Considering Disability… interrupted by FOFU

Featured Image: close up of Dark Reef by Leigh

09 Feb 2019

“I’ve never met anyone who lived outside of London? That concept is just crazy to me. Do you drive cars? Eat rice..? What’s it like?”

To which I grinned and replied, “We drive hover cars in Hertfordshire and rice? Why would we do something so mundane when we could eat military rations? MREs so good!”

In hind sight, the question was a dead giveaway but cut me some slack. A female trainee lecturer sitting at a table chatting to one of four young men (age 19ish). They’re all looking at me with a bit of a grin on their faces. I honestly thought they were having a laugh (or as the Brits like to say – taking the p!ss). But the minute I looked into that boy’s face, I knew. I knew something wasn’t quite right with this conversation and how he was receiving what I thought was a good come back to a joke.

Immediately, I began to back track and clarify.

“Sorry man, I was just kidding. It was just a joke. We don’t have hover cars. We drive normal cars and yes we eat rice, potatoes, pasta, all the same stuff you get in London.”

Dark Reef by Leigh

His reply? “That’s just blown my mind!”

I smiled but inside my head I was racing around in circles in a blind panic shrieking profanities at myself. I was sure he was heading home to tell his folks all about hover cars and MREs and how he had it on good authority from his lecturer who lived outside London.

And this my dear reader, is what I call FOFU – Fear of a F**k Up.

If you fancy skipping to the actual assignment I was given, complete with answers to the questions. Please click here. I won’t take it personally. This post is more of an emotional vomit turned into words. I get that not everyone wants to read this but I needed to do it in order to process and get to some semblance of clear analysis.

Still here? Ok then, let’s carry on with the $hit show.

Where any form of discrimination might be construed, I often experience FOFU. And I know I’m not alone. Lots of people out there are supportive of others but because they don’t fall into the same group and haven’t had the same experiences as the person who might be facing discrimination they struggle with how to provide support without making the situation worse. Because the only thing worse than standing aside and doing nothing in the face of discrimination, is doing something and then having the person you’re trying to support turn on you because now you’re part their problem too. Acute paralysing FOFU.

I experienced repeated moments of FOFU while planning this blog.

Some of the thoughts that occurred to me, I didn’t even want to write them in my notebook for fear of them being ‘wrong’ or insulting without me realising.

Possibly the only example I’m sort of willing to share is this – why are certain disabilities singled out? For example, on the University of the Atypical website they made a definite distinction between disabled and deaf. On the UAL website the distinction was between disabled and dyslexic. Before I saw it on the UAL website, I hesitated to even write the word ‘deaf’ in my notes. I was worried that this wasn’t an acceptable term anymore because it’s one I grew up with and so many other terms have changed that surely this one didn’t stay the same. I must be outdated.

I want to keep asking about the distinctions between disabilities but my mind is now split after that last sentence about the use of the word deaf.

Now, I’m thinking I need to write 2 blogs – one that addresses the home work questions (the thing I was supposed to be doing in the first place!) and this one that just gets out all the emotions looking at these resources raised. I cannot seem to focus on the questions until I get my own fears out of the way… which brings me to another FOFU moment.

Look at you Stacey, making this all about yourself. They asked you to consider the disabled teaching and learning experience and here you are making this all about you. Your fears. Your hang-ups. Your insecurities. You can’t even focus on disability for a few hours without you getting in the way.

Cue the guilt. (Might as well throw in some melodramatic violins while we’re at it! *eye roll*)

Is this why I can’t get started on my social change art exhibition?

Fear that someone will declare me an impostor? Who the hell are you to try to represent all these people? What do you know? You can’t even remember to refer to the trans and non-binary members of your course as ‘they’. You wouldn’t even admit to a race issue in the UK until 2 years ago. You can’t even write the blog and answer the damn questions the people gave you! Girl, stop wasting everyone’s time. Sit down and shut up.

My God my demons are crawling out of the woodwork. Rentokil Pest Control where are you?

Intellectually I know the solution to FOFU – just go out there and educate yourself Stacey. Go and find the info you need. Isn’t this why you signed up for the Inclusive Teaching & Learning unit? One step at a time, just do what you can do.

Be respectful and open to being corrected and try your best. That is all you can do. Mental self-flagellation is a gargantuan waste of everyone’s time and we’re not making any progress while you’re busy with your emotional whip. So cut the crap. Yes, the fear is there. No, don’t let it stop you. You have major work to do.

*Deep breath*

Thinking about it now, my FOFU is probably why I still have the patience (that many of my friends do not) to be explaining race issues to white people. I feel their FOFU and I want to give them a chance to be the best allies they can be. That means being perceptive enough to discern when something is said with malicious intent or honest ignorance. I just hope others have the same patience with me.

*Another deep breath*

Ok. You good? Is it out of your system for now? Think you can go do the people home work now?

Geez girl, you’re such a drama queen!

Yea…. that drama queen thing? That’s some unpacking for another day.

This post is the emotional hijack stirred up by a reflective assignment which can be found here.