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Tolerance begins at home

It is easy to be angry and to blame it on racism. It is easy to say that you don’t understand and be shocked by the result. It is easy to remove those people who don’t agree with you from your feeds. However, this is exactly what the supporters of the winning campaign chose. They chose to be divisive, to split you by fear and to stop you from talking to each other. Don’t let them have the power.

I have been saddened by the amount of hatred and bile that has been spouted as the UK chose to leave the European Union. The irony that many of those have spoken about inclusion and tolerance when asking people to vote, now choose to use the most vicious language for those that went out and voted last night. They have an opinion. We lost. But there is something to build from.

Our social feeds serve as an echo chamber for our own views and opinions. If everyone on your feed is filled with #Remain, then of course you are going to be shocked when it goes the other way. We actively choose to block out, ridicule, ignore and chastise those that don’t agree with us. It doesn’t make sense. As much as it is difficult and frustrating, we should be choosing to listen to what this small majority think about the country that they are living in.

Many of us have been lucky enough to enjoy the benefits of the Union. Multicultural universities, the ability to move freely and the opportunity to associate with many people of different cultures. However, there are many that have been let down. I can understand the individuals that are jealous or bitter about the state of affairs – that are struggling to make ends meet and cannot understand why we enjoy the prosperity that they don’t. I am not saying that it is right or just, but it exists and this is a trident call that we need to listen.

The “us” and “them” culture has been created by us and not Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage. They have fed off our own laziness to interact with each other. It is easy to galvanise a people that don’t feel listened to. That feel abandoned. We may have welcomed many and advocated tolerance through our borders, but this result clearly shows that we have not learned this lesson in our own streets. We have forgotten to educate, to listen, to empathise and to work with ourselves.

Immigration is a fantastic thing, but there are millions that have slipped through the net of our system that we have failed to notice. Investment and financial stability are paramount to success, but we need to empower other industries and break down the glass ceilings that exist in the cities. Prosperity and multiculturalism are powerful tonics that we have been lucky enough to consume, but we must remember that there are many who have never been given the opportunity.

This is a wake-up call. It is a not a beacon of hatred or intolerance. It is the biggest internal conflict that we have faced in a generation. If we truly wanted to remain, then we must be the ones to make an effort to listen to those that didn’t. If we promote inclusion and tolerance, then this is our opportunity to shape the outcome to reflect this. Isolation and divisiveness may have permeated the campaign, it may have helped to win votes, but it does not have to be a part of the conclusion. If we open our arms as a country to those that feel isolated, that needed to be selfish yesterday, that felt lost and wanted to protect themselves, then that is the only way that we can make use of our votes.

Making a stand isn’t about putting a cross in a box. It isn’t about making a Facebook status. The vote in itself is symbolic – now the only thing we can control is the depth of our actions. Nothing will change immediately, but the tide is slowly turning towards a potentially sinister path. Let’s see it as a challenge to bring a country divided back together.

Tolerance starts at home. And God knows, don’t we all need a bit of love right now?

What’s that coming over the hill?

Well, this is it. It feels surreal as I think back to that video that I saw 2 years ago that convinced me in that moment to climb a mountain. I actually paid the deposit within hours and told my parents that I was going on the trip afterwards. As you can imagine, they were not best pleased. It has taken me a while to get them onside.

Since then, I have been patiently waiting and frantically fundraising so that I can step foot on a plane that will be the biggest physical challenge that I have faced so far in my life. Not the plane, the mountain climbing bit…you know, the trek – anyway you know what I mean. It is going to be tough.

In the last few months, it has been great to (attempt to) train and get my kit together and now the two bags that are going to safely take me to nearly 6,000 metres altitude are ready. I am staring at them and realising that this is everything that I am going to need and I can carry it on my back.

I have absolutely loved talking to people about their experiences. Your words of encouragement and laughs have dialled down the nerves that are now starting to creep in. I know in my heart of hearts that I am not physically ready for this challenge, but there is nothing (bar falling off the edge) that is going to keep me from reaching the peak.

There have also been a lot of doubters and mockers. I was one of them for a while, and I am the one actually doing it. However, the privilege has been raising over £3,000 for Meningitis Research that I know will make a huge difference to people’s lives. I do not want to be verbose, but meeting and listening to some of the people that this money will go to help has made this all the more worthwhile.

I could have just paid for my trek and gone and done this myself. However, I never would have had the motivation of doing it if I wasn’t walking with all of the support behind me. I am carrying the names of all my donors on my back and thinking about the gentlemen that burst into tears when he told me that his wife died of Meningitis in early hours of a bucket collection in central London.

This is real and it is happening. When I next speak to you I will have been over the clouds and be back on the ground again. As much as this is an “easy” climb, compared to others, I am not going to take this for granted.

For anyone that is thinking about making a stupid or impulsive decision, my advice is to throw your huge size 10s into it and apologise later. This could be the dumbest thing I have ever done or it could (and will) be the most amazing. The only way to find out is to actually do it and suck up the fear.

I am absolutely terrified. But I am also massively excited. What’s that coming over the hill? It’s a fat boy, mate. See you on the other side!


This Is For You

I’m sitting on a train contemplating adulthood. I never much felt like a teenager, but now it’s a fact. And I can’t help feeling like I got here too soon. Thinking back to the first time I got on a tube myself, or when my Mum trusted me to get the bus to school on my own, clutching a handful of 20p coins that I shakily gave the bus driver. Snatching my ticket and jerking my head back, I could see a smile on her face and watery eyes – I was growing up. Now sitting on a train, the thousandth time on my own, it makes me realise how such a scary notion has become second nature.

I started to look back at my old school photos, and wondered how I’ve managed to lose the dimple in my left cheek over the years. How the clothes started to get a bit tighter and the collar a bit sharper. And the final one in a suit, with hair slicked back, almost ready to take on the world too soon. Now wearing the same suit, with three others in the wardrobe, ready to take on job interviews and actually seeing the minus sign in my bank account disappearing (for a short while at least).

Being 20 comes with pressure. And it is all self-inflicted. The party that I turned up to seven years ago, when I didn’t really know anyone, has become all too familiar. It isn’t about video games but the Game, and the drinks are less fizzy and more fermented. Everyone is a little bit more blurry, and the morning after is starting to hit harder. Innocence was lost a long time ago, but Ignorance is starting to fade. As I read in a recent VICE article, the party doesn’t end until you wake up and walk home.

But I don’t want to. I was sitting with a few friends in the early hours of this morning, the obligatory “Happy Birthday” sung amidst some of the people that really matter at university. I wasn’t in a mass of people, there was no cake or formality – it was a relaxed smile and a cold drink…I much prefer that. The party that I am turning up to has changed, the world has changed, but I haven’t – not in myself. The real 13 year old that got onto the bus, handing in that change, is now looking to make a different sort of change at 20.

I am not a birthday person. I never have been, but I like the fact that I can reconnect with my past, and the people that hold up that mirror. This is the first time it felt different. When I woke up feeling like things are actually clearer. I am healthy, content, assured, smiling and loved. I couldn’t ask for much more when the daylight hit my face this morning.

This birthday isn’t for me. I never want it to be. I want it to be about the people that have supported me. That have loved and lost me. That have walked in and out, leaving the door open so I can see them waving in the distant. This day is my thank you to them – not the other way around. Because I wouldn’t be here to “celebrate” it without them. I would still be the shaky handed, slick haired kid with fear in his eyes as to what was coming.

My body is not shaking anymore, although my hair is a little rougher. And I definitely need a shave. I am not afraid of the future, I am embracing it. And this means embracing you. So if you see me, hold out for that hug and smile.

Because this is for you. Cheers.