Choose your definition by Marie Yates

Jul 15th, 2017 | By | Category: Articles

ReggieWorking with young, and not-so-young people who have experienced the worst that life has to throw at them continues to take me on a fascinating journey. Learning from people who have quite literally turned their lives around is a privilege and has led me to question why some people choose to forge ahead while others do not.

I use the word ‘choose’ carefully and with trepidation as I am forever being told that ‘it’s not that simple’. What if it is that simple? What if we make it that simple?

I began this journey with Dani, the main character in Reggie & Me, as a way of encouraging young people to choose their own path in life. The core message is that each and every one of us has the power to define ourselves. We do not have to accept labels or carry the actions of other people with us.

Life involves a steady stream of influences and more often than not, we choose the influences that resonate with us. Whether that involves the music we listen to, the food we eat or the clothes we wear; we choose what ‘fits’. The influences then extend to positive and negative experiences. We all have both of these on a daily basis, depending on what we choose to focus on.

Sometimes, unthinkable things happen. Dani shows us that we still have the choice about how we define ourselves.

Dani chooses to concentrate on making sure she succeeds at school and in her newfound love of sport so that she has choices about her future. This is no mean feat as her final year at secondary school is challenging to say the least. Unfortunately, she faces the same challenges as an increasing number of young people. That is why this story matters.

There are two ways in which I hope that this story will resonate with readers. Firstly, if the reader is experiencing their own challenges, whether they mirror Dani’s or not, there are strategies they can learn in order to thrive in the face of adversity. Secondly, for readers who are supporting someone through a challenging time, there are tips about the significance of the messages that they are giving.

For readers in the midst of their own challenges, there is a message of hope. The story is told through Dani’s diary as she navigates her way through starting a new school in year eleven. Her rollercoaster year mirrors the experiences of many young people who find themselves being isolated, bullied and with a desperate search for meaning in the midst of chaos. The story begins as Dani has seen her rapist jailed; moving away is supposed to be a new and exciting start for her and her Mum. Life doesn’t always work out the way we had planned though, does it?

It takes every ounce of strength that Dani has to keep going and to make the best of her new situation. It is not easy to take these steps every day; I don’t know anyone who would say that it is easy. I do know that it takes just as much effort to remain in a dark place. Anyone who is reading the book already has a 100 per cent success rate of getting through each day. Dani not only shows them that they can take the necessary steps to make each day better; she shows them how.

For readers who are supporting someone through a challenging time, the story acts as guidance about ways to approach positively supporting that person and planting seeds that will help them to move forward. One of the reasons that I began exploring a story of this nature was because I wanted to positively tackle one of my biggest annoyances in life. ‘Your life is over’, ‘you have a lifelong journey of recovery’, ‘my life is ruined’… these are common messages that survivors are faced with or that they find themselves saying. Life is not over; it does not have to be a lifelong journey of recovery and it is not ruined. Life still has the potential to be as incredible as the person wants it to be. These messages need to be challenged. On any given day, there is always something to be thankful for. That is a starting point. For Dani, she had support and she found solace in her dog, Reggie. As she took more control over her life, she found other ways to make sure that she made the most of every day and created her own opportunities.

That’s not to say that there aren’t bad days; of course there are. Who doesn’t have bad days? Dani shares how she copes on these days and how she then restarts with the things that she knows help her to feel better. That is essentially the secret to success. It’s about facing the setbacks, no matter how large or how small, finding a way through them and refocusing.

Dani’s story offers hope. She works hard to ensure that the choices she makes lead her down a positive path and she is a role model to other young people who are facing their own challenges in life. After all, we’re all surviving something.

Marie Yates is an author and coach who works with survivors of rape and sexual abuse. She also imparts her positive, inspiring survivor’s message with genuine warmth and passion to a variety of audiences. She lives in Birmingham, UK. You can find her online at:

http://indigo-turtle.co.uk

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This article was first published in The Writer’s Wheel Magazine Issue 3

 

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