Own two feet


Jobs a good’un

I never really believed I could get the job. After I was shortlisted for the interview there was a moment when hope dared to flutter into my thoughts, but I quickly buried it under my concrete insecurities. The role was far too out of reach for me. I didn’t have the right experience. I would get found out in the interview. My wife and my friends at work cheer led from the sidelines as best they could, but I became increasingly afraid as I thought about the next stage in the process.  

It takes me two scans through my care file to find it. ‘On 3rd October, 1988 [mum] phones Social Services saying she had left both boys with a neighbour and that she had no intention of collecting them as she could not cope’.

I have tried to remember that day a number of times throughout my life. I have even attempted to write about it and have sat my brother and myself on the neighbour’s sofa with our feet dangling over the side. He is crying and I am scowling. The neighbour is in the kitchen washing up and waiting. What must she have felt back then I now wonder. It is a story I’ve told myself so much that it almost feels real.

This was not the first time I went into care, but was the last time. After this occasion I never went back home to live as a child. This experience and all the moves that followed chipped away at a self confidence that was once brutally strong. It was a confidence that had me challenging anyone to a running race in the playground, a confidence to scale up the sides of any buildings clothed in scaffolding and a confidence to run around with kids older than me and hold my own. This all before I reached ten.

In care this confidence was smashed. I became hollow. I tried to reach out, but I did not know how. One set of foster parents, that I spent a considerable amount of time with, wrote in my file that I knew what pleased people and that I could be a ‘bit of a creep’.

I remember them calling me that and at the time it was seen as funny. But things like this only contributed to the distancing I felt – between me and other people and, most importantly, the distance I felt open up between the me I knew, and the me I was becoming in care.

I was embarrassed by being me because I was in care. The fact that I kept being moved only enhanced this feeling and a sense of abandonment, first by my blood and then by the system.

As I get older, my childhood is something I have continuous dialogue with. I admire that boy and that he came through that experience. He is my champion, but there are times when I struggle to make the leap to the man I have become.

On the outside I have crafted a number of roles I play to the world. They even have me fooled from time to time, but still the memory of the rejection lingers.

When I received the phone call letting me know that my first interview and presentation had gone well and that I was shortlisted with one other for a second interview a relief flooded over me.

I had not made a fool of myself.

The worst of it was over and for a moment I did not care about the job, I was just so happy I had survived and come through it. Then I quickly set about preparing for the final interview with the help of two friends at work that throughout the process shrugged off their support as nothing, but who kept me afloat.

I remember the rugby player Brian Moore once talking about his career as a top rugby player and representing his country and how he never felt good enough, but it was this feeling that pushed him on to achieve so much. He talked about the positive use of negativity and how you can either use it or let it use you.

After the second interview I walked out knowing I had done as much as I could. Again I felt relief that I hadn’t embarrassed myself, but I also felt proud of what I had achieved to get to that point. I still held back the belief that I could get the job, but now it was over in my head there was nothing more I could do.

The next day as I was sitting at my desk the phone went. I knew it was about the job and took the call outside.  I braced myself because in that moment I was so close and I suddenly let it all go and I desperately let myself want the job. On the other end the voice talked about some areas for development and that I lacked certain experience. My heart sank as I agreed on the phone. ‘But taking that into account we would like to offer you the job’. I wanted to scream, but replied ‘that’s fantastic news’.

When I came back into the office my two colleagues who had been so supportive looked up at me expectedly.  I smile stretched across my face and said ‘we did it!’

I know that I will always carry a lack of confidence that I believe was profoundly brought about by being in care, but I also know that it is the war I wage with this negativity that has kept me pushing on into places I never thought I belonged. It is important to add that growing up in care does not give me a monopoly in the ongoing  struggle for confidence. I think that is very much part of being human. We all carry that fear that likes to wake up from a slumber just in time for job interviews, school or work presentations and any kinds of public speaking.

As somebody who has grown up in care, I know there is so much that wants to turn us away from a life we deserve, there is so much that wants to push us towards being a stereotype and being part of the statistics that tell us we are less likely to achieve good grades at school, that we are much more likely to become prisoners and prostitutes and drug users.

But none of us have to become slaves to our experiences.

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17 Comments so far
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Nice one – and many congratulations.
You’re no statistic. As you say, it’s as much about being human as being in care.
Or – to put in another way – one of the sad things about being in care is that it gets in the way of knowing your feelings are normal and not the product of a system. Nobody’s damage-free.
Good luck in your new job.

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Comment by paul mck

Tht is such a brilliant point and one I have not thought about in that way. The iDea of the care experience getting in the way of engaging with the human experience that we all share. So perfectly put.
Job is going well, just getting my head above water…hope to be surfing by Christmas!
Thank you so much for the read and for your words.

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Comment by whocarestrust

Reblogged this on Guitars and Life and commented:
this is brilliant on so many levels.

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Comment by furtheron

You are so right ‘no one has to become slaves to their experiences’, with the right support our goals can be achieved. Well done for achieving another of yours and I am sure there will be many more to come.

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Comment by Angela Nairne

I can totally relate to that comment the foster carers wrote in your file about you being a “bit of a creep” When I was growing up I had convinced myself I was invisible and I began doing things that all humans would do if they had the opportunity to spend a day being invisible. I would steal, I wet myself (ok not every one would do that but I was a child) I spoke in fake accents and made up personalties and told lies about myself and where I had come from. I was told off all the time. It was only when I got my social services file that consistently people where encouraged to “ignore” me. In hindsight this is probably where I got the impression of being invisible from. Nothing I did gained me any soft of interaction. It was a very lonely period in my life you do feel very alone in the world.

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Comment by Shirley

First of all Shirley apologies for the delay in replying!…thank you so much for this…I must admit it hurts to read, but i totally get it…do you think seeing your care file has helped you grapple with this period?…I know for me I have very mixed feelings about my care file, but really pleased I did get to read it…totally mangled my mind at the start and took a long time to process…I went travelling for two years and took it with me, i hardly read it, but i think that speaks volumes about what it meant to me, especially after i first got it.
How are things now?

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Comment by whocarestrust

This is so moving and interesting. Thank you.

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Comment by Angela

This was very moving and made me realise how important it is for children in care to have someone to give encouragement and support to overcome their fears. I was saddened to hear that someone could write such negativity about a child struggling through his childhood. I am so heartened though that you came through it all and have achieved what you so wanted, Well done .

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Comment by Imogen

Thank you so much. We all need that encouragement throughout our lives, but in care we just need that little bit more and it has to be constant. Confidence is often tissue paper thin.

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Comment by whocarestrust

A touching story. Try to keep a stiff upper lip whatever happens. The life is so unpredictable. Whatever makes you sad doesn’t kill you.

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Comment by ana

I appreciate your style of penning.

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Comment by ana

Thank you so much, it always feels special to read comments like this.

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Comment by whocarestrust

Children in care are nearly always written off. It is up to us, as adult survivors, to show you can strive and achieve. You can take your anger or sorrow and channel it to make your own life beyond that that was predicted for you. You might do it to show people they were wrong or just because actually you can. You are as good as any other child/teen/adult. There may be black dog days when the anger bubbles back up and times when you do things you regret but life is for taking control of, for helping others see they are worth as much as any other person and for saying I did this and so can you.

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Comment by Kathy Bailes (@kjbailes)

It really is and I also think we have to push past being survivors and really get a hold of life and not be defined just by our care experience, even though it is always a big part of our identity if that makes sense…

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Comment by whocarestrust

I didn’t see your whole message in my last reply…I think you make a great point about how you channel anger and sorrow…I so believe that is massive in moving forward…about turning the negative into positive….and you’re right stuff does come back (that pesky black dog!), but it’s an ongoing process dealing with these things. Thank you for the comment!

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Comment by whocarestrust

Thanks for the reply. I liked reading your blog. Well written. I hope life is good for you

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Comment by Kathy Bailes (@kjbailes)

nice articles

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Comment by retro jordans




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