So the other day at work we had one of those dreaded team days, you know those bonding days full of "airport hugs", "who moved my cheese" , "eat that frog" and other corporate team building box checking exercises.
Except this wasn't it was actually quite good ( I say in animated tone of surprise)
Upon reading the brief we were asked to bring a personal object that represented something about us that people may not know and/or something that represented our values.
My first thought being the rebel that I am was; I am not doing this, I cannot be summed up in one inanimate object.
Secondly it's a new team I shall be clever (read a smart arse) and I will take an empty plastic container labelled E Coli, because although it's a bacteria, like me it's complex!
But that would have just been lame so I decided to play ball.
One thing that seems to surprise people being a white "middle class" mummy is that I listen to Hip Hop so I did think it would be quite funny to dig out some Cyprus Hill but then people might just assume I am a stoner.
Off I went back to the drawing board.
What Hip Hop could possibly represent me? Thinking long and hard: Skinny Man "A Council Estate of Mind"
This album could sum up my journey to who and where I am today in both content and title because as it states it's "talkin bout the science of social deprivation"
I hadn't expected to but I found myself opening up, my speech went something like this;
"not a lot of people know this but I am quite into Hip Hop not the "gangsta rap" that most people think it is all about but the type that is more of a social commentary.
This album speaks to me because it reminds me who I am and where I came from; I was born to a single teenage mother and grew up on a council estate in South West London. Drink, drugs and violence were all that we saw around us.
People rarely worked and hardly anyone got GCSEs. So doing A levels was an anomaly and as for University. I was and still am the only person in my entire extended family to have gone. For many of you (looking around the room to my audience of 9) this is normal but trust me when I say that where I am from its pretty extraordinary.
Like many of the girls around me and my own mother I feel pregnant in my teens, albeit much later than most at the grand old age of 19!
I had my daughter on the 28th Dec and sat an exam at Uni 4th of Jan, getting 64%. I went on to get 72% on my dissertation which was the second highest grade in the entire humanities school that year. Finally gaining an overall strong 2.1. I don't mean to brag or sound conceited but I did better than most while raising a baby and supporting myself entirely.
This story is indicative of my strong work ethic and belief that if something is worth doing then its worth doing properly.
The "Council Estate Type of Mind" is a very distinctive mindset of what broken Britain now refers to as the underclass (because working class is just too generous a description). A wider society that writes off children from certain postcodes who in turn feel worthless and indulge in reckless behaviours; they truely are examples of the self fulfilling prophecy notion. I however sought to and succeeded in avoiding this trap and for that I am proud"
Needless to say my audience was, as I was pretty shocked at my frankness. While I didn't share many personal experiences in great detail and kept it fairly general I had been far more open than even I had expected or intended to be, but it felt good.
You see to the outside world I am a middle class professional woman with 2 children and a partner, and yes it is my elder child's father, not all teen mums end up single!
I don't just have a good job but a VERY good job that allows me to travel the world and do things I could have only dreamt of as a child.
I live in a nice detached house on a decent area and unlike my mother I never have to face decisions like warmth or food. I am blessed and I think I more than anyone else needed that reminder. The little girl who would spend the occasional Sunday night in the dark because "the leccy key had run out" was me and she went on to achieve more than she had dreamed and all before the age of 30.
The only downside being that when I go home I am the "outsider" or the "snob"
because I am no longer seen as the hard working person I am, just lucky.
If your reading this and have had certain views about teenage mothers and/or those from council estates I would ask you to reevaluate your opinions.
Where you are from does not make you a bad person, nor does having a child young. It doesn't mean that they are "benefit cheating, work shy freeloaders" or any of the other derogatory terms that people use. If you do/have used such terms or had similar opinions without rhyme or reason, then you are part of the problem that means many young people do not even realise their potential let alone actualise it.
Our little society would be far better if we practised positive reinforcement instead of negativity.