July 14 1995, a baby girl was born into a loving family at the John Radcliff Hospital in Oxford. Mother and Father loved that baby girl. Thirteen months later in September 1996 another baby girl was born into the same loving family. November 1998 sees the birth of the final addition to this family, born on the same day as Father, everything seems perfect. Nineteen years on, the eldest of three girls is defying all the odds put before her. Bullying, death, university, depression, anxiety…that nineteen year old: is me.
Hello!! If this is your first time to my blog, then let me introduce myself. My full name is Trudy-Louise, however, I tend to go by Louise (never EVER call me Trudy). I was born in July 1995 and I am the eldest of three girls: Trudy-Louise, Robyn and Edwyna. Why do they get nice short names and I’m stuck with a stupid double-barrelled name?! No one understands the bloody hyphen!! I came out of secondary school (high school) with 10 GCSEs, 8 Bs and 2 Cs which meant I successfully got into sixth form. At sixth form I struggled a little bit, as do most people, because it is a real step up from GCSE. I studied purely academic subjects…haha, ha, ha – me academic? No. I studied English Literature and Language, Drama and Theatre Studies and Music. I didn’t get the best A-Level results but that doesn’t matter now as it meant I got into university!! As I write this to you now, at quarter to one in the morning, I am four weeks into my second year at Aberystwyth University (yes, that’s in Wales) studying Education and Drama. Okay, that’s the boring stuff over with.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing, I can promise you that. It has been very difficult and extremely tiresome and frustrating to get to where I am now. AND it will continue to be difficult until I finish university, and until I get a job, and until I get into a relationship, and if I ever marry and have children of my own. My past will constantly haunt me and define what makes me: me. But it shouldn’t be like that, my past shouldn’t define who I am now. Sure, it is my history but it shouldn’t be the defining factor. No one’s past should define them. I would do a little game here but it wouldn’t really work so I’ll just tell you about my past.
I am a care leaver. Whoo! Yay! Not. This title of ‘care leaver’ will follow me around for the rest of my life. And boy have I had stereotypes that I’ve had to break and defy…you really have no idea. Let me tell you a few of them.
- I will be pregnant before I am 16. Haha, lol. I am now 19 and happily un-pregnant with no children. In the future I’d love children. Just not now.
- I will be addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. I mean, I like a drink now and again but I know my limits and a) I can’t afford it and b) going out terrifies the living daylights out of me!
- I will leave school with no GCSEs, or very bad grades. Well, as I have already shared with you – I got 10 GCSEs with pretty good grades if I do say so myself.
- I will not go to sixth form and go to college because it is ‘easier’. Nope, nada. A) college is just as hard as sixth form and B) I couldn’t study music at college.
- I will not make it to university. Uh huh, yeah right. I am a care leaver in their second year at university. I did some research for an essay in first year and in 2011 only 6% of care leavers actually made it to university.
All these are stereotypes of what a care leaver or what someone in the system is expected to be like. I have broken every single one of them and I will continue to keep breaking them. As we take a look at my life, there have been people who have knocked me down and told me I couldn’t do it (some people still do), we can see when I have been told no, and we can see that no matter what the circumstances, I have broken through. I won’t pretend it was easy because my goodness, it was not easy in the slightest. Having to break all these negative vibes being thrown at you?
So why am I writing this? For a couple reasons maybe. 1) I have a story to tell and 2) to show that you can break the stereotypes presented of you. I have a story that may show that you can break the chains of your past. A story that shows you can change the future, the past doesn’t dictate who you are and who you will be.
Wow, that got deep.
But that’s the point of me writing this, to prove that anything can happen. Whatever walk of life you have come from, the future can change. Whatever circumstances you are in right now can change. You can change the future, the past may shape it but it doesn’t dictate it. Just look at me. Look at my sisters (one is doing her GCSEs with the aim to go to university and one is in her second year at college with the aim of becoming a nursery nurse). I can think of a few of my friends who I could say the same about. People have told me I’m inspirational. No. People have told me I’m brave. No. People have told me that they would never be able to go through what I’ve been through. Well maybe, but there are things in their (and your) lives that I would never have been able to go through. Just because one story is different to another doesn’t make me special, or inspirational, or brave – I am a human being who has battled through life, with God by their side, and made it out the other side.
I write this because people and society have the wrong expectations of care leavers. People and society have a perception that had been fed to them by the government and social services and by foster carers…do you know how many people have said to me ‘you’re too normal to have been in care’. We are not some alien race or some strange abnormality. We are human people who have had a rougher ride than some people. We are human people who shouldn’t have to break stereotypes or expectations. Am I proving society wrong by completing my degree? I sure hope so. Will I continue to try and prove society wrong? You better believe it.