I have been on this planet for just over 27 years, really that’s no time at all. If you had £27 you could spend them in a moment maybe over something you wanted for a while or perhaps more likely over something more frivolous. Yet somehow, I feel there is an expectation for me to have used my 27 years to carefully craft out an understanding of the world which enables me to feel like I have some clue as what I am doing each day. I honestly have no idea and really every day throws a challenge my way that I do not feel prepared for.
If you go back to my formative years I lived in a fairly average household with an older brother and father who travelled a lot with Navy. I don’t know who I was then, what sort of child I was, I only know from what others tell me (which can’t be very accurate as our memories as humans aren’t). Therefor my start life is completely unknown to me but yet has some impact over who I am now. I would say that my first memories of attempting to navigate the world are from Primary school, I have a couple that stick in my brain.
- The first French afterschool club I went to with a new teacher who just spoke French the whole time and I had no idea what I was doing and I remember feeling scared.
- In year 6 when I started additional support after school classes as I could not keep my writing next the margin or spell anything correctly.
- Doing handstands in the summer against the swimming pool fence and showing off our knickers.
- Probably my earliest memory was in reception when I saw some knickers in the spare pants box that I really liked so me and my friend swapped our pants for them.
I remember the ease at which I made decisions, the freeness of being able to explore and say what I thought. The vision I had of grownups and them being a very different type of species to me. I wonder how these memories have shaped me now. I know that memories from secondary school have impacted me, perhaps because as we grow so does our emotional understanding. I was able to put names to feelings and therefore track when I had felt them before and link up experiences in my brain (not consciously). I remember my excitement of starting secondary school and how I was going to have a locker and to be able to carry all my books with me and I would look so studious, something I had always seen on TV to mean I would be well liked, cool and clever.
I have such a clearer memory of school than I do of my home life. This seems so odd because we are so aware of creating a home life for ourselves which makes us happy but my memories are not of home. Don’t get me wrong I can remember playing rough and tumble with my dad and my mum always sneaking into my room after big family arguments to say she was sorry. I remember having nightmares and making a bed out of towels in the bath as somehow this felt safer than my bed. I remember my dad reading the magic faraway tree to me while mum meticulously picked nit eggs out of my hair, and how cared for I felt.
My teenage years are perhaps the one in which I learnt the most, worried the most and carved out a lot more of who I am. I was odd at school, I have never been able to sit back and accept things which feel wrong to me, I have something inside me which fights with every bone in my body to be heard. I made school hard for me and hard for those around me but I remember there were moments when I was arguing with a teacher or purposely making the wrong choice where I felt truly powerful for the first time. Where I was winning. Soon after secondary school you are thrown into college, I could happily say that I loved college. I made the best friends that I could have asked for who are still my life long friends now. However, being 15, 16 and 17 is tough. Boys where a big part of my life, I am not sure I really understood what consent was and I am certain I drank way too much.my time at college was formative and amazing.
In the summer before I started college, something happened which is perhaps one of the biggest things of memory to shape who I am today and my understanding of the world. My parents got divorced. My whole life up until the age of 16 we had been a family, a family unit. All I had ever known. I will never forget the conversation I had with my mum. She asked me how I felt if she was to leave dad. It wasn’t out of the blue, I knew they both were not happy. I was 16 and well aware of people and how people feel by now. I was confident and charismatic and always had an opinion. I was honoured to be able to support my mum in this way. It felt like she really trusted me to be her confident, I said to her you get one life and there is not point living that life for someone else’s happiness. We were parked just around the corner from our house, in her hard-top black Renault. I had just basically given her permission to leave my dad. At 16 I had spoken without realising the impact of my words, without understanding how I would feel and without pressure.
The next few years home was hard, I stayed living with my dad because although in my early teens we did not have the best relationship I could not leave my family home. I couldn’t leave the place which had brought me so much happiness and so much comfort. My dad and I grew close and I saw the pain he was going through, due to his broken marriage, which somehow felt like my fault. It was the first time in my life I had seen how someone can break. Really break. I held his hand and he held mine. I started uni and I left him behind and I missed him dearly but he had become my best friend. My relationship with my mum had been rocky and it was healing slowly. I guess this whole time in my life taught me that although I could feel powerful by refusing authority and fighting back with people, the damage I could do was so much more than I can see. It taught me a level of humility I had not even begun to understand until then.
I was lucky at uni as my parents has raised me to be very independent, I could wash my clothes and cook my dinner. I could even manage my money pretty well although not perfectly. In the first few years I lived along way from home and learnt to just be me, in a place where I knew nobody and was completely alone. There were good days and bad days. After 3 years of living away from home, I was super home sick and worried that my mum and my grandma needed me. My grandma got very sick and I hated not being nearby to help. I quickly moved universities to one much closer to home. I took another risk and moved in with 7 boys who I didn’t know. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Soon after education was done, I was in the big bad world. I had bills to pay, a body that needed looking after and friendships to maintain. I had no preparation for this. I didn’t know how to live as a person in the real world. In a world which required me to think about what I should do each day, in a world where there is no end goal in sight. I was 23 and out in the world with no idea what to do.
I can safely say that in 4 years not a lot has changed, I have no idea what each day holds. Just to make sure I feel even less in control I became a mother at 25. I had always wanted to be a mum and I knew that after leaving uni and meeting the man of my dreams it wouldn’t be long until we had a baby. I was pretty desperate for a small person to call me mummy and to love me as much as my nanny charges loved their parents. I have that now, my son calls me mummy every day, he holds me tight and he buries his head in my lap. He chooses me over everyone and I am his ultimate comfort blanket.
I had no idea of the impact this dream would have on my reality. I have developed my understanding of the psychology of the brain throughout my education and my working life but that doesn’t mean I knew how it would feel. To have a person rely on you and need you for everything is the most draining thing I have experienced. My brain is overloaded all the time and I exist in a world which isn’t the me I knew before I had him. Before him I was confident of who I was, I was outspoken and impulsive. With him I am so lonely, wary of others, I don’t want to create upset or hurt anyone without meaning to, I am scared to talk about what I think is right. Perhaps it’s the world we live in now, a world in which people seem to enjoy backing others into a corner and making them feel shame for their opinion. I don’t know how to manage my money, eat well, cook meals to look after my family and look after who I am at the same time. I don’t know to stop myself hiding within and to find my voice again. I was to feel more like me, but I don’t know who me is.
How does society prepare us for being in our late 20’s and being seen as a grown-up? It doesn’t. I live for a day when I have the ability to manage my money and organise my life in a way in which feels comfortable. I think it is about time we started to spend more time as country supporting young adults and children to understand the world and how to live in society, it’s time we set people up to succeed and not to fail.
(Please know that I love my family very much, I am extremely lucky to have an amazing and supportive husband and extended family. I just wanted to share some of the inner goings on.)