I was never a writer; I was always a bullshit artist. No matter what it was, if I could make somebody smile, I owned that story. Telling jokes, elaborate life adventures, man if I could make just one person laugh, it would make my world worthwhile. You could have even described me as the class clown.
On the other hand, my mother was always the writer. Her typewriter sat loud and proud in the study at my house. It was loved, treasured, and often played like a musical instrument. Clanging and ticking, I never cared much about what she was doing, I just knew she was happy by the gleaming smile on her face.
For some people it’s a golf course, others the bottom of a whiskey bottle, but for my mum it was the black and red ribbon bouncing on her green IBM.
I never knew you could inherit a skill such as writing either. Baldness and an orchestral voice maybe. Still, for me, words seemed so boring. Basketball and trouble-making were much more my style. I wanted action, drama, romance – little did I know that these were the things adorning my mother’s pages.
Still, I kept thriving in my adolescence. School and homework never a priority, in fact, I’d breezed through 11 years on natural talent alone. Having fun, socialising, even smoking cigarettes behind fuck knows where; never once did I try at school. Actually, I thought the whole thing was one big game.
But when year 12 came around, and the prospect of universities and career, my socks began to elevate to my knees. Plus, my career’s counsellor was breathing the fear of failure all over my face.
‘You’ll be a dead shit your whole life’ he said.
And with that I wanted to prove him wrong. For the first time in my life I began to try. So, when my year 12 assignments came around, I channelled my mum and gave my English paper everything I had. Next thing, I found myself in the principal’s office being accused of cheating. They were saying it was too good for a dumbass like me.
To this day I swear it was all my work. Writing was just a natural ability of mine that I felt no need to share, actually I hid it will. Still, I had to repeat most of my English paper, and screw my jurors, I still got an A for it.
Nevertheless, this experience put me off writing. From this dilemma onwards, all I ever wrote was assignments and helped friends with their cover letters and resumes.
My creative writing was killed by the system.
I now fluffed around for a few years, denying any talent by burying my face in mischief and addiction. I guess hiding like this, I’d never have to worry about false accusations again. But I still had this interest in words. Scrabble was the invisible game I’d play within my head. And as such, I began studying advertising.
I was hesitant to throw my hat back into the arena, only I had these big dreams of writing television commercials. I’d constantly have these slogans running around in my mind. One liners, funny quotes. I talked to my mother about this, her only reply was that this was her gift to me. This was our golden gnome.
I loved having this connection with my mother.
Mid study, or more specifically when I was first starting to gain any real confidence in my writing, I took a gap year and went overseas. This was when the unthinkable happened. I became incredibly ill, and as a result lost all of the movement in my body. Much like my natural ability of walking, I also felt like I’d lost all my other natural gifts as well. I became bankrupt in so many ways.
Gone were most of my dreams. Life as I knew it, and worst of all the present that my mother gave to me at birth, my writing dreams were gone. This inadequacy then compounded as my mother passed away a few short months later. Now it wasn’t the system supressing my flair, it was as if life itself had stolen it all together.
I knew I needed to get this part of me back. While I felt regaining movement was important, to me, it was as equally important to regain my writing ability. This was my connection with my mother. Even in my catastrophic life circumstance, still in and out of hospitals myself, I knew I needed to do this.
This was for my mum.
However, to point out the bleeding obvious here, when your arms don’t work it’s pretty bloody hard to write. No matter how much positive thinking, how many unicorns crossed my path, all my words were literally stuck in my head. No solution at hand. Four years of uncertainty followed.
My disability became my only identity. Sitting around wasting my life away, surviving purely for the sake of it, dreaming of the good old days. I still knew hope but I just didn’t know how long it would last.
To break up my daily routines, one day an occupational therapist turned up with a device that she said would change my life. I scoffed. It was an electronic sensor that could apparently control my computer through the use of my head. It could navigate the cursor, click, and best of all enable me to write through the use of an on-screen keyboard.
Flabbergasted. Never did I think that anything like this would be possible. I’d all but given up on sharing my mother’s gift.
In the beginning, it was a trying process though. Trying to navigate a mouse on a matchbox. But as soon as I attached this sensor thing to a big screen television, it was a whole new ball game. And one with my mother’s angel sitting right on my shoulder. It was a freedom I thought I would have never be privileged to again.
And the weird thing was that I barely knew how to use a computer. Throughout my illness, the internet had exploded all over the globe. I’d never even used a smartphone. Then, with social media, with the click of a button, my mum’s endowment could be half way across the world in seconds. From my life in care, the bubble it was, I was amazed at the developments in a few short years. Particularly with Twitter and Facebook, words were now the global currency.
Now for someone who’d barely left the house in years, the unfamiliarity of this situation was extreme. The world was now open for business. From worthlessness, helplessness, defeat and isolation, my life literally back-flipped in an instant. All from this fang-dangle little gizmo on my head. All along I thought it was a second gift from, maybe my grandma.
Passed or alive, I always thought this was my family’s gift to me to help me thrive. Disability and all.
Words were my children, sentences my spouse, and punctuation my demons.
At first I was scared to write on social media, despite knowing how important writing was to me. It was my creativity, my self-expression, my soul mate. But the reality was, the only audience I had to begin with was peers, and most knew nothing about my illness. So, to write, it also meant I would end up divulging my secret disabled life.
I still went for it. Both life and the narratives of that existence.
In fact, of all the random things in the world, I started a bucket list. This was my way of adapting to the rocks that life had thrown at me. To try to live a little again. I knew the adventures themselves would ignite my life, but more importantly, to accompany my stupidity, I started a blog. These written accounts meant more to me than the adventures themselves. I loved allowing people to re-live my experiences. This is when I cemented my storyteller’s heart.
I never knew how much people loved stories until this exact point.
Finally, in part I was embracing my mother’s gift. Admittedly, it was in a very unconventional way but the words were still splashing all over the paper. I wasn’t a failure at all. A part of my mum was with me every time I wrote.
So, I’d got what I’d wanted for years, my dream of storytelling and writing. Even in this futuristic form of communication, I could still articulate my own independent thoughts. Typing instructions to Carers, or emailing a manager out of anger, my troublemaking had extended to the screen. But in no way or form would I have ever considered myself a writer. Maybe a scribbler. And on the bright side, I was also starting to believe that I was moving beyond bullshit artist.
But what was I meant to do now?
Mum had given me her gift. Something people dream of, an artistic talent, never forced just embraced.
It’s like you meet people and you just know they were born to do one thing, well I was born to write. The quadriplegic author, maybe?
Now undeniably it’s a time consuming process. Nowadays people are even amazing by the sheer amount of content I put out, but when you find what you love to do, it doesn’t feel like work at all. Even as I painstakingly type one letter at a time with my head, it’s not a chore, it’s paradise. To now share this intimate part of myself so freely, I don’t feel disabled at all. I feel blessed.
Words have been an imperative part of humanity for centuries. The teach, inspire and entertain. They provide life when there is none. Much as my physical circumstance reaffirms daily, I have paid a massive price because of bad luck, but I still manage to sit in my favourite lounge chair every single day (my bed). The one with a blank page, no audience, and simply raw and unrivalled imagination.
To me, this is my honeypot.
It is the place I reconnect with my mother. When I write, I feel her peace wash over me. Much like in my year 12 English paper, this is where I learnt to channel my mother’s talent, only now I can do it unashamedly. In fact, I never write for anybody else anymore, just for me. This is how I find my peace. This is how I bind my old self and my new self.
And with that, no longer am I just the bullshit artist, I am slowly becoming the prolific writer. Now, even studying Creative Writing at university. Yes, after countless emotional and physical struggles, my life has purpose. To honour the gift with which has been bestowed.
For that, mum, I thank you dearly