I guess I need to start this one with a little bit about my background, as this post is going to address my view of Conservative voters and the rich.
I come from a very Conservative household, and when I say very, I cannot stress that word enough. My father was in the forces, and he managed to climb the ranks pretty high over his career through hard work and a fuck ton of discipline. My mother, a typical officers wife, a kept woman whose one goal in life seems to be having an eerily clean house and wages a constant war on anyone who dares to wear shoes in her domain. I have two sisters, both married into the forces, both successful in society’s eyes, and both as different from me as black is to white.
In fact, the whole family is the polar opposite to me.
I am well and truly the meaning of the black sheep.
Don’t get me wrong, I love them all so much. We may not see eye to eye, and we may argue over pretty much fucking everything, but they’re my family, and I know that despite our different beliefs, our massively different outlooks and approaches to life, when it comes down to it, they have my back.
But yeah, polar fucking opposites.
So, as you can imagine, growing up was a weird one. I grew up in military quarters, moving every few years to a new location and never really having the stability of staying in one place for long. My father was always going on tour abroad, spending up to six months away from us at any one time. I knew the national anthem, went to military services and grew up around an atmosphere of royalism and glorification of the military. Every room in our house had military photos, plaques and medals and some of my earliest memories are of my dad sitting in the kitchen, polishing his boots whilst my mother ironed the creases into his uniform.
For some reason, this kind of family seems to go hand in hand with the Conservative party. So weird, considering that both my mum and dad come from a really impoverished town in the North East.
So they always had the usual distain for people that I just didn’t understand, even at a really young age. Immigrants, addicts, people on benefits, low earners, the poorly educated, all the kinds of people we are told to hate, they did. The towed the line, they swallow every scrap of blame that the media feeds them, hook line and sinker.
Immigrants? Sponges only coming over to the UK to take our jobs and take advantage of the benefit system.
Addicts? Idiots, it’s their own fault they’re addicted and they need putting in prison.
Benefit claimants? Nothing but scroungers and a drain on their hard paid taxes.
Low earners? Should have worked harder in school.
Basically, the usual bullshit. I admit, over time they’ve gotten a little better, I’ve slowly chipped away at some of their beliefs and challenged them, planting some seeds of doubt in their mind that are slowly growing.
But the bullshit is still there, and it’s bullshit that I may well have bought into if I hadn’t been such a tearaway child. I don’t know what it was, but from a young age I had a very different sense of good and bad, I was curious and I always looked beyond what I was told, to come to my own conclusions.
I went through a pretty turbulent time in my life. I tore away from them, a rebellious streak, born from childhood trauma, which saw me move out at a young age, drop out of college and move to the city. Their judgemental ways and inability to let me do what I wanted was too much. I was always a creative child, but they pushed me towards academics that didn’t interest me, wanting me to succeed in fields I would have hated. I suppose it’s what every parent wants for their child, but it was suffocating. I didn’t want to study business, I wanted to help people. The pressure was insane, the arguments with my mother constant and so, I ran away. Far away, to Leeds in fact.
And it was there I became everything they fucking hated.
Drugs, drink, bar maid, party goer and full time rebel. I was homeless, an addict and it was in this time that I came face to face with everything my family didn’t like. My best friends were immigrants or descendants of immigrants, my partner was on the dole, we all took drugs and a lot of us worked out backsides on minimum wage jobs.
Back home, my sisters excelled, both are now married into forces families, one has been incredibly successful in business, and the other one’s husband has climbed rank in the military. They had houses they’d bought early, fancy cars, flash clothes, went on expensive holidays. And although my beliefs were not alligned to theirs, there was a point in my life where I genuinely thought myself a failure in comparison to them. I genuinely believed that I had somehow failed in my life because I wasn’t well off, I didn’t drive a nice car (hell, I chose not to drive due to climate change) and I didn’t own my own home.
I’d always been told that success and money would bring me happiness. Getting married and having a family, going to university and getting a “successful” job, settling down and working a nine to five, I was always told these were the staples of a happy life, and that anything other than this was a failure. So, for a little while I felt like I’d let everyone down, myself included.
It was only a few years ago that I managed to finally shake the crippling feeling of failure and realise that everything they’d ever told me about happiness and how to attain it was a lie. Actually, not a lie. It just didn’t apply to me. Sure, it’s where they found their happiness and focus, but it just wasn’t the case for me. I finally realised that I wasn’t some freak with freakish opinions and outlooks, that I was just different, somehow and anomaly against the background that I’d been raised in. I had been lucky to tear away young enough to retain a lot of the beliefs I have today.
My time in Leeds was laced with so many things that, when they were happening, anyone would have seen them as negative. I was a homeless drug addict, literally the worst of the worst in my family’s eyes. I couldn’t get through the bulk of the day without a cocktail of ketamine, and a legal high that I could buy over the counter of a dodgy shop in the market. And for close to two years, this was the norm, living my days in a haze of k-holes and sleepless nights, usually in a park in the student area or on a friend’s sofa.
My parents would have muttered to themselves, had they have ever seen me in the street, judging me on appearance and preconceptions, rather than personal circumstance and story.
And this is where I found pride in myself, after years of self-hatred and self judgement. It was when I was at this point, definitely my lowest point in life, that the true scale of our differences became apparent.
When I was homeless, I found a huge community of homeless people in Leeds. And they all helped each other when they could. When I was hungry, they taught me the traders in town who were more than happy to give over their out of date food stock, people who were also more than happy to talk to you for a little while, usually leaving the conversation with a fiver tucked into my hand. They taught me how to skip raid when all else failed, taking me to all the shop locations where the bins were unlocked, making sure I knew the times to go and which security guys would take offense and which would not. And the best bit about it all, was learning about who they were and how they got to this place. I met people who struggled with drug addiction too, learning their names and finding that every single one of them had a story to tell, usually painful, filled with stories of loss or abuse, some similar to my own. Every one of them was a human being, running and hiding from something that hurt them. I watched some of them go to prison for their addiction and the actions they were driven to by it, knowing full well that they needed a compassionate and healing hand, therapy and rehab, rather than throwing into prison where their problems would just get worse.
Leeds is full of quite affluent people, I met both sides of them extreme with them as well. Some would be lovely, bringing you food once they had spent more than ten minutes getting to know you.
But there were so many others who were absolutely disgraceful.
I’ve been spat on, pissed on, kicked and punched when I’ve been bedded down for the night. Called names like you couldn’t imagine, and a lot of the time, it was from people in suits who had had one beer too many after a night on the town. Oh, and the propositions you get. There was one guy in particular, he was a lawyer working in between Leeds and London, married with three kids, who was terrible. For months he had befriended me, bringing me food, the odd book (I have always loved to read) and coffee whenever he passed me on an evening. We chatted a bit, got to know each other in a small way. Then the propositions began. They were small at first, thinly veiled behind jokes as the conversation turned more and more lewd. The sort of awkward flirting you’d expect for a fifty something year old, wealthy guy hitting on a homeless punk lass. Yet the more I refused his advances, the more effort he put in. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but after an altercation in which I was told I “owed” him for his kindness, and was manhandled a bit, he left with a harsh slap to the face, he was never seen again.
It opened my eyes to the way that the rich saw the poor. We weren’t pitied, we could always be exploited for one thing or another, even at our lowest point. To them, we are nothing but objects, trinkets that they will stand whilst we have some kind of use, no matter how vile and base that use is. They are happy to smile at us, acknowledge our struggle, yet refuse to help beyond the odd tesco meal deal. It’s as if we no longer qualify as human in their eyes. Can you imagine being like that? Thinking that someone is lesser than you, somehow subhuman because they haven’t ticked the societal boxes that you have? That they haven’t jumped through the same hoops?
And this is why I love the fact that I tore away. With this background I’ve had, I’ve learned some of the most beautiful lessons, ones that I love so much that I now see the years of addiction as a positive, not a negative. I mean, without them I wouldn’t have the outlook, compassion and experiences I have today.
I try to see the good in everyone, no matter their position in life. You can be an addict, living on the street and I will treat you with as much respect as I would the queen.
Let’s be honest, I’d probably treat you with more respect.
I’ve come out the other side with a more appreciative nature. I know that we, as people, benefit more as a whole by helping one another. I know that everyone has a story, a lot of them painful, that need to be heard.
I watch my family do absolutely insane things, they’re the kind of people who go out and buy a top of the range car, every two years, like it’s nothing. They want for nothing, when they believe they need something, they go out and they buy it. And watching them do it, every time it seems to hollow, like just another thing to throw on the heap.
It’s so foreign to me. We scrimp and save for even the smallest things. We don’t have a rainy day fund, so God help us when a big appliance breaks, but we do save for things. I buzz over getting a new book, I buy one each month as a treat for myself, and we recently bought a Nintendo Switch after saving for a couple of months. These things we cherish because they’re rare treats, and I would hate to lose that simple enjoyment because we had too much.
There’s so much more I could write on this one, but I will elaborate as time goes on a guess.
I’ve definitely gone on too much on this one, and I’m sorry it’s been different.
But in short, what I’m trying to say is that I’m so grateful that I’ve become the person I am, rather than a copy of my family.
I wouldn’t change who I am for anything, least of all a lifestyle like theirs. I’m happy that I’ve struggled, I’m happy that I’ve become the person who I am after all I’ve experienced.
More to come soon guys 😊