Printable Version of Topic

Click here to view this topic in its original format

The Other Side forums - suitable for mature readers! _ Daily life _ Post Pals - send a message to a sick kid to cheer them up!

Posted by: Mata Apr 17 2010, 10:00 AM

A friend linked me to Post Pals today. It's a website that lets you send messages to sick children to cheer them up.

I ended up posting a huge message to a boy who's had a lot of breathing troubles, but who has ongoing treatment and who it's hoped will eventually be able to live a full life:

Hi Ethan,

A friend suggested I get involved with Post Pals, and I picked your name on the page. It sounds like you've had a rough time of things! I read on your page that you're hoping to get into mainstream schools soon. I really hope that happens for you, and I'll tell you a little bit about why I hope that.

My name is Mata, I'm 33, and I design computer games for a living. I live in Oxford in the UK.

When I was young I loved computer games, reading (mostly science fiction, but I enjoyed anything I could get my hands on!), and drawing. I went to a very good school when I was about your age, but for some reason I wasn't very happy there. I still can't place exactly why I wasn't happy, I think I just felt like I didn't fit in. I was surrounded by incredibly smart kids, some of them very rich too, and I felt very plain and a little stupid compared to them. It was very hard for a while, and it really wasn't fun.

One day, something changed in me - I decided that I'd had enough of feeling sorry for myself, I was tired of not coping with life, and so I chose to change. I looked at all the things that could be done in the world and decided to try everything that I could. The school was tough, but it helped me learn how to work and how to concentrate on things. I realised that if I put the same amount of focus into achieving things then I would be able to do anything. It wasn't a lesson that was ever taught by a teacher, but it was definitely something I learnt at school!

I went off and taught myself to juggle. It's a great hobby! If you can learn in the future then I highly recommend it. It helped me make a lot of friends and I still do it. I learnt how to do juggle around 17 years ago now and I still enjoy it!

I also did other things, like saving up and buying a lesson in a glider. I flew a glider for about 20 minutes, piloting it among the clouds at 2,000 feet in the air when I was about 17! It was great fun.

I think I was 16 when I started learning martial arts. I began with the slow and meditative martial art called Tai Chi. It teaches you to control yourself, giving you balance and power, focussing inside on your movements rather than on the outside and simply htting things! It's also great for breath control - maybe some day you'll be able to do it too. It takes patience to learn but it's a wonderful skill to have.

Throughout my life, those lessons from school - how to work, how to learn, and how to focus - have really helped me.

I kept on with martial arts, trying lots of styles, before finally settling on my favourite martial art that I began to learn at university. It's called Wing Chun. It involves lots of small, simple, and very powerful movements. It was invented my a woman and requries very little strength - in fact, it's all about being gentle and sensitive. If you can feel what the other person is doing and learn to see how they moving, then you don't need strength to win. You can almost let people defeat themselves!

That's a different kind of lesson, I guess: learning to understand the world around us, seeing the challenges, and learning that sometimes confronting them head-on using brute strength isn't always the way to win. Sometimes we just have to accept that things are going to happen that we didn't plan for, but if we take our time and let things develop, reacting carefully and thoughtfully, then we can turn seemingly impossible situations to our advantage.

Anyway... Back to why I like school!

I was always best at maths at school and found English very hard. I loved art but I was never the most talented person in the room. I worked hard, and decided to go on and study art and English for my A-levels. You might wonder why I did English when I found it hard - I did it because I enjoyed the challenge! If you have the right mind set then challenges can be good fun! I love overcoming things.

I did okay at my A-levels, not amazingly, but I got onto an art course for a year. I found out something about art that really helped me - sometimes talent isn't enough. You can be the best artist in the world in terms of skill, but if you don't put enough effort in then you'll never achieve anything. When I went to university to study for a degree in art and English I found out that lesson about talent and effort was more true than ever!

It was like the tortoise and the hare: there had always been people who were better than me, smarter than me, and who always seemed to be ahead, but life had taught me that I could try really hard and do pretty well. At university, I found that the people with talent still hadn't learned to work hard, and so I, the slow tortoise, was catching up while they were sleeping!

From what I've read about you, it sounds like you've already learnt that you need patience and dedication to overcome things. You've already got a head start on me. There are going to be huge challenges ahead of you still, I'm sure, but you've got the strength to get past them.

At university I worked really, really hard, and do you know what? I got a first class honours degree. That's the best that you can get! My dissertation (that's a really long, very important essay) was about an English poet called Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He wrote a great poem called 'Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner', you might like it! As I said earlier, English was always the thing that I found hard, but my English dissertation is supposed to be one of the best ever written! Again, it was that lesson from school about working hard and focussing that paid off.

After university I was offered a PhD course. I'm sure you've met lots of doctors in your life, well, a PhD is a bit like that except I become a doctor of an academic field of study instead of medicine. Medical doctors train very hard for many years so that they know lots and lots about how bodies work, a PhD will study a subject for many years so that they know lots and lots about it.

I started writing a thesis about a science fiction author that I liked when I was a few years older than you are now. A thesis is an extremely long essay. At school, people are often asked to write essays about things, usually a couple of pages long, which means a few hundred words on a subject. When you get older you are asked to write more, 600-800 words on a subject. When I was doing my degree, my dissertation was 10,000 words long, and my thesis for my PhD was 70,000 words long! I really enjoyed writing it because it was a subject that I loved thinking about.

While I was doing that I started my own website. This was about the time you were born and almost no-one even had an email address, and very few people had ever used the internet! It must be strange for you to think of the time before the internet - there was no Google, no downloaded music. Back then DVDs had only just come out too, so everyone was using video cassettes (called VHS) which you might still have around your house. They look very big and strange compared to DVDs, but that was all that was around.

I made a website full of photographs and my art, then I started making funny animations to amuse myself and my friends. Soon people from all over the world were watching the silly things that I was making in my bedroom. I began selling T-shirts based on my animations, then MTV2 decided that they liked them so much that they would put my animations on TV! I was amazed! Inside I still felt a bit like the boy who never really matched up to the people around him, like everyone was smarter or better than me, but there I was with the things that I had written and drawn appearing on TV screens in countries all across the world! It just goes to show how far a little determination can get you!

While I was animating, I was also learning some basic programming and working out how to make little games. They started off very simply but soon got more complicated. Years later, I finished my PhD and decided it was time to get serious about finding a career, so naturally I went into making games. You could easily say that I stayed in school until I was 30. That's how much I enjoyed it!

I have been playing games for most of my life and so it seemed like a natural fit for me, to go and design games for a living. I had to start at the bottom of the ladder of designers - I had lots of bosses! All the things I had learned through the years came together for me, working and concentrating, thinking logically, being sensitive to situations and finding ways around them, and learning to relax and have fun.

It's always taken effort, but I've never stopped learning and trying new things. In the last two years I've had a go at fencing and rock climbing and I'm now in my thirties. Just imagine what is ahead of you! There's always something out there. There will be challenges, there will even be set backs sometimes, but I know that you can get past them.

I hope you have a wonderful life.

Best wishes,


I really enjoyed writing that. I hope it's not too dull!

Anyway, if you fancy joining in then the website is over here:

Posted by: WhitneyCrazyston Apr 17 2010, 10:04 AM

Cool. I think I will.


Well I sent a very long and rambling (although it's nothing compared to Mata's essay above) email to a 16yr old girl with a very unpleasant sounding genetic disorder I'd never heard of.

It's a very nice idea for a website smile.gif

Posted by: Mata Apr 17 2010, 08:45 PM

Nice one Whitney smile.gif

Posted by: gothictheysay Apr 18 2010, 01:50 AM

What a lovely website and a good idea! I posted a link to it on my facebook page. I wrote a letter to a 12yo girl recovering from a thyroid tumor. It was about three paragraphs as I was afraid of being boring, but I hope she enjoys it!

Posted by: Mata Apr 18 2010, 12:04 PM

I've just sent another quick one. It only takes a few minutes, but it's a nice thing to be able to do.

Posted by: WhitneyCrazyston Apr 24 2010, 09:40 AM

My one sent me a reply the other day. I'm also a bit wary of being too boring but my letter seems to have appreciated smile.gif

Powered by Invision Power Board (
© Invision Power Services (