out to be cheap enough for our already-limited budget and well-suited to the lifestyles of two retirees. At the moment they are particularly enamoured with Wiltshire. How the Wiltshire plan will develop between now and the successful purchase of their ‘England home’ is anybody’s guess. At least their job is made easier by the fact that our South African house has been sold and the money has been converted to pounds and is now safe from how the South African currency will react.

Although it is not in the immediate future, knowing that my parents are planning on almost certainly living in a different city to myself and my sister is quite a strange concept for me. Either way, people do it all the time so it shouldn’t be that bad – at the very least, it’ll be an adventure.

So that’s about as much as we’ve planned in terms of leaving. It feels like a lot of work that we’ve been doing but when I see it written up I am terrified of how little we’ve actually achieved and how much we are still required to do before we can leave the country and the limited amount of time in which we have to do it.

Here’s to hoping we can do it.

A Man & His Journal: Agenda, Emotional Crutch, Childhood Dream

Something that has been playing around in my mind in the last couple of days in particular: emotional coping mechanisms. I’m not entirely sure why. Sure, everyone has their own proverbial emotional rollercoaster that takes them through the highs and lows of their lives and, for the most part, it’s not a bad thing. Hell, if nothing else it keeps life interesting.

What made me start thinking ’emotional coping mechanisms’ specifically I cannot say. Perhaps, weirdly, I’ve been feeling somewhat contemplative over the last couple of days. Reasons for this train of thought aside, I thought I could discuss one particular coping mechanism that I use to get through the more ‘entertaining’ parts of my rollercoaster. I know that this trick works for me and I also know that it is one of the relatively common ones. That said, not all of these will ‘gel’ with everyone.

Anyway, down to business…

Journaling

This is perhaps one of the earliest and longest lasting of my ‘tools.’ I started my first journal on my thirteenth birthday. While I haven’t been straining to write in my journal every single day, I find myself gravitating towards it on a semi-regular basis.

Now going into the eighth year of a relationship with journaling, I found the reasoning behind my journaling has taken several forms and I seem to regularly change its raison d’étre. For instance, I still remember the reason I first decided to start journaling in the first place: I wanted to join history.

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VARSITY Newspaper & A Disabled Archer’s Perspective on ‘Parasports’

Hey, guys!

Sorry for not posting in a while but it’s been a hectic couple of weeks. VARSITY’s Sports Editor asked me to write an article on Archery and Disability for the next issue. Since it might interest you, below is a copy of the article I sent to the editor today. Hope you enjoy.

The fact of being in a wheelchair, often, makes a lot of popular, ‘traditional’ largely inaccessible to wheelchair-users without significant changes to the infrastructure of the sport. While a wheelchair limits the sports you can get involved in, archery is one of those sports where the wheelchair is largely of no consequence to your performance. The very nature of the sport renders one’s wheelchair – often a focal point for divisiveness – virtually irrelevant.

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Food, Music, Wine: The Perfect Day

OK. So I had a plan for today’s post but, as usual, I’ve decided to change it at the last minute. I’ll post what I was planning to on Wednesday so you won’t miss out on anything.

I have just gotten back from the Alexander Bar in Town. My Piano Teacher’s partner had a show on there and we decided to go. It was my first time at the Alexander Bar.

First impressions of the Alexander Bar: loved it.

Godfrey‘s performance was beyond spectacular and I could (and would) sit through it again immediately. Given that the entire hour-and-a-bit performance had been with him and/or Nicholas (the Piano Teacher) in standing behind a keyboard I don’t think they’d be too keen on spending the best part of three hours on their feet without a break. All the same guys, I’d do it again.

If the stellar music wasn’t enough, the food at the Alexander Bar is also great and their wines aren’t too bad either. While at the Bar I rediscovered a wine that I forgot I liked – Miss Molly’s 2013 “In My Bed” – which is always a nice ‘extra’ when going out.The atmosphere at the Alexander Bar is also something to be envied. The main

The atmosphere at the Alexander Bar is also something to be envied. The main restauranty bit is cluttered (in a good way) that just envelops you and makes you feel at home within the first few minutes.

All in all, the evening went fantastically and I’d do it all again very, very soon.