The desire to expand my horizons has always been there. I this innate in me or partly due to growing up in a small English town. One thing is for certain, experiences whilst growing up fuelled this desire and not just the calling of genetics or soul.
In part, this desire was formed by the Christian upbringing I was given. Not traditional but broad, open, inclusive and locational and culturally mixed. I learnt about faith and not just about people but equality of people. I learnt about love, logic and my need to continually grow and understand more. I met new brothers and sisters. I was sometimes disappointed. I’m not sure why but when I meet Christians I think I almost expect to meet an almost perfect person. Someone with broad learning, sound, intelligent thinking and a degree of open mindedness and empathy. People that love. I was sometimes uplifted. It is amazing when a person is generous with their love and with their actions. I loved finding life and growth and not just stagnation and doctrine. I also loved the global aspect – Freedom of choice for all of humanity.
Part came from the beautiful but often troubled brothers and sisters that came into my life, my family and then left, sometimes without notice, at varied times later on. Fostering can be tough, very tough but also marvellous. I feel sadness when thinking back to the glimpses of childhood shared with them and knowing that I will never meet any of them again and not know what became of them. Some were so ill, others had been abused and some so quiet but all beautiful. I recently drove past my old childhood home and peering over the beach hedge I helped plant, I could see one of the plants we planted to remember these children – every child had one planted somewhere in our garden. How tall the buddleia is now, how broad! How tall is that child/ adult now..? However, along with the sadness comes hope. They were brought into our family for a reason and with the constant battle with social services aside, I believe they were each as blessed as we were by their presence in our family, however brief.
There was one though. One that came into the family before me. One that I know the height of. One that I know what they are doing right now – soundly sleeping & dreaming back in my house! One that came into our family to stay. My sister. Adopted. That was the term used by the state, the legal term. To me, too my family it’s far more simple. Our sister, daughter. How fortunate we are.
Another area that shaped my awareness of the wider world came from journeying to the continent with family. Some years we would drive to the south of the UK, onto a ferry for 4-5 hours and then into France. As the years went on we would venture down to the south coast in our Vauxhall Cavalier – which at that time, had no A/C, no seat belts/ no electric windows and was rather cramped. Picture if you will, 2 adults and 3 ‘children’; roof rack on; boot full; bedding along the back seat; pillows on laps; no air conditioning; 800 miles of driving to get to our destination; temperatures of up to 40 degrees (in the shade); blue cheese ripening in the glove box (not cooled & certainly not for me) and little fans that would weakly blow hot air at you. However, even the journey brought joys of the world unknown let alone the stop overs or final destinations; the food; wine; hot chocolate (French); scenery; chateaux’s; language; music; heat; beaches; festivals; music; culture; people we would meet…. I could go on and on…
Family played a key role. Grandparents that loved France and had traveled the world. A painting is hanging above my fireplace at home that they brought back from the Philippines before my birth. Parents who took us on annual holidays around the UK and the continent. An older sister who went inter-railing around Europe when I was young and went travelling around the world more than once. The same sister who moved out of the family home whilst I was still at school, to attend medical school in London – the Big Smoke. I still remember having to jog to keep up with her, wide eyed at the urban life all around me.
I started to flex my wings by choosing to go to college in a nearby ‘city’ rather than stay on at the 6th form upper school. This took me from a small town school with two non-white students to a college with a broad mix of cultures, views and experiences. Were there tough times? Yes, changes in courses; a racially motivated attack and a trip to the hospital; differences of opinions with lecturers however, the list of good times was far longer. I also built a really diverse group of friends.
The next, broader flex came when moving on to university. All but one choice was based in London so it was London I went to. Many year later, I’m still here! London compared to my childhood town were poles apart. I’ve lived in areas where I was in a minority for the first time. Places where the majority had their routes in the same place as my attackers at collage. How did this make me feel? I joined in, learnt to cook the food, socialised and grew a little more as a person. You see, I do not see race linked with actions. I see race as a label linking people with a common ancestry. I see actions as a result of the person they choose to be whilst being mindful of the experiences they’ve had, the opportunities in life they’ve received and the love in their lives. I now live in an area that is a little more like my childhood town. Co-incidence? No. I still miss that part of my childhood life growing up surrounded by the countryside, the trees and wild life and the quiet. It’s not so quite but does have one big advantage, the social make up is diverse! There are people with origins from all over the world living and working all around me; a family from central Africa on my right; India straight ahead; London to my left. It is great. Uni also gave me an expanded group of friends who now live all over the country and wider world.
After uni I gained a job with a company in the travel industry. One day, I was introduced to a new temp. in my department. That ‘temp.’ is now my wife and not temp. in any sense of the word. She had just returned from spending a year traveling and working in Australia and intended to save money to complete a dedicated career degree. Even when I wasn’t travelling, the world was coming to me.
One day and after seven years I managed to negotiate redundancy from my work place. Why did I want this? I know it can be so awful if it isn’t something that fits your life. Well, my then girlfriend re-awakened the desire in me to see and experience more of the world and she also gave me the perfect companion to share this with. I never wanted to be one of those people that listens to others experiences but has little to offer back. I needed to get myself out into the world. I wanted to learn how other people live and how they see life. Oh yes, and we were to be married along the way!
So, my work ended, we packed up our lives, we said good bye to our loved ones and got set to leave on our world adventure. Little did we know quite what an adventure it would be or all the pain it would cause us and our families and friends. Also, we could imagine the amazing people we would meet, the beautiful places we would see and the life it would bring.
The happiest of times & the worst of times.
The unplanned course it would take & the force we’d be subjected to.
Ripping us apart but not in control.
The control lay elsewhere. Our strength our life & above all things,
This story, I feel lies later on and we have reached the end of this chapter. What it means to grow, to understand the world a little better, to meet people, understand disappointment but reach for a connection. To have empathy, joy, creativity and love. To take action and not be discouraged. To find understanding and ones purpose in life.
The journey continues.
The next stop, India.
Follow me to come and walk with me in the garden.