For me, I feel like I grew up a very long time ago. The reason being, I have never really been treated like child. When I was thirteen, my mother insisted that I had to get my own job. I called different restaurants and cafes looking for work. I remember calling this fancy hotel (which I eventually worked at by the time I turned 17) asking if they were willing to take me, only to be asked ‘Um, how old are you?’. When I told them my age, the person on the other end sounded awkward, just told me to email in a CV from which I replied ‘what’s a CV?’.
From a young age, I was told to watch my weight. I remember being forced to go running with my mother and to weigh myself regularly. My mother constantly asked me to tell her my weight. I was told that I wasn’t being forced to run but my mother lost her temper when I said no and I was told that I had to eat less if I wasn’t going to go running with her regularly. From a young age, I always felt like an adult and was treated like one. When I cried over my dad who had abandoned me and moved far away, I was told to grow up. I would take myself to school everyday. I would take myself to my dance competitions, to my parents evenings, to my school shows because no one had time for me. I had to do everything myself because no one had time for me. It got so bad that I would go to my school parents evenings on my own or with other people’s parents because my mother didn’t want to go. I forced my mother to come to one of my dance competitions once. She stayed for perhaps half an hour and then told me that I needed to do more sit-ups because my belly poked out and then said that she was going to leave because she’s not ‘a dance kind of mum’.
I was always taught that the only person I could rely on was myself. I did everything alone with little or no support. My dad supported me but it didn’t feel like he did because he lived (and still lives) in another country. My aunties supported my mother making excuses such as ‘she went through abuse, you shouldn’t be so hard on her’ and ‘if she died then you would regret being so mean to her.’ The truth is that I was never once mean to her. In fact, I let her treat me like shit and never stood up to her until one day when I was 18 and I exploded. Having left home when I was 18 to go to uni, I learned something I was never taught as a child; self-respect. I learned to stand up to people and not let them walk all over me like I was their fucking red carpet. I learned that I was not inferior to others like my mother told me because no one is.
(Of course, not all my family is bad. My nan is the most amazing woman ever and I respect her very much. She has always supported me in anything I have done and has always made sure to keep me fed and healthy. And my mum’s ex who was previously my step-dad is always supporting me even though he doesn’t have to.)
So after three years of uni, I have just bought a flat with my boyfriend. His parents have helped in every way they can. They are helping us move in and have helped us organise bills etc., something that I would never ever get from my own mother because anything I ask of her is apparently too much to ask. They support him in his transition into the real world whereas I feel like I have always lived in the harsh, real world. I never had a chance to be a child. I often feel like I don’t have parents because I have always dealt with things alone. So when people ask if I am scared of going into the real world as a self-reliant adult, I say no, because I have always been that.