Man (or woman) the F**k up and get on with it!

This is my version of “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

Two years ago, I volunteered as an Oxfam steward at Download festival. I love festivals and I’ve been volunteering as an Oxfam festival steward since 2006 but I’d never been to a ROCK festival before, even though the misspent portion of my teenage years involved head-banging at the Rockhouse in Derby. I was a little anxious about whether I’d outgrown METAL and I wondered what the “punters” would be like. At Download, I was positioned in the disabled camp site, putting wristbands on people and generally helping the campers out and helping with their enquiries.

I was a bit stressed at the time as my partner and I were in the middle of buying a house for the first time, in fact, the sale went though at the start of my shift. My mind was whirling with practicalities and plans for moving. However, what I learned that weekend got me through the house move. The Download disabled camp site is a wonderful place, with great toilets, showers and wheelchair charging points. Everyone, including the security staff greet campers warmly, help to solve any problems and even willingly volunteer to help put up ten. The same members of staff and volunteers come back year after year and many friendships are forged (in METAL!) The campers have a wide range of disabilities and many of them are wheelchair users. However, everyone is bound together, not by disability, but by a shared love of ROCK! People admire each others’ tattoos and use the wheelchair charging points to plug in straighteners for styling their mohawks. It’s got one of the best atmospheres that I’ve ever found in a festival camp site.

The attitude of the Download disabled campers is summed up by a phrase you’ll often hear people saying: “man the f**k up!” In some other context it probably means something macho but the first people I heard saying it were a girl in an electric wheelchair and her boyfriend as they charged the wheelchair before a full-on day at the festival. At Download “man the f**k up” means overcoming your problems and getting on with it; having a laugh, living with the things you can’t change (like festival weather) and enjoying life as much as possible. You could always say “woman the f**k” up if you want and it would mean the same thing.

The next week, during the big house move, whenever I had to psyche myself up to lift heavy boxes or pack and unpack endless amounts of stuff, I said to myself “man the f**k up” and I thought about the people I’d met at Download. It’s a phrase that I’ll be needing to tell myself again as I’m going through my career change. And I needed to tell myself to “man the f**k” up this week, on holiday in Whitby.

We’d planned a walk to Robin Hood’s Bay, along the old railway track and then the cliff path, about eight miles in distance. The weather was very cold and it kept snowing. We could have done some pottering about or stayed in the house, but we decided to go anyway. We wrapped up warmly and put on waterproofs and set off, buffeted by wind and snow. The going was hard at times, but there were periods of bright sunshine and some amazing views. One of the weirdest things we came across was on the cliff path, where sea spray had blown onto the cliffs and made ice-sculptures. It was sunny by the time we arrived in Robin Hood’s Bay, a picturesque old fishing village. I even made friends with a young sea gull! We could have had a really boring time but by deciding we were going to go for it and get on with it when more sensible people would have stayed in, we had an unforgettable adventure.

In the weeks to come, it will be important for me to remember this advice to myself: to not give up and to get on with the things I need to do in life even when the circumstances are tough. There will be better things to come if I make the effort to change my life and follow the path I want.

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