Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

Chasing dreams, because I can

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Archive for the ‘Projects’ Category

Onwards and upwards from here

Posted by Oli on Friday 5th February, 2010

It’s been a while. In truth, I didn’t want to blog until I could find something positive to put down on these pages. And after a month like January, that’s been very, very hard work.

In addition to the funeral of K’s aunt, who died in late December, this month has seen us lose Jess (as detailed in my previous post) and then, last week, a very close friend’s baby brother, too. It’s been an absolutely heart-wrenching start to the year, especially after 2010 began with such excitement and promise.

I’ve also been hinting and nodding towards a new project which was supposed to be up and running by the end of January, that still hasn’t taken off. However, the reasons for that delay are more exciting than they are dispiriting, but all the more frustrating that I can’t share any details of what’s happening just yet.

One element of the project I can talk about is the attempt – along with my band of merry men – to complete the 3 Peaks Challenge in May this year, the weekend before my 28th birthday. It’s a truly daunting task and the most common reaction I get when I tell people about it is, “Why?”.

So I’ll tell you all now to prevent the mass of comments and emails about it following this post: because I can. Because I’m now able to push myself physically; because I’m able to see what my mental strength can carry me through; because I survived when others didn’t and have been given the perfect opportunity to do the things I want to do; because I can help to show the world just what an amazing difference organ donation can make to someone’s life.

This time three years ago, I was still recovering from Christmas and wondering if I’d see my 25th birthday. From then to now I’ve been able to go the kinds of things I only ever dreamed of and pushing myself physically and mentally through the toughest of challenges is something I’ve always wanted to do. And now I can.

There will be more details on the Challenge itself as well as the wider project as things progress, but today felt like a good day to sit myself down, slap myself round the face, pull myself out of my funk and start moving forward with the gift that is another year of life. Today was my first session at the gym in preparation for the 3 Peaks and it hurt like hell – but the pain of physical endeavour pales in comparison to the pain that my friends and their families have been through in the last month.

This is for everyone who can’t, everyone who wants to and everyone who never will achieve their dreams.


Posted in Day-to-day, Difficulties, Exercise, Family, Friends, Projects, Support, Transplant | 2 Comments »

Christmas & all that it brings

Posted by Oli on Monday 21st December, 2009

I’ve been struck again by one of my intermittent bouts of insomnia and have – as usual on nights like this – found myself sitting and contemplating all around me.

In particular, I’ve been reading back over this blog entry from the summer and going back through the last few months on my Facebook. I wanted to break into the “real world” and do something that felt like a tribute to my donor. I know now that the decision to go to Liverpool was made in haste and a fog of ambition and clouded judgement.

I can’t regret that decision, though, as it’s left me in a place now that’s so much happier than I was before I left. Being away has made me realise what it is I want to do, but more than that it’s shown me that I have the knowledge, drive and courage to pursue it.

I’m immensely lucky to be surrounded my my wonderful family, my always-supportive friends and, of course, my wonderful K. Since getting back from Liverpool I’ve been happier in my life, my house and my skin that I can remember for a long time.

At the same time, thinking about the future has made me think about all those around the world less lucky than me. I lost my friend Jo just a few short weeks ago and said my final goodbyes last week and knowing that her family face Christmas without her is heart-wrenching. Added to which I’ve got one friend in hospital over Christmas, another friend’s baby brother in intensive care and two more friends facing the very real possibility that this will be their last Christmas if their transplant doesn’t come in time.

This time last year, my brother was fighting in Afghanistan in one of the longest and most protracted operations of our combat there. On Christmas Eve, in an experience I’ve never had before, I was overcome by emotion during the midnight service thinking about him and the dangers he was facing. Without realising, and something I can only attribute to the kind of sibling bond I’ve always derided, I woke on Christmas morning to a phone call from my parents to say that he’d lost one of his closest friends right by his side that night.

In truth, despite our hardships, my family is undoubtedly one of the luckiest and most blessed in the world. I’ve fought and won battles within my own body and been lucky enough to be given a second chance at life. My mum has battled her own illnesses and come through with flying colours and my bro has fought and survived one of what is turning out to be the bloodiest wars in decades for the British Armed Forces.

I’ve been blessed by so much happiness in my life and as Christmas approaches with people living in fear, in hope and in grief, I realise more than ever that now I know where I’m going, it’s time to put the pedal to the metal and get my arse there.

I can’t wait to get started. Here’s hoping that the New Year brings all of us the things we want most in life and, should it fail to and instead present us with more, deeper challenges, may we all have the strength to fight, battle and rail against them and emerge victorious this time next year.

As a wise man once prayed: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Merry Christmas to you all, and a Happy, Healthy, New Year.

Posted in Day-to-day, Difficulties, Family, Friends, Hospital, Improvement, Projects, Support, Transplant, Uni | 2 Comments »

On Happiness

Posted by Oli on Monday 30th November, 2009

Happiness is an often elusive thing. It is at once indefinable and definite – you just know when you’re happy. It’s also vital to life. Or at least to mine.

A long time ago, pre-transplant before I was seriously ill, I promised myself that I would never have “just a job” – that I would always do something that made me happy. It didn’t matter to me if that was street sweeping, rubbish collecting or running the biggest company in the country; if I was happy that’s where I’d want to be.

This has come back to me over the last few weeks and months up in Liverpool. The ultimate truth is that I’m just not happy up here.

The decision to come to university was made in a rush of confused feelings about my past, my present and my future. At the time it seemed like a great option for me to explore what life is like outside the confines I’d previously lived in and that life as a student – something I’d missed out on when I was still in my teens being too ill to go – would suit me and re-energise me.

The theory behind the decision to come to LIPA was sound: I’d always wanted to come and when I saw the place in clearing I leaped at the chance to be a part of an institute I’d always wanted to go to. I didn’t, however, consider well enough the value of the course to the way I see my life panning out.

LIPA is a remarkable place – the people, the building, the students, the tutors, the shows: all outstanding. But it’s not the right place for me to be.

I’ve been unhappy here for nearly as long as I’ve been up here and it’s taken me a long time to reach the decision that I’ve come to. In the end, though, the opportunity to come back and start the rest of my life with my wonderful, devoted and utterly beloved K combined with the chance to pursue a project I’ve wanted to push through for well over 3 years was too good to turn down.

K and I have been through rough times in the last six months or so. We’ve been through rough times in our own, individual lives; we’ve been through tough times in our relationship and we’ve been through hard times in our lives together. But we’ve come out of it stronger and more supportive than we’ve ever been.

When I came back South a few weeks ago, I had a long chat over lunch to two of our closest friends who, when I aired my views about Liverpool, came up with one singular piece of advice: follow your heart and not your head.

I have spent too much time in the last few months thinking through everything. Wondering about what my family would think, what K’s family would think, what my friends would think and – most important of all – what my donor and their family would think. What it comes down to is this:

I want to do something that makes my donor proud to have bestowed this gift on me. And sitting up in Liverpool, miles from the woman and the people that I love and living 3 years of an already-shortened life being unhappy just isn’t right.

So it is with a heavy heart, but high hopes that I take my leave of Liverpool and LIPA later on today. It’s been a great ride: Wind in the Willows was an amazing show to work on and I’ve made some firm friends. But it’s time for me to do what’s right for me, regardless of what anyone may think or feel about it.

Am I sad to be leaving? Yes. Am I disappointed in myself? I am a little. Am I excited about what comes next? You betcha.

After everything that’s happen this week, there has never been a more important time for me to dedicate myself to the life I want. The life that makes me happy.

Posted in Day-to-day, Difficulties, Family, Friends, Projects, Transplant, Uni | 9 Comments »

The Gig

Posted by Oli on Monday 19th October, 2009

Sorry for the delay in posting about the awesome Save Jess-tival on Friday night, but it’s been a hectic and exhausting last few days.

Friday was amazing. A stellar line up including headline turns from Natalie Imbruglia and Ed Byrne as well as the fabulous Yeah Yous and Laughter for Life favourite Glenn Wool who unfortunately suffered from some sound issues meaning his set didn’t go down as well as it might have.

The revelation of the day for me, though, was the two singer/songwriters I’d not heard perform before. Susanna Cork is undoubtedly on the verge of great things – she has an amazing voice that’s beyond anything I expected and is a supreme talent. I can’t wait to pick up her album when it comes out and believe me, I’ll be plugging it like mad on here as soon as it streets.

The other half of the amazement came at first-timer Mr Robin K. Already on his Twitter feed he’s been hailed as the next Tim Minchin and on this performance you can clearly see why. Witty, emotional and often hilarious songs coupled with a little stand up in between made for a truly surprise package. Considering this is his first gig and he’s only been writing since the summer, this guy is undoubtedly going just as far as Susanna, albeit in a slightly different direction. You can check him out here.

The day itself was utterly exhausting. I was up at 8.30am to be at the venue for 10am and I worked through with various members of my team to 1am without a break. The crew who came in with their lighting rig and sound systems were brilliant, working far beyond their working time regs should have allowed them and never complaining or kicking up a fuss, just quietly getting things together to make it all happen.

Most importantly of all, our Jess was there throughout and thoroughly enjoyed it by all accounts, even allowing for the minor hiccup in the cab on the way home.

It was great to be working on something like this again, though, as something along the lines of a production/stage manager. It’s been a lot of work over the last 2 weeks, but really worth it for the buzz of pulling off such a massive gig with such big names.

Now it’s onwards and upwards, although downwards on the stage management ladder to ASM Wind in the Willows, which goes into rehearsals next Monday and promises to be challenging on lots of different levels. Can’t wait.

Posted in Charity, Day-to-day, Difficulties, Friends, Projects, Theatre, Transplant, Uni, Work | 1 Comment »

Flurry of work

Posted by Oli on Wednesday 30th September, 2009

Right, first off I should offer my apologies for my mini (or maxi) rant in my last post. I really was annoyed though. For the record – if anyone from the STUDENT LOANS COMPANY or SLC happens to be reading this – I still don’t have the stuff I need to be able to square away my loans and actually get some money. Thanks to to lovely Bank of Mum & Dad, however, I’ve been able to settle myself with a computer in my room to allow me to actually, you know, work. That loan’s being called in as soon as the real one comes through.

But let’s move on as that’s not what you want to read/hear about anyway, is it? You want to hear about LIPA and – specifically – how awesome it is. And boy is it.

I’ve now been living in Liverpool for 16 days, which already feels like months. I know Liverpool pretty well now, although I’m still finding decent little short-cuts and cut-throughs to get me places even quicker. I’ve got my walk to uni down to a steady 15 minutes at a sensible pace and I can find just about every shop I want to or need to in town now, too. I’ve also learned that I’m never going to have a problem finding a Tesco. There’s at least 5 within a 15 minute walk of me, either at LIPA or my apartment.

The course is brilliant – a great mix of general knowledge technical and design stuff and more detailed, specific tasks. It is hard work though. All our days begin at 9.30am – because that’s the time professional theatre workers come in, usually – and if we have all day lectures, as I now do on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, we are timetabled to be there until between 4.30 (usually) and 7pm (on occasion).

In addition to the timetabled stuff I already have 5 assignments from my 6 modules, the first of which is due in just three weeks and happens to be the very, very hardest of them all. It’s called the Slice of LIPA project and it’s part of our design and construction course. We all have to choose a part of LIPA to accurately recreate in a 1:25 scale model.

I’ve chosen this area, the entrance to the Institute’s studio theatre venue in the atrium:

The Sennheiser Studio Theatre at LIPA

The Sennheiser Studio Theatre at LIPA

I have to say I thought it was a good compromise between tricky detailing and large sections of block colour, but as I began to measure for and – on Tuesday – to make the model, I discovered I was wrong. Apart from anything else I spent nearly 2 hours on Tuesday morning measuring out, cutting and carving all 12 individual paving slabs, after my initial plan to make it work, well, didn’t.

Across the other modules I’ve also been on a tour of the whole theatre, including the grid – the part of a theatre where all the wires holding up the flying scenery are gathered and other technical stuff happens that I either don’t know or is too complicated to get into here (mostly the former, granted). From the grid you can also get to the roof, which is where this photo is from:

The sunset over Liverpool from the LIPA roof

The sunset over Liverpool from the LIPA roof

Not bad for a view, eh?

I have also started a stage management module, a lighting and electrics module, a context and professional development combined module and a fundamental skills module. These include climbing ladders, health & safety, soldering, reading scripts, breaking scripts down, knowing what DMX means and a variety of other things.

And on top of all this academicness (which may or may not be a real word), I’ve also been assigned my first show as an ASM (Assistant Stage Manager – get used to the abbreviation because I’m not clarifying it every time I write it on here!). I’m going to be working on the first big show of the year in the Paul McCartney Auditorium, which is to be Wind in the Willows. And when I say big, I mean big with a capital “B”. And, from the model box I saw yesterday, with a capital “I” and “G” too, I suspect.

In fact, I must excuse myself from this missive to go and wade my way through the script again and then tackle the 18 page (yes, EIGHTEEN page) props list. Wish me luck.

Posted in Annoyances, Day-to-day, Family, Firsts, Projects, Theatre, Uni | 1 Comment »