Friday, 13 August 2010
"I've always relied on the kindness of strangers"
If you haven't read the play - 'A Street Car named Desire', you may not recognise this poignant quotation. I've included it in this post to summarise how I feel about an old tutor that I ran into recently, who caused me to reflect on the strangers that come into our lives - some who stay around for a day, a month, a year or more, even a lifetime...
Jane saw me struggling with the shopping and baby Reu, I was too flustered to even recognise her staring at me, probably smiling to herself thinking about the first time we had met 8 - years prior.
It was open day at the college, after spending a year at home looking after my eldest son I knew that I needed more than a mundane life of nappies, Kilroy, and the excruciating poverty that being a young, single mother brings. How anyone could relish in living on benefits is beyond me, and these right wing fools that say it's a walk in the park should try it, because rationing nappies and being told - " I understand that your up the duff" when you have no money by an idiot at the social security office is the most demoralising thing, and not a self elected option for anyone that has confidence and self belief that certain situations in life can drain away from you.. I became obsessed with the little money I got, each pound was noted in a little black book and I would pull my hair out if even a pound wasn't accounted for - if only I had stayed that disciplined!
During my weekly shop I would go to the local supermarket, trying to make the money stretch, my son didn't eat meat then, so I would buy fish from the fishmonger in the store. Every week he would price the fish for less, I gathered this was to help me out as he never said anything which wasn't polite. I reminisce and think back to how much this meant to me, and I'm sure he knew it.
The highlight of my week was taking baby Ama to a local mother and baby group where I was the youngest and only single mother there. At night I would pray for us, pray to God to give me strength to get us out of this situation and provide my son with the life he deserved, and me, the life that I wanted.
I was in temporary accommodation then in Central London, and one day I received a phone call from the housing office out of the blue. It was from a total tw*t of an housing officer who went on to tell me that I will be moving to Margate!! I didn't know anyone there but he of course he didn't care, after all I was a young mother without much family in London, so an easy target. My only reason to stay would be if I was studying. Off I went straight to the local college explaining my predicament to the enrolment officer, because at this stage I wasn't studying. She promptly proceeded to give me the evidence I needed to get me onto a course - no Margate for me!
So there I was at this open day, struggling with a 9 - month old and waiting around. I went to see the principal to explain that I didn't want to have to do the then new AS and A2 levels in 2 years as having studied for 2 years prior and being unable to sit my A-level exams because I was pregnant and due at exam time I felt that I could do a condensed course of taking both years in 1 condensed year for my chosen subjects. She looked at me in a way that I had become accustomed to, and said "You can't do that you have a baby and it will be too much". Had I not been determined or lacked confidence that haunts us all at some points in our lives, I may have turned back and left that college for a life that perhaps would have been expected, but I was undeterred and just ignored her. The first tutor I went to see was Jane, she looked at me and smiled, as I explained what the principal had said and what I wanted to do. That's fine she said, along with all the other tutors I approached, Erica, Sue and Sean. They were willing to give me a chance and for that I will be forever grateful.
After I finished my studies at college, I went to university and spent another 3-years studying the most amazing subjects. Some people have said to me what can you do with subjects like that? I didn't care because I knew they would come in handy one day. The lecturers were again supportive and gave me the encouragement I needed when I became discouraged. During this time I took driving lessons, having failed on my first try I was deflated. Money was tight and I knew that I couldn't afford more. My instructor a brilliantly dynamic Ghanaian man who I wish to this day I had kept in contact with, offered to give me free lessons until I passed. Now I know people that have passed after 9 attempts so this was a pretty big gesture which I took wholeheartedly, and 2 months later I passed!
I finally graduated and to celebrate took Ama to Egypt, to spend some quality time together. Sitting on the beach I recall thinking of the many strangers that had helped us along the way, some of whom continue to offer the support and who are no longer strangers but dear friends, others who have faded out of my life as quickly as they faded in. Wherever they are, I wish them well, and dedicate this post to those who have helped me so much, and expected so little...the universe knows who you are, and I pray that you are rewarded - Insha'Allah