Thursday, November 28, 2013

Something You Don't Know About Me

Teenage Elise
It may surprise you to know that as a young teenager I was homeless. Or maybe not so homeless, maybe just....voluntarily displaced.

I have spent nights under bridges. Sleeping on strangers couches or floors. Patrolling the streets of Sydney and Kings Cross, and dozing in dark corners or under tree's. That's only a very small part of it, the majority was spent in the safety of youth refuges, and even boarding with people who I came across in life in a newspaper or through people who know people.

I have held the foreheads of people who violently vomit the disgusting concoctions they have purchased. I have called an ambulance for others who weren't so lucky. I have snuck into nightclubs using a fake ID, and walked in, tacitly ignored, to other clubs that could care less. I have had job offers to strip, and other, even less innocent offers to earn money.

For me at least, there was an element of voluntary displacement. I could have turned up back on close family doorsteps and been assured of a roof over my head. If I had reached out to friends of the family or extended family I feel sure that many would have taken me in. But a big part of my displacement was a disconnection from the relationships. Many of them were damaged and broken. And I think I understood deep down that the relationships were not just damaged, they were damaging.

There were alot of people in my life during those years who made such a huge difference. People who shaped the person I am today. I function. I hold down a job. I don't have any major dysfunctions such as alcoholism, drug abuse, violence or emotional abuse attachments. I try to be the person I want my daughter to be and I am happily in a marriage that defied all odds.

Glenn Sargeant Plumpton HS
Besides the awesome social workers I came across in refuges or on the streets, my teachers were the key. I landed at Plumpton High School in my second attempt at year 9, hoping to have a better run at it this time around. My principal at the time was Glenn Sargeant, you may have seen him on the ABC show Plumpton Babies.

He undertook to be my token adult in life. The person to sign absent and excursion notes, even my drivers license application w
hen the time came to get my L's. I don't remember him even calling me to account for the decisions I was making, if he had I may have run from him like I did from anyone else that tried to control my life. He just gave gentle input and guidance, and I respected him all the more.

My vice principal filled in my first tax return for me. My drama teacher (and his wife) let me sleep at their home one night so that I could easily make it to an excursion that everyone had to make their own way to. Another teacher gave me the supreme trust of babysitting her children, giving me exposure to normal family life, and a chance to earn some pocket money to supplement my government allowance.

These are just small specific examples that stick in my mind, but really, many of my teachers showed compassion, understanding, and empowered me to make my own choices.

I finished year 12. I may not have finished brilliantly, definitely I came in well under my capabilities, but I finished. I was a prefect, I participated in school activities, I wore and accessorised my uniform with pride.

I still got caught in the cycle of a teenage pregnancy. At the age of 19 I gave birth to Maddy, barely a year out of school. But against all expectations, Husband and I made a go of it, and determined to build bigger and better lives for ourselves and her.

Many of the people in my life probably never realised what a difference they made. But for every teenager that crosses your path, you need to be someone and something worth aspiring to. As my daughter enters her teenager years, this is what I want to remember. Both for her sake and for her friends. I need to be someone worth aspiring to be.

9 comments:

  1. Wow, I have tears in my eyes. I have almost exactly the same story. People can never beleive what I went through as a teen. I don't really tell people my life story because I am not sure people really believe it. Thank you for sharing yours. xxx So glad life worked out well for you too.

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    1. It not something I talk about much these days Eleise. It feels like a whole other lifetime ago my life is just so american TV normal these days. This would be one of my first efforts at putting it out there, and you're right, people don't really believe it sometimes, its just surreal and so far from their own experiances

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  2. You are so brave putting your story out on the blogisphere! Your little girl is so so lucky to have a mum like you.
    It sounds like you had such a rough time! Teen years are hard enough!
    Your story really is inspirational.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comments, this post has been a couple of years in the making, its hard to know sometimes how much to share!

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  3. Oh my goodness, you have a ton of life experience under your belt... and sound so much the wiser for it. Thank god you did manage to grow up relatively safe and well and that you've managed to make a really good life with your husband.

    I had a hard family life - the usual Scottish story, alcoholism. I managed to get away at 16, by getting a scholarship to a boarding school! It was SUCH a lucky thing for me, the rules wre firm but fair and - most important - predictable. I'm sure I'd have had a much messier life - and plenty has been messy enough - if I hadn't got away. Thanks for your bravery.

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    1. I had the same experience in the refuges - firm rules and guidelines. Knowing were I stood and what the rules were was so important. Thank you so much commenting xx

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  4. Your post makes me admire you even more.... you are truly special and a great example to your children. xox

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  5. NO WONDER U ARE SUCH A MISERABLE COW- Having been thru all these, you should have been a more compassionate, understanding & caring person to others......but are u are an evil gossip monger & shit stirrer.

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