This is a story about family...
I was born in Aberystwyth, Wales. This is the first house I lived in. We moved around lots when I was growing up - I went to 8 different schools - so I don't really know where to call home. For me, home is where I make it: I have a grab bag in my apartment in London, with a tent and a sleeping bag. I'll survive, but there isn't a family home I would visit ever again. Homelessness is the only option.
I was wondering to myself earlier whether I'm a misanthrope or not. I certainly dislike the stress of rush hour travel and battling crowds. You must wonder why I live and work in London, where it's so densely populated, but I find that it has amazing people, food, culture and lots of jobs for my skills and experience. I live by the river and it's actually pretty quiet down on the Isle of Dogs, as is the Square Mile, where I often get contracts.
I've decided that I don't hate people, but a lot of people seem to hate me. Changing schools so much is disruptive to a child's life. Instead of learning how to make friends and become popular, there's little point if you're going to get yanked out of some place you're happy with and dumped somewhere else. It's fairly obvious that the more disrupted a child's environment, the more they will retreat inwards, in search of some stability and consistency.
Bullying was a big feature of my childhood. It was a daily feature of life until I went to college. It's easy to make a child into a bullying victim: just give them something that marks them out as different. Take a look at the way all the children in school are dressed and make sure you dress your kid differently: turn-ups on their trousers, a jumper when all the other kids are wearing blazers, Clarks shoes when all the other kids are wearing Doc Martens. If they're a girl, dress them like a boy and vice-versa. If they're a boy, make them ride a pink bicycle with ribbons on it. Et cetera, et cetera.
My parents' only hobby was drug taking. In their imagination, there were fucking unicorns and rainbows everywhere and everything they said was profound and important. In their minds they were hard working and intelligent. In reality, they were sat around in a dirty house, dribbling like morons and unable to say a single syllable that was understandable. Their brains were intoxicated by drugs and alcohol and they were antisocial: preferring to spend as much time as possible alone indoors with their drugs.
I'm not sure if my parents are misanthropes, but they sure as shit don't have any friends. They have each other and they seem to think that they're the two smartest people on the planet and everybody else is thick as pig shit. When I feign snobbery and arrogance, it's easy because I just imitate my parents. They used to talk about friends and colleagues behind their back. I would get in trouble if I ever let slip a "mum says..." which taught me about two-faced hateful nasty people.
It's kind of fun to gossip behind people's backs, but having been the victim of social exclusion, bullying and also witnessed the nasty nature of horrible people who say mean things about people behind closed doors, I now try to stop myself. I'm not getting up on my high horse and saying I'm morally superior: I just mean to say that I have strong feelings about it, as it's affected my life. It's almost as if I was the one who suffered for my parents' desire to be hostile to everyone.
There I am. It's fairly obvious from those murderous eyes that I'm pure evil and had been plotting to do all sorts of dastardly deeds, while I was a sperm and an egg.
"My girlfriend" is how my dad referred to my mum. He made me call him and my mum by their first names. I wasn't allowed to call them "Mum" and "Dad". There was open hostility towards me, as if I had planned to ruin their drug binge and screw up their easy carefree life; as if my birth was some pre-meditated malicious atrocity. That's a pretty freaky thing to accuse a small child of.
What else do I know about myself?
Well, I was lonely. I was so desperate for secure, loyal friendships, that I would get very overexcited when I got to spend time with friends. I was super intense and hyper: I had to pack in all the friendship I could, when the opportunity presented itself. Sleep was always of secondary concern to maximising the time available, so it was exhausting seeing me for the short intense bursts that my parents permitted.
A number of my childhood 'friends' were the children of people my parents deemed good enough to hang out with occasionally, because they liked to take drugs. My parents made all objective judgements of people based on whether they liked drugs or not, rather than on personality or intellect. My dad rather styled himself on a man known literally as Mister Mean, who charged his wife and young children rent to live in 'his' house. What a cunt.
The biggest event in my life was the birth of my sister, when I was 10 years old. Parents are supposed to be outnumbered. Children are supposed to grow up with brothers and sisters. It's fucking abusive to have lonely isolated miserable children. Guess what? Children like playing together. Children like being children with other children.
It occurred to me that we spend so much of our time and energy trying to get children to act like adults, which is disingenuous and bound to lead to frustration and misery all round. If you want adult company, go make friends with people your own age. Kids need to be kids, which means play and socialising with their peers. Punishing a child for being childish is abusive.
Yeah, I'm banding round the term 'abuse' quite freely and easily. I'm sorry if there's a very specific context in which you find that English word acceptable, but it has a definition that you're at liberty to look up in the dictionary if you need to. I'm calling things abusive, because they've had life-altering negative effects on me and caused prolonged periods of abject misery. If you've fucked up your child's chances to form meaningful, secure happy relationships and partake in society as a well-rounded individual, you've really fucking abused a kid, OK?
This is turning into a bit of a "poor me, poor me" whinefest, but it's the background of the who am I type stuff I've been thinking about. I know it's horribly egocentric, but tell me, which pill do I take to just forget about this stuff and move on?
"Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man" -- Aristotle
Finding myself unable to get along with my peers and finding my parents to be disappointed that I wasn't born as a grown adult independently wealthy Victorian butler, I eventually found that friends' parents and some teachers were very nice to me. Having been raised to act with 'maturity' many adults found my good manners and strong communication skills to be charming. While I could do nothing right at home, I found that the adult world was mainly about kissing arse and saying intelligent sounding things at the right time. Naturally, my peers saw me as aloof and arrogant, which I guess I was.
It's easy to see how I got a head start in life: because I was lonely and isolated. I played on computers when others were playing with their brothers, sisters and friends. When I went to my first job interview, I wasn't intimidated because I felt more comfortable in the adult world than I did with children. When it came to making a good impression at work, people judged me on the fake image of maturity that I projected. In short: I seemed more grown-up than I was.
We're all a little insecure, but I desperately wanted loyal friends and a loving girlfriend. That lifelong damage that you do to a kid when you fuck up their childhood, means that they feel unloved, they don't know how to make friends, missed out on childhood sweethearts and feel distant from their peers. That shit carries over into adult life. Where's the confidence, the gregariousness, the outgoing nature? Where are you going to get that stuff, if all you know is bullying, isolation and disruption to your life that destroys every friendship you've ever cherished?
Every time I've been clingy, intense or a little too full-on... that's coming from that hole that was left in adolescence, where most people are swigging cider in the park and having fumbling trysts in the bushes.
But, I've also been affected by drugs. I'm not afraid of drugs. I don't have a healthy fear and respect of drugs, unlike people who've never been exposed to them. I'm in the situation of having in-depth knowledge of drug taking, but I'm surrounded by educated middle-class professionals who know nothing about drugs (except that if you inject a marijuana you will immediately murder a grandmother to steal her money).
It's crazy to think that the spotty, nerdy unpopular awkward geek who was bullied as fuck, took amphetamines and lost his virginity at the age of 15. Is it crazy? Well, a lot of people think drug taking is cool. It's seen by some simple-minded fools as an act of rebellion. Idiots see themselves as being part of a counter-culture movement, when they make themselves dumb and apathetic, spending their money on a trillion dollar commercial industry, never actually doing anything revolutionary or productive because they're sitting around indoors dribbling and babbling incoherently.
Doesn't it seem only natural that with insecurity and isolation, I would follow in the footsteps of my parents? It sounds like I'm blaming my parents for my addiction, but I'm not (directly). The debate about free will and our ability to make choices, is a complex one.
"Boring! We've heard all this!"
Yes, but I'm retelling. I've been through Hell and I'm trying to understand everything myself. Through my writing, I'm coming to terms with a mind-boggling amount of experiences that I have to slot into place, in order to make sense of the world and where I fit within it. Life is not black & white; good & bad. I can't simplify things to the point of simply saying I'm a "bad kid" like my parents seemed to decide from very early on. Blaming myself for everything has gotten me nowhere.
No apology or even discussion was forthcoming from my parents, so it's up to me to figure everything out and make the correct judgements based on the evidence and rational investigation of the facts. Yes, it's nice and easy to jump on any one particular thing that seems to be the 'smoking gun' pointing to the fact that I must be an evil little shit sent from Hell to terrorise the world, but there comes a time when that story really doesn't stack up.
I've been wondering why I do a lot of looking back. I have very little control over the future. My future is bound up in the hands of decision makers, who will either give me a role that I'm qualified and experienced to do, in order to get the cash that's needed in this bullshit capitalist society. Otherwise, my life will be ripped to pieces by the vultures that prey on anybody who doesn't fit the mould.
Life's definitely a lot easier when you're not penniless, sick, homeless and addicted to drugs, but it's not as simple as that. What's your purpose? Who are you? What's your identity?
Being a vagrant is actually a fairly strong identity. There is something cool about being half-dead. There's something attractive about the hollow eyes, pale skin and skinny body of heroin chic isn't there? If you don't belong to a sports team; you weren't one of the popular ones at school; you aren't trying to get as many letters after your name as possible; you haven't conflated your professional and private identities... then who the fuck are you and what the fuck are you doing?
Drugs neatly encapsulate both identity and reward. Instead of getting small dopamine hits by bragging about your promotion at a dinner party, you can get a big dopamine hit by staying at home and taking drugs. Also, you feel that you 'belong' to a special club: you learn to identify other addicts and you feel a connection to them... a sense of belonging.
If you can roll a joint and you have weed, you'll have 'friends'. If you have enough money to buy cocaine, you'll have 'friends' and you'll want to share it because you're not an addict, right? Except you are.
I found - by accident - that drugs gave me the self-confidence that had been stolen from me by my parents. I was able to chat to girls. Pretty much most of the time that I had sex, it was on speed (amphetamine), mushrooms (psilocybin) or Ecstasy (MDMA).
Eventually, I discovered - through dangerous experimentation - a drug that was so powerful that it was a far superior substitute for my abusive ex. She was no longer needed. She was abusive, mean, selfish and unpleasant and I was very glad that the spell was broken, even though it cost me a period of addiction and a lot of money. I wasn't strong enough to leave her, without the drugs.
Now, I'm all cleaned up. I'm a good boy.
But, I'm left wondering about that whole purpose & identity thing.
Tags: #childhood #parents #divorce #drugs #addiction