Friday, 29 May 2009

Reflections

Just a thought I've had to end the day.

Moving day's approaching. The day in which I leave this comfortable existence I've created for myself in the new suburbs of Cardiff and head back to the working-class town I came from. It occurs to me that I need a good shake of reality. In fact, I'm in deperate need of one.

I grew up relatively poor. We were never poor poor, to the point where we had free school dinners and lived in council houses. It was more of a budget-driven, hand-me-downs from your elder cousin, "no" the the latest craze in school thing. I grew up watching people work. Work. Work. Work. (Something I haven't been able to get for close to six months now). No-one was well-off which is why it was so important to do well for yourself. My brothers and I were taught from day one that in order to get your dream job, you should do well at school and go to university. Otherwise you'd be stuck in a "dead end" job you can't get out of.

Mission accomplished. I moved out of that small town and into the big city, meeting tons of new and exciting people from all around the world. I might be wrong but I struggle to think of one person who came from a "traditional working-class" town that I met in university or after. I don't resent those who've had the lucky breaks. I'm under no illusions that life is significantly more difficult for people with "less money." And I admire those who've had parents that have fought to get where they are in life.

I do, however, occasionally question why others can't be so open-minded when it comes to the "lower classes."

"It's not my fault he's in a minimum wage job. He should try and fight for a better one."

He can't. Did you know that the school I attended barely paid you any attention unless you were receiving 'A's and 'B's? That if you struggled with more than half your school subjects the teachers lost faith in you? That if you weren't really all that interested in learning about mitosis or William the Conqueror they'd glance out of the window at the town's steel works as if to say, 'You'll be there in a few years'?

This was a comprehensive school which no pupil had to fight to apply for. Anyone could attend it. Yet they chose to ignore any 'disadvantaged youths' (quite a considerable percentage given the backgrounds of most - the town isn't the safest) and concentrate on the few good eggs that would shine.

This is why that minimum-wage working man can't get a better-paid, higher-ranking job. Schools like that shithole! 45% of the pupils I started school with had dropped out by the time GCSE time came around. From the age of 12-13, so many children are brushed aside, not given the self-belief that if they wanted something hard enough, they can achieve it. If you grow up being told that you're thick, you'll never amount to anything, you'll never get anywhere in life, by your own teachers, is it any wonder that so many just give up? So many "settle for less"? And so many more don't even bother with that. What more is there to do in life? Waste time ... mess around ... break things ... do damage ... break the law ...

I don't condone this attitude for a moment but I do wish more people were aware of why this happens; why there are so many "chavvy scum" walking around.

As I've mentioned before, my hometown is very working-class. It has the steel works which provides hundreds and hundreds of jobs a year. They may not be curing Cancer but they're working. But my town also opened my eyes to how people turn out in the "lower class" spectrum. Spending four years away from it hasn't been good for me. I forget why there is such a class divide and why people end up miserable. I forget that every person is equal no matter what they do for a living, no matter what their educational background, or what they live like. I've been trying for so many years to find people who'll accept me as an 'unique individual' that I've forgotten how to also accept others for who they are.

I'm encouraged to "break out" of that working-class background, do something more with my life, achieve my dreams. And in the process of trying to do that and 'find myself,' I've become a snob. I sneer at those who claim benefits and love it. I scoff at those jobs I may be too 'over-qualified' for. I have no doubt that there are those individuals who genuinely don't give a shit about working if they can get 'free money' but I've forgotten about the others who end up that way; those who wanted more but were raised to believe they could never get it.

I need a heavy dose of reality. I need my roots. I need the old 'me'. I can achieve everything I want but still be that same person. And I suppose I'm glad I have the opportunity to get rid of this 'Holier than Thou' attitude while I'm still young and just hope my friends can re-accept the 'real' me, the working-class tomboy at heart, and forget about the farce.

 

2 comments:

Paul said...

I think perhaps most of us are 'guilty' of falling into the 'Holier thank thou' trap; I know I certainly have! I've had the luxury of starting life with everything around me, but have been continually reminded by my parents of what it took to get here. I'm grateful, but probably take most of it for granted, regardless.

I've explained this to my parents before and my mother came up with an answer that's stuck in my head ever since: "as long as you're aware of it, then that's okay". As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing wrong aspiring to a different standard of living... just as long as you don't get typecast by your own expectations or regrets.

Keep being who you already are. x

rachelengland said...

I have a very similar relationship with my hometown. It's rural. Everyone's a farmer. If I hadn't made it out of there I'd probably be married with a swarm of kids now, and I suspect that's why I too have a kind of 'Holier Than Thou' attitude towards the place - because it reminds me of how my life could have turned out, and that's a million miles away from what I want. To a degree then, I'd say it was healthy to have this attitude - to an extent, at least - because it keeps you focussed on what you want from life x