How I Got To Where I Am Today
I'll be honest, I wasn't sure whether I should share this post or not. My story is deeply personal, it is my journey and one that I am proud of.
What made me decide to share this after all is Michelle Obama's Netflix documentary I watched last night. She said "If we can open up a little bit to each other, and share our stories, our real stories, that's what breaks down barriers. But in order to do that, you have to believe that your story has value. Dare to be vulnerable."
There is so much truth and power in this statement- yes, I share some things on my social media but I am not an open book on there, nor do I need to be.
But I do have a small following and according to my stats most of you are female, between the ages of 18-25 and I do feel that I have a certain responsibility towards you. I can see how my life can look perfect to those of you looking in; social media can be depressing for some, it can ruin your day, end relationships, make you judge people who you don't even know. I share my highs, the reason why I don't share many of my lows is because I don't want to focus on them. I want to deal with my shortcomings on my own and move on. Of course that doesn't mean that everything is hunky dory- nobody's life is. I guess I want you all to know that you can overcome anything life throws at you as it certainly wasn't a straight path for me. There were so many twists and turns, some highs and many, many lows but now I can reflect on it with perspective and I am grateful for it all. So let's start at the beginning :-)
My parents were refugees who fled the war between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). I believe my father was 19 when he arrived in Germany, and my mum and sister who was 1 at the time, followed a year later. They ended up in a tiny village in the north west of Germany, where there were no other Tamils let alone brown people and only the village priest and a handful of other people could communicate with my father in English. A German family, the parents in their 40s with 3 teenage daughters, took my parents under their wing and helped them find a good apartment and literally anything else my parents needed. I thank God for this family, who are our Godparents and still in our lives. My mum had my brother and then me in quick succession- she had 3 babies under 3 in a country where she had no family and the language and customs were foreign to her. They were both extremely hard workers, working more than1job to save up for a home of their own.
After living in the apartment for 8 years, they had saved up enough to buy land in the village and build their own house- they were both still under 30 and stateless. This still blows my mind- they came to Germany with literally nothing and through hard graft and so much sacrifice they were not only able to buy a home, they were able to build their dream home. I still remember looking at the blue print of our home and choosing our bedrooms with my siblings- we were so excited.
My father, for all his faults, is highly intelligent and book smart- after living in Germany for only a few years, his German, a notoriously difficult language to learn, was close to native level and he was always called to translate for other Tamil refugees in the surrounding areas.
Our beautiful 4 bedroom country home was surrounded by fields, we had a huge vegetable patch where we grew our own produce and my parents were very proud of their immaculately kept flower beds. They were so house proud- rightly so!
Unfortunately the domestic side of things (which I won't go into) wasn't anywhere near as blissful as we'd wished for. Things were dark and ugly; it continued to escalate until my father decided to move us to India- I was 9. Chennai was a SHOCK to us little coconuts, brown on the outside and white on the inside but we were thrown into the experience with no emotional support. We only stayed for 2 months but during that time we had rented an apartment and started school. The water, the weather, the insects, nothing agreed with us kids and we were struggling to adapt and learn English so we were moved back home. Again, things escalated, the house, our beautiful home got sold (this devastated me) and we were moved an hour away to be near my mum's relatives. We started school, made new friends and finally started to like our new life when we were taken to Chennai again- this time without my brother. We thought we were going on a holiday but we were tricked. Yet again, we were to stay permanently. We were enrolled in the same school (some of the kids remembered us from the previous year, I was so embarrassed haha!) This only lasted a couple of months too (do you sense a pattern here?) and back we were in Germany. Things at home got worse, it was now decided it wasn't a good idea to be near relatives (one thing I did agree on but I still didn't want to move) and we moved to Bielefeld, the final place where we lived in Germany. I was now 12, enrolled in school but my grades had slipped (I was always a straight A Gymnasium student). Within the last 2 years my mum had tried to leave our domestic situation around 3-6 times. Every time, we too packed our bags and followed our mother who was always coerced by her relatives to reconcile.
We didn't even last in Bielefeld for a year and were eventually moved to London.
London was another shock to the system, it was just so different and I was so unhappy. After a couple of months, we were given a choice- stay together in London as a family or move to Chennai with just my mum- and my father staying back to work. We chose Chennai. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why.
This time we lasted for a whole year, whohoo! The school system there was crazy to me and I did not do well at all but we still enjoyed our time and freedom there. I had never seen my mum so happy before. Alas, it didn't take long for paternal possessiveness to take over and we were shipped back to London, where we eventually ended up staying for good. I was 13 when we bought a house and settled into suburban London life. Did I love it? Probably not but at this point I was numb and going through the motions.
At 15, a life changing event occurred to me which made my mum, who had tried to leave her situation about 10 times by now, leave for good. We left empty handed, we had some clothes in a bin bag and that was it. We were homeless. A family friend drove us to the council where we waited for hours to be given temporary accommodation. We were given a bedsit in Wimbledon, it was horrid but we were just glad to be away from home. There were 3 beds in 1 room with a small hob, the bathroom was shared with other strangers who also lived there. There were bed bugs and I was bitten to pieces every night. I had started work experience and I remember wearing long sleeves in the summer heat to cover the angry, red bites which covered my arms and legs. I was also so conscious of my clothes smelling of food since we had to cook in the same room where we slept and kept our clothes. We were moved to a couple of different bedsits until we were given a council flat in the area- finally. It was grotty and in the worst area but at the time I felt like we were moving into a castle. I'd have my own room again! We didn't have to share bathrooms! We had a living room! To me, this was pure luxury and I was over the moon.
I'm 16 now and it's a crucial year- that summer I took my GCSE exams. There had been so much upheaval in my life and English wasn't my first language but there were many people in our family who predicted we'd be failures because my mum was divorced. That gave me enough fuel and fire to prove them all wrong. I'd stay at school and the library until 7pm in the months leading up to my exams. On results day I cried like never before, I was exhausted but I got what I had hoped for- A*'s, A's and B's only.
It was while we lived in the same council flat that during a routine cervical smear test, cancer cells were found in my mum's uterus and her uterus had to be removed. Radiation also took its toll on her- she'd take a bus to the hospital and would hobble back home after treatment as she had no one who could take her. She wasn't even 40 yet.
We were teenagers, at college now and we pretty much had no choice but to pick up the pieces. I felt so alone and it seemed like her recovery took forever. Thankfully, my mum recovered and was even able to get some qualifications to follow a different career path.
Through costly negotiations we managed to get the house back which my parents had initially bought together in London. We were finally home. I graduated from the University of Brighton with a Bachelor's and then a Master's in English Literature.
Whilst at Uni I met the love of my life. My saving grace, my angel. He has been instrumental in my healing journey and I truly believe Jesus sent him to me because I needed him to find myself and find happiness. My children are my why. Why I get up and keep going every single day. I was and am determined to make a beautiful life for ourselves, I'm so grateful for everything I have and everything I've experienced. I'm so aware that all our possessions are temporary, nothing lasts forever except the relationship we have with our loved ones. Should we lose everything we have right now, mentally I'm fully prepared for this and as long as I have my beautiful girls, I know I will be alright.
I believe my parents did what they thought was best and they tried their best with the tools they had. Yes, we suffered but sadly they just didn't know any better. It's taken me a long time to come to this realisation and if anything, it's helping me forgive those who need it most. I love them both and that will never change.
I don't want my girls to spend a lifetime recovering from their childhood. I want them to cherish their time with us and tell their friends "my parents were the best". That is all I want to achieve in my life.
I'm still recovering, in therapy (which has been difficult, amazing and eye opening) and I think I'll continue to heal for the rest of my life.
If it wasn't for my hardships, I don't think I'd appreciate everything as much as I do so if I was given a choice, I wouldn't change anything about the past.
Who I am today has everything to do with where I have been.