Never turn off the Dream Machine..
A great friend of mine once told me to “never turn off the dream machine” no matter what obstacles that pop up in your life, never give up dreaming, scheming and believing you can reach goals you set yourself. For me it’s the big C and all that it can throw at you, and take away from you and it really can be hard sometimes to pick myself up and keep moving forward. Making plans for next week can be a challenge for me at times, but it’s so important that I do make plans, have dreams and be optimistic about what is waiting for me and my boys in the future.
As we all get older, most of our long-held dreams and ambitions get set aside due to careers, financial responsibilities, whatever, and I’ve read so many articles about people regretting not following their dreams or travelling their true paths when it’s too late. I suppose I’ve been given the opportunity by my illness to really embrace that ‘throw caution to the wind’ and ‘sure what’s the worst that could happen’, as I really have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Being tied in to my corporate career before I got sick made me a person who was beginning to wish my life away, wondering if it was just easier to give in to the life I had and carry on as a slave to mortgage payments and a possible January bonus.
Since last year when I realised I was in this for the long haul, I started to try and figure out what I was going to do with this new life I had. It was daunting and slightly exciting too in a way, I get to start all over again and follow those dreams I had set aside and in a strange way it got me thinking that I was lucky than most to get this second chance at trying to be what I dreamed I’d to be when I grew up!
Practising gratitude for what you have and always believing things can get better no matter what crazy situation you find yourself in is something I’ve really tried to do over the past few years. In the grand scheme of things I’ve a pretty good life: I’ve two amazing boys, friends and family who love and care for me, a roof over my head and the odd bit of designer gear I can pull out every now and again to reassure me I can kick it with the cool kids. Despite chemo, hospitals etc, I’ve a good life and around this time last year I definitely decided that, although I will never be free of the cancer, I’m going to give in to every curiosity I ever had and live my best life.
There are lots of brilliant people out there at the moment, who inspire me by choosing to see the opportunity in adversity and making positive changes to their lives, mainly because they have been forced in to it by illness, finances, or just disillusionment. As a result they can end up with a life that is just more meaningful and interesting. Not necessarily the ‘plan b’, more the real plan that never really got off the ground!
People like breast cancer survivor Holly Kennedy who has just launched The Happy Magazine that covers all you might ever need to know from where to get a reasonably cool chemo hat to how to fill your endless hours of “free time” when you are waiting for or having treatment. She’s created a publication for generally handing out the hints and tips on how keep the chin up when undergoing chemo. It’ll definitely make a welcome change for the wig and ‘how to prevent cancer’ leaflets littering up most oncology day wards! The wonderful writer Emma Hannigan, who only really discovered her talents for fiction as a way to fill in the hours when she was waiting for her treatment, all give me the inspiration that I’m not just destined for a life of hospital appointments and counting out pills.
I’m an eternal optimist, everything from over-planning my days to the belief I will win the lotto, despite not actually playing it. I choose to believe that things will always get better. So, last year when I was faced with the prospect of being on treatment indefinitely, I was forced into a reinvention and thinking out what my new life would be like. I had to give in to the fact that a 9-5 corporate career just was not an option any more. On a whim I decided to sign up for a portfolio preparation course in the design college IADT.
I’ve loved art, making and creating all my life. Some of my earliest memories are making dresses for my dolls, but when it came to making choices in school I lacked the confidence in my own skills to pursue it to college. I went the most conventional university route and while it served me well, I have always hankered for artistic pursuits. I’ve done printing courses, graphic design etc, but secretly wished I could dedicate myself to be fully immersed in the artistic world and aim for a degree. What started off as a plan to see if I was good enough to get in, led me to embracing the course and spending at least 9 months of drawing, cutting, designing and shaping my portfolio. Lady luck handed me the trump card of an inspiring teacher too on the course, Louise Neiland, who guided me and led me to push myself and talents. Without her I think I might have faltered and you know sometimes all it takes it one person to tell you you can do it, and then you can.
I dug out my leaving cert results and set up a CAO application, I was really doing this, applying to art college. The day I dropped my portfolio in to NCAD in January was quite emotional; I did it just before I went in for my chemo, it was raining and I just felt so proud of myself, no matter what the outcome. I got my portfolio assessment result in March and they were to my huge surprise, really high so I knew I had a conditional ‘offer’ of a place on my chosen BA in Textiles, jewelry and objects in NCAD. I had to wait for the rubber stamp with the official CAO place allocation in August. On the day the places were announced I was in hospital after a bout of my never-ending bowel obstruction, and feeling a bit sorry for myself. I got a text to let me know I’d been offered my place in NCAD, my first choice….I’d done it! I didn’t get my first choice when I did my first CAO round as an 18-year-old, and do you know, I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of myself for doing anything. So, here I am on the cusp of starting a new life, a new career, living the dream I harboured for years because maybe I thought I wasn’t good enough. I now know I am and I don’t know if I’d ever have this confidence in myself if my illness hadn’t pushed me out of my old life.
What I do know now is, it doesn’t matter if, like me, you are forced to make changes. Choose to live your dreams and be optimistic that no matter how many side roads your life takes, sometimes down the lanes and alleyways you find the best adventures. I’ve no idea what going to college with my medical restrictions, being a mum and even the finances will mean but I’m going to grab the opportunity with both hands, I’m an incorrigible idealist and destined for disappointment, but sure what’s the worst that could happen, it could just be amazing! We should all be Optimists!
Love Alison x