When the going gets tough, the tough certainly get going! That perfectly describes not only the inspiring online initiatives that are popping up everywhere as a result of our current social distancing scenario, but it also perfectly describes our incredible
7th KindaProud Peer Pocket Book Rep, Yvette Chivers …
Due for publication around summer 2020, this inspirational little pocket rocket book Eye Inspire; #Emerging Proud through Eye Sight Loss, will be packed full of dreams being fulfilled and won’t fail to inspire even the most ardent disbelievers.
All 16 Contributors, in addition to Rep Yvette, have faced going blind at some point in their lives, and all the turmoil that foreboding brings. But rather than become victims to futures of darkness, each and every one of them have used this darkness to spark their inner light. For Yvette, this inner light set her on a creative path of utilising another of her senses to another level. Here she sings her personal song…
I was born with quite severe myopia (short-sight) and a lazy right eye, so eye clinic hospital visits became the norm as I went through the toddler-phase and into nursery. Through junior school I vehemently refused to wear my national-health, thick-rimmed, thick-lensed spectacles and absolutely hated the patch I had to wear regularly to ease the lazy eye that continued to make me squint. In the ‘80s, being the speccy one at school was a feat to deal with in itself! When I turned 16, and contact-lenses became available to me, it was like a new lease of life. I felt more confident, and less of a nerd. I felt like I had transformed into a different person. The negative connotations I had developed about glasses and generally having bad eyesight had stuck with me, but at last now I could shake that off. Little did I know that I had a LOT more to contend with in the future with regards to my sight and my self-belief.
I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) after a routine eye test at a high street opticians whilst I was living and working in London, having moved there from Cambridge to start my career in creative advertising. The optician spotted something in the back of my eye and referred me to Moorfields Eye Hospital for further examination. Since I was a teenager, I had seen tiny white flashing lights in my vision, the only way to describe it is like a static TV screen – the information is there, but with millions of minuscule gaps in it. But I always put it down to being part of being short sighted, and I noticed it more when I was tired. Unfortunately, I experienced a difficult diagnosis period – Moorfields sent the results to a consultant at a private hospital I was then with, who said there was nothing wrong with me. But by this point I wanted a second opinion, and my childhood optician back in Cambridge confirmed it as textbook RP. The following month I was made redundant from my dream job. A few months passed in a daze and I moved back to my family home, as I was just treading water in London and spiralling out of control mentally. After going back to the hospital eye clinic that I attended so regularly as a child, for confirmation of the degenerative disorder and to gain some form of support, I was told that generally most sight would be lost within 10 years’ time. I was just 24 and thought my life was over, or at least, thought that the life I wanted to have was gone.
A lot of the rest of my 20s are still a blur, but during this time I developed a love and skill for DJing. I think it was the one thing I could rely on, knowing that I still had my hearing. I had always been a music lover, collecting vinyl as a teenager and taking my second-hand Philips flat-pack record player from University to every shared house I lived in. My love of Motown and old soul records was evidently passed down from my Dad, and back in Cambridge I started event nights playing out Motown, funk and soul with other DJs who were into the same music. I was also a keen club-goer and my DJing soon developed into playing dance music. I really have no idea how, but through my passion and perseverance, I ended up running my own monthly club night in Cambridge for ten years, and DJing in super-clubs such as the Ministry of Sound in London, warehouse parties in Berlin and on amazing stages at huge festivals including the Secret Garden Party. I do believe that the absolute love of the music, and my no-fear attitude enabled me to go into situations not really knowing if I could achieve the goal at hand, but just giving it a damn good go anyway. When you are presented with losing your sight, you can either let it consume you, or you can just take every opportunity possible. I did a trek in the Himalayas and The Andes for charity, I did crazy things like bungee jumps and skydiving. I wanted to experience as much as I possibly could before my sight totally left me.
Don’t get me wrong, it took me a long time to get to that “no fear” point. I was depressed for a long time, I couldn’t or wouldn’t get into any meaningful relationships because I didn’t believe anyone would want to be with a girl who would be blind soon. I had huge issues with my self-esteem and unfortunately self-medicated on binge drinking and other forms of escapism. Apparently, a lot of degenerative eye-sight disorders come with a denial phase, and I remember being told that RP denial is roughly 10 years. I am not kidding when I say that the veil of total uncertainty finally lifted when I was in my early thirties, almost exactly ten years after I was initially diagnosed.
From this point, and leading up to founding the project Eye Inspire, I realised that without the support I had from friends and family, as well as meeting other young people with sight-loss, and from counselling from charities such as Cam Sight in Cambridge, I would not have regained the confidence that I am so glad I now have. I managed to set up and run an international music remix project that is now in its 10th year, working with amazing famous music artists and producers. I work with music colleges, amazing electronic music labels and large professional music equipment brands on various creative projects and events. I went to Japan on a four-day round trip as the agent of an internationally renowned electronic artist, which was a crazy experience. I feel extremely lucky to be in this position of working in an industry that I love so much, and over time I have created my own role which enables me to work within my own abilities and mobility – I now have a guide dog, who does come with me to many events and music talks that I deliver, but I definitely don’t take him clubbing!
I wanted to give back in some way, and to encourage other young people with sight-loss that anything really is possible. There will be sad and difficult experiences, but whatever you want to do, you can achieve. There is no boundary to your capabilities. Most sighted people haven’t been to the places I have been or achieved what I have in terms of music or career, and it’s truly been down to a bit of hard work, a sprinkling of luck, but fundamentally a lot of passion. I have never had much money, I’ve not been in a privileged position that way, but I have still gone to Peru and Goa on my own when I simply and firmly got the idea in my head. Where there is a will, there is a way. And from my story, and the many amazing stories in this book from people I have met on my own journey, I hope that you will be inspired to go for your dreams and aspirations. If you want it, you will most definitely achieve it. I am a great believer in positive mental attitude.
Please do CONTACT US if you would like any help in training or work experience in an area you are passionate about. We want to support any young person with sight loss to gain the links and contacts to help achieve their goals. We will be planning a series of talks to youth groups in the UK and internationally, for young people with sight loss, and some talk-based events in the UK which will be live-streamed on social media for global viewing and listening, featuring some of our amazing contributors from this book. For information about these events, do visit www.eyeinspire.org for more information and to join the newsletter. If indeed you are reading (or audio book listening to) this book after the events have taken place, the recorded videos and audio will be on the website.
I hope you enjoy the many stories of inspiration in this book, and I’ll finish my contribution with one of my favourite quotes:
“Sometimes you need to shake up your own world and the people around you”
– Sander Kleinenburg
Yvette Chivers, AKA DJ MissChivers xx
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