On Monday morning I was listening to Radio 4. On it Andrew Marr was discussing how childhood experiences affect later life.
As a huge advocate of Social Mobility, a mentor for the Social Mobility Foundation and also a mentor with Amor Mentoring, which focuses on vulnerable young women I am very aware and know first hand of how your upbringing can heavily affect your future..(if you let it).
Paul Abbott wrote the Channel 4 comedy Shameless and as he spoke about his upbringing I could draw similarities to my own. I didn’t come from a affluent household. I was the first of my family to go to university. I grew up in a council house in my early years and I had ‘free school dinners’.
I never really thought that affected me until I got older and realised that actually it did. It affected my belief in myself and I realised that the people around me didn’t have high aspirations. In fact they couldn’t / wouldn’t believe that I could achieve anything and as time went on I started to feel the same.
University was a big thing for me. I didn’t really have much encouragement to go and I went to the open day on my own. I didn’t have parents who knew the process or even championed me…in fact when I graduated I bought my own graduation photos although I have no idea where they are now. The one women who provided me so much love and encouragement was a women called Judith Marshall. A wonderful women who worked at my University. I gave her a bunch of flowers on my graduation day and in her thank you letter she wrote that she will always remember that day. So will I. I wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for her.
In those 3 years I realised how different I was to a lot of my university friends. My childhood was full of stress and drama a lot of the time and I smiled as I heard some of the stories Paul Abbott recounted. I think this is where your childhood shapes you and you can either hold on to the pain or you remember the good. You find someone (and I always had a guardian angel at some point of my life) who really believes in you and that is what propels you forward. You can be a victim or a hero.
On a more drastic level, Edouard Louis was also interviewed. A gay man growing up in French poverty, racism and brutality. He tried everything to fit into the life he was born into and in the end realised he couldn’t fight himself. I really admire his journey although honestly his argument that his family were sent into poverty I don’t agree with.
I made a decision once I went to University that I could be whoever and whatever I wanted to be, the sky’s the limit. I would achieve all my hopes and dreams and my childhood wouldn’t be a reason to hold me back.
You hear these sob stories all the time about the council estate kid who then becomes a millionaire or wins X Factor, (I can feel you rolling your eyes already!) but I am saying that as Paul Abbott says, you need to find the comedy in the tragic. I know life can be hard – for a long time my life was extremely hard but you need to make the call that you can stop this and become whatever you want to be. Do not use your childhood or a trauma as an excuse. Anything is possible in your future – regardless of the adversity.
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