Covid: Challenges, achievements & positives

The article's author, Jack Dinsley

6th November 2020

Jack Dinsley tells us how Covid-19 has affected his year, with uni work and jobs being disrupted, and face coverings and remote working being an issue. Despite that, he reflects on the good things that have happened in 2020 so far.

Hasn't 2020 been a year to remember? It has impacted people for different reasons but for me, it's been a year of acceptance and achievement. 

I wrote my last article during the first national lockdown when I had just secured a job, following a successful interview. I was adjusting to lockdown life with no friends, attending university from home and spending the majority of my time (when I wasn’t studying) with my family.

Jack's graduation

Progress

I think it's important to update those in the community on the successes, as well as those days that weren't my best. In July, as the nation was slowly coming out of lockdown, I found out that I was graduating with a 2:1 in journalism, something that I never thought possible after school teachers told my mum I wouldn't succeed because of my stammer.

One of the assessments I completed for my degree was a video interview with my lecturers, in which we discussed my progress over the year. When it finished (I didn't stammer once) I broke down on camera. I think it's important to share this because I had put so much pressure on myself to do well in the interview and bottled up how I was feeling. I want to tell anyone reading this that feeling upset during this time is completely normal – or at any other time for that matter.

I want to tell anyone reading this that feeling upset during this time is completely normal – or at any other time for that matter. 

Following my 'home graduation' with my family, I was accepted onto an MA TV Production course at the University of Central Lancashire. I am currently studying this from home and it's very strange not to be at uni in person. 

In August I celebrated my 21st birthday. I was lucky because by then pubs and restaurants were back open so I was able to socialise with friends and family again. This definitely had a positive impact on my stammer; I was able to make plans again and have things to look forward to. 

Jack's 21st birthday

One of my life goals is to work full-time at Children's BBC and at the start of this year I was working freelance for BBC Newsround as one of their runners. Due to the pandemic, however, my shifts were cancelled and I haven’t been back since. 

However, in September I was delighted to be offered a three-week contract with BBC Education for a new series of Bitesize. I feel very lucky that I was able to work in an environment I enjoy and contribute to something that will benefit the younger generations. 

Challenges

For me, one of the biggest challenges this year has been face coverings. Although wearing them isn’t an issue, trying to communicate is, and I was interviewed on BBC Newsbeat about it (watch the interview here.)

When I first started speech therapy, one of the things I wanted to overcome was my fear of ordering in cafés and restaurants. Therapy helped me see a change in my confidence, but I still struggle to this day ordering food and drink. Therefore, a mask covering my mouth has created issues for me.

Our selection of face masks available to buy

On one occasion I asked for a Diet Coke and the individual struggled to understand me; and gave me a bottle of water (thank goodness it was still, and not sparkling or I would have complained!). I didn’t say anything and instead just walked away.

I wear a face covering all day whilst on shift and don’t have many problems — until that is, I need to answer the phone and can't pronounce the name of the shop and customers on the other end ask if they've rung the right number. 

Another time I ordered a chicken tikka sandwich with sweet chilli sauce but got a different meat altogether with sweet onion sauce. I didn't learn from my first encounter and admitted defeat and ate the sandwich that I didn't ask for. It was a good combination however, but the point remains that the order was wrong.
  
Every day I am learning how to adapt to wearing the face covering. I also work in a gift shop; I wear it all day whilst on shift and don’t have many problems — until that is, I need to answer the phone and can't pronounce the name of the shop and customers on the other end ask if they've rung the right number. 

I was due to return to my children's entertainer job this month — that's been delayed now we're into our second lockdown, but luckily one of my other jobs isn't affected. I don't like the uncertainty of how long remote learning will be a thing. I learn better in person and this isn't ideal. I still find it hard when everyone is speaking over each other and there isn't that one-to-one time with lecturers. I'm hoping that we can do at least one day in person in the new year.

Positives

For me this year there have been more positives than negatives. I have good days and bad days, but I'm not going to let the bad days turn into bad weeks, months or years.

I don't like the uncertainty of how long remote learning will be a thing.Leaving on a positive note, this year I have been working on a graphic novel based on my life, with a strong emphasis on stammering. I don't know if it will be finished anytime soon, but it excites me knowing that I have a clear vision for stammering representation in a graphic novel. 

As always, be kind and let's carry on raising awareness. Don't forget stammering isn't just important on International Stammering Awareness Day every October 22nd, it's important 365 days a year.

Follow Jack's Be Kind Stammer Campaign on Instagram @bekindstammercampaign

If face coverings/face masks are making things difficult for you, try using one of our cards to let people know that you stammer and need more time. Click here to download them.

Become a member. Connect with others locally & online. Volunteer, donate & share your story to inspire others.