As all of this ran through my mind as I tried to understand my feelings, I thought about all of the people who support me, who wish the best for me, who offer me help and all of the times I have heard the word ‘inspirational’.
If anyone saw or spoke to me today, rest assured, not many would have thought I was inspirational. To be honest, it’s a nice compliment but it’s not me. That was it. When I thought about that word, what it means and why I am not it, I automatically felt better. I feel better now.
Call me stubborn, I will smile and nod. I’ll even take fearless or agree with being brave. But not, inspirational. What does that even mean, to make people feel encouraged, or hopeful, or even warm inside? To me, it means overcoming hardship, helping others do to the same and challenging and changing systems that hinder the process. Hardship I have overcome. I like to think that throughout my journey I have helped people and will continue to do so. And, challenging systems is my thing….But….and this is a big and important but. I haven’t done this alone and I am not the only one who can do it.
From an outsider looking in, they may see a highly motivated girl who has been through a system and come out the other side, reformed, rehabilitated and ready to step up to support change. NO! I didn’t blog about my life before prison. Prison didn’t create this, it tried to take it, but failed. So, if I am an inspiration now, why wasn’t I an inspiration before? I was the same old me, doing the same old ‘important to me’ things at the time. I lived in social housing with parents on benefits and never saw anyone work a day in their lives, for most of my life. So, how come when I worked at the age of 16, had my daughter and saved up to move her out of social housing and rent privately, I wasn’t an inspiration then? When I didn’t become an addict, when all of my parents friends kids did. When I scraped through school, despite my home wreck situation, nobody called me an inspiration then. When I went to college and did a diploma in childcare and education, I wasn’t an inspiration.
I was doing what I needed to do.
I’ve been trouble and a troubled girl. I’ve been to prison, I’ve truanted from school, I grew up on a rough estate, with the same ‘types’ of people as me. We are the underclass, the downtrodden. The ones who do what they need to do, to keep going. That’s me. That will always be me. I never dreamt at school of a successful career and certainly nobody persuaded me to. I knew I didn’t want to live on ‘the estate’ for ever and I knew I wanted to work and go back to education when I had sorted out my own life. And guess what, I did that. Before I went to prison. So, what is my point?
I am only where I am now, because people have helped me and offered me opportunity and a chance. The chances offered as a former prisoner were minimal, but I took what I had and ran with it. The more I did, the more was offered and I kept on. The point is, circumstances and choice are the be all and end all. Any person in prison, given the right circumstance and chance, could be ‘inspirational’, furthermore any person, given the right circumstance could end up being a prisoner.
I am not the ‘exception’ I am proof that given people a chance pays off. Not everyone will have “keep knocking them doors down” stamina, sometimes we have to knock to offer.