Three days ago I accompanied my mother to the local council offices since she is moving house and needed to notify them – that and the fact that the council tax payments had to be arranged in advance (if you live in London you will know a thing or two about council tax bills- the swines!). While I stood in line waiting to be called by the clerk to the front desk, there was a lady in front of me from an Afro-Caribbean background judging by her accent
and tatoos, who, completely oblivious of her surroundings; was having a very open conversation filled with profanities and intense laughter. She was interesting to say the least! Although I am a firm believer that a book should not be judged by its cover, she defied my belief by sailing through it entirely! It was not her appearance but rather her mannerisms, her demeanour and the content of her conversation in a public place which I found disconcerting – first impressions count! *ahem
For that moment, while I watched and listened to her, my thoughts took me to my high school days. I began reminiscing about my old Art teacher in high school named Mr Litten. He was a drunken, unshaven, unwashed, miserable man in his mid-forties who would often complain about what I concluded to be his life’s misfortunes and wretchedness. Nobody ever listened to him apart from an Indian boy who drew amazingly well. He always told us that most of us ‘would end up working as cashiers at Sainsbury’s or Tesco’, however none of the pupils paid much attention to him. Thinking about it now, he probably did not achieve what he set out to do in life so alcohol became his comforter and he probably lived alone with a cat or dog- That is my character profile over; but I could be wrong 🙂
Did I see myself in that woman? Most certainly not, if anything , she represented everything that I did not want to be…
The lady’s telephone conversation went on and brought me back into the room for a moment. Then my thoughts resumed; I saw myself as that fifteen years old adolescent; intelligent, full of dreams and aspirations for the future running freely in the school playground (I seriously should consider that trip to the psychiatrist). I considered the education system for state schools and its tendency to groom students to have big aspirations and career goals without really implementing, outlining or providing the gudelines for them to attain them. Was I wrong to have expected too much from the system? Now that I know this having gone through my own experiences, how can I equip myself and others with the necessary tools and information to help provide the opportunities for their children or my own?
I also considered whether somewhere along the line, I had de-railed and been failed by the system. It is strange how all these thoughts consumed me while I waited for ten minutes in a queue! Did I see myself in that woman? Most certainly not, if any thing , she represented everything that I did not want to be and everything I did not want to surround myself with. I was judging her without knowing her; was it pity or compassion? Perhaps the system had failed her.
Education is a bumpy ride…
You sail through high school and excel in the GCSE exams thrilled to finally be entering the ranks of college students. If you are lucky to have parents who actually understand the mechanisms of the system, you will be recommended a reputable college which thousands of other students are trying to get into. If however you are unfortunate, then you must settle for the mediocre one where teachers are more lenient and essentially it is
do or die every man or woman for themselves! And this is where one becomes prone to the de-railing!
After college comes the university application where once again you begin to compete with your peers and realise that there is a possibility that you may not get into your chosen institutions due to lack of spaces and availability . Then you graduate and must fight to secure the one job available with another 20 candidates or alternatively choose to enslave yourself /work for free at the expense of the debts you have accumulated in the process of attaining your degree in order to ‘gain experience’ by ‘interning’ or ‘volunteering’.
That my friend, are the realities of the education system that they do not tell you at fifteen.
The truth about life is….
There comes a time when academics and life-lessons collide. Being at the Council Tax office (as insignificant as this trip was) made me realise that the majority of the people present were in hardship of some kind; whether in need of housing assistance or financial hardship; that they were disadvantaged or lived mediocre lives. In hindsight, I had no ill will towards the Jamaican woman; but rather, she represented all the social hurdles within society as I knew it. I wondered how the people present envisioned their lives to be when they were fifteen. At which point did they accept defeat that this was what their lives would boil down to?
The truth about life is that only a minority in society will be wealthy or middle class. That some will fall out of the loopholes either through crime, encounters of bad relationships, terrible life choices, failed partnerships, misfortunes, poor health and so forth. While others would have benefited from better guidance and better opportunities. Others would defy all odds by persevering no matter the hurdles to achieve what they set out to become. All in all it is one’s determination, one’s will-power, one’s motivation, one’s ability to take the kicks and punches of life while still being able to renew one’s strength or having the ability to recharge one’s batteries. Being able to remain ambitious and hard-working, and having the strength to fight one’s social position on a daily basis to position yourself on your chosen ranks.
That my friend, is what the school of life has taught me so far; you either get it, or you don’t!