#WhatMakesMe

Glen smiling and wearing a white t-shirt featuring the colourful crest for the band Queen, as he stands next to a waxwork of Freddie Mercury. Freddie has a red jacket and white trousers on, and is punching the air with his left hand as he sings loudly into the microphone held in his right hand.

When people first meet me or look at my blog or social media, it’s easy to focus on the fact that I have a disability, because of the different ways that I have to do things as a result.

However, my visual impairment is just one part of me. It does have an impact on me, sure, and is an important aspect of my life. But it doesn’t stop me from being happy and successful and exploring the world around me. So there is far more to me and my identity than just a couple of wonky eyes, as regular readers of my blog will know already.

So in this post I want to list some of the other key things that make me who I am, all of which seem to begin with the letter C now I think about it. I was tagged to do this by Holly at Life Of A Blind Girl, and the #WhatMakesMe tag was originally created by Gem Turner. So thank you to Gem for initiating it and Holly for nominating me, and I hope you all enjoy reading about what makes me who I am.

Classic Rock & Pop Music

Music is a huge part of my life. I have it on in the background a lot and my iTunes library is bursting with thousands of tracks that I’ve built up gradually over past few decades. Music is an extremely powerful thing that can do so much – it can make you get up and dance, it can help you relax and escape from the world around you, it can help you celebrate happy times, it can give you solace and comfort and an outlet for your emotions in bad times, it can trigger old memories and create new ones, it can inspire and fuel your imagination, and so on.

Glen sitting and smiling with a long wooden drum across his lap. It has lengths of string that cross over as they stretch from one end of the drum to the other in diagonal lines. A further length of string goes around Glen's neck, with each end attached to the side of the drum. Glen's hands are positioned on each side of the drum, ready to tap out a beat using both ends of it.

I especially enjoy classic rock and pop music from the 70s and 80s, though all decades from the 50s to 90s have songs that I enjoy, and occasionally songs from the 2000s too. Some of my top artists are Queen (my favourite band of all time), The Rolling Stones, The Who, Status Quo, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Electric Light Orchestra, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Madness, Blondie, Suzi Quatro, ABBA and Hank Marvin, to name just a tiny few.

IMG_6007

I also love listening to TV and film soundtracks, like Murray Gold’s scores to Doctor Who, or Howard Shore’s music for Lord Of The Rings, or the various composers who contributed to the Harry Potter films, or even my collection of TV theme tunes. And I like some classical music as well. Plus I love going to see musicals at the theatre, and have also enjoyed going to things like pizza and jazz nights. So I like a variety. Ultimately, life without music would be extremely dull. It literally is the soundtrack to my existence.

Comedy

I love a laugh, whether it be a little chuckle, or a fit of the giggles, or a loud roar of hysterics that leaves me with stitches. Like music, comedy is a powerful thing in whatever way it manifests itself, because it’s fun and therapeutic and a great release of energy. And I really enjoy the social element of it too. There’s nothing better than sharing a good laugh with close friends. And if you’re meeting someone new, having a laugh with them can help to bring you closer together and form a good friendship.

Screenshot of the audience laughing on The Last Leg, including Glen on the right wearing a navy t-shirt with thin white and light-blue stripes.

Humour can also be a great distraction from, or a coping mechanism during, the less pleasant parts of life, whether it be the miserable news on the TV or personal problems. It helped me to get over my confidence issues at school for example, enabling me to make friends more easily. And after my father passed away, spending quality time with friends and watching my comedy DVDs helped to ease the grief a bit. Of course there are times when humour isn’t appropriate, and I’m perfectly able to control that. But if there’s an appropriate opportunity to raise a smile, in myself or someone else, I like to try and grasp it.

So I like to have a laugh on a regular basis, whether it be joking with my mates, or enjoying humorous TV programmes, radio shows, films, music, books, theatre, stand-up comedy or whatever. I’m a big comedy consumer.

Glen outside on a busy London street, smiling and wearing my sunglasses, with a small model toilet on my head and a large plunger in my hand.

Culture

I’ve always enjoyed theatres and museums and things like that, but since moving to London it’s become an especially prominent interest in my life. I’ve been enjoying and embracing the considerable opportunities to explore exhibitions and galleries, and watch various musicals, comedies, plays and other shows.

Glen holding a square piece of zebra fur with Sarah, one of the guides at the Natural History Museum.
Picture credit: East London Vision

There’s so much to take in, and with the help of audio description, touch tours, large print guides, smartphone apps, and so on, the world of art and culture is more accessible than it ever used to be. It’s great to be able to discover so much, because I do enjoy learning new things when they’re presented in an engaging and interesting way. It helps to expand my knowledge and appreciate the world around me all the more. And it’s impossible to see everything, so I’m not likely to get bored any time soon!

Cuisine

Like anyone else, there are certain foods I enjoy and am drawn to more than others. I enjoy eating a variety of meat, especially chicken, beef, pork and lamb, whether it be steaks, joints, chops or whatever. I love a nice big roast dinner, including roast turkey at Christmas, naturally. And I love fish and chips, particularly with a nice big piece of cod, and with salt and vinegar on of course. But chicken is my favourite meat. It’s delicious and just seems to be so versatile, whether you have it as a roast or southern fried or in a curry or as a sweet and sour dish or as slices in sandwiches, and so on. I do eat vegetables with my meals as well, but the meat is my favourite part.

I also love pizza, especially ham and pineapple, or again anything meaty. Pasta is another favourite too, such as lasagne or spaghetti bolognese. And when it comes to sweeter things, cakes and chocolate goodies of various kinds are naturally lovely treats, in moderation of course.

Glen sitting in front of his computer screen, smiling and holding a square cake with a swirly design on top.

My favourite alcoholic beverage is cider, which I have sometimes when I’m out with friends, but I enjoy a nice glass of wine too, especially with a meal. Or I’ll quite happily have a Coke or a fruit juice for a soft drink. And my favourite hot drink is Hot Chocolate, as I’m not a fan of tea or coffee.

I could mention plenty of other things I enjoy eating and drinking, but that should give you a fair idea of what I like. Living in London means I have plenty of opportunities to explore and try new foods too, so that’s another big benefit of being here.

Selfie of Glen in a pub, smiling and holding a pint of cider.

Computers

I’ve grown up with technology and love using it. It’s evolved massively over the years, and we can do so much with it now. Back in my school days technology was already very useful for helping me to read things and complete my work, and for my parents and I to do things around the home, and I also enjoyed playing a lot of computer games as well.

And in more recent years, my iPhone has enabled me to do and discover so many things, especially because it’s so accessible for disabled people to use. Travelling around, for example, is so much easier given that I can plan and research my routes and destinations much more easily. I can also take lots of photos and videos to remember things by, and listen to music, podcasts and audiobooks on it. Let’s face it, smartphones are basically computers that happen to be able to make phone calls as well.

Glen holding up his iPhone 6, with apps and folder icons visible on the screen.

And having a desktop computer has enabled me to do many things – research, online shopping, social media, streaming TV shows and films, and of course blogging, which in itself has had a huge impact on my life. Being able to connect with the wider world and share my thoughts and adventures has led to so many wonderful opportunities, with lots of new experiences and new friendships resulting from it, which in turn has given me a lot of joy and confidence.

All in all, it would have been much more difficult for me to achieve a lot of what I have done without technology. And I enjoy hearing about the latest developments as progress continues to be made, not just for accessibility, but in general. It’s always interesting to see what the future holds.

Cargo Trousers & Cool Sunglasses

Whenever I’m out and about, these are 2 of the most practical things you’ll see me wearing. The green tinted sunglasses help to reduce the glare, which I’m much more sensitive to than normal people, but I also think they look quite snazzy as well. And the cargo trousers with all their pockets allow me to carry my sunglasses, monocular, phone, wallet, Freedom Pass and handkerchief easily. It saves me carrying a bag around. So the glasses and trousers have become a recognisable part of my look as well as having a practical use.

Glen smiling and waving down from a high platform, before crossing a rope bridge that has alternate circular and X shaped platforms. Paul, an East London Vision volunteer, is also waving next to Glen on the platform. Behind them are green trees under the clear blue sky.

Career

Having a good job has been extremely beneficial to me. This December it will be 14 years since I first set foot in the company for a bit of work experience, and to still be there now, surviving various cutbacks along the way, is a great achievement. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long already! My role has enabled me to learn a great deal, not just about the work but also me as a person, increasing my confidence as I’ve shown to others and myself what I’m capable of. It’s also allowed me to earn a lot of respect from people inside and outside the organisation, gain financial security, and make many friends among my colleagues. My life would be very different now without that.

My graduation photo. Dark navy suit and tie, with light blue strap around the neck, and a mortar board on my head.

Companions

Above all else, without my family and friends I certainly wouldn’t be who I am today. I’ve had lots of fun and laughter with them, been to many wonderful places with them, gained a lot of confidence from being around them, and received vital comfort from them in tough times. I’ve also made many wonderful connections through blogging and my use of social media, so I have a good variety of friends both offline and online.

And I’m very grateful to every single one of them. Without them, no amount of anything else I’ve mentioned above could adequately fill the void. Family and friends are without doubt the most essential part of my life. They’ve shaped me into who I am today, and will continue to do so in the years to come. So a huge thank you to all of them.

Glen, Claire and James smiling and giving a thumbs up, posing in their Moorfields Eye Charity abseil t-shirts, as the Orbit Tower stands high over them in the background.

Conclusion

So that’s a selection of the main things that have helped to shape me into the person I am today, and which continue to be a big part of my life and my identity. I’m very grateful to everybody who has played any role, big or small, in my existence to date. Everything we do and everybody we meet helps to shape the path we take in life in some way, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that.

So thank you for reading this post, I hope you enjoyed it. Following and supporting my blog makes you a key part of my life too, so your backing is very much appreciated as always!

And please feel free to do your own #WhatMakeMe post too, I tag everyone who’s got this far. It’s a great opportunity to tell people more about you, beyond just the one or two things you might be best known for. Thank you again to Holly for nominating me to do this and Gem for creating the hashtag in the first place!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger & Youtuber with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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