Dear my younger self,
Where do I start…I can tell you that it won’t always be easy, but I can promise you every opportunity, every friendship, every heartbreak, every decision will be worth it.
Going into foster care will probably be one of the hardest, turbulent time in your life but once you get past the first few months and your life settles down – it will get easier. Your friends will stay the same and they will be there to guide you through the journey that feels like it’s going nowhere. I can promise you that your friends will become your biggest support network along with your foster carers who are amazing. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and talk about your experiences as much as it might be hard and people won’t understand, be patient and explain to them (if you want to) or not at all that some peoples upbringings are different.
Be patient with your parents because although you love them it’s ok not to be strong all the time and love them from afar if you find it easier. Remember that it’s ok to be sad and don’t bottle everything up – as time goes on this is something you learn to deal with. Talking about your emotions becomes easier and getting close to people becomes more normal. Don’t be afraid to let your barriers down and let people in because the people around you do really care.
School may not always be easy and you will feel like the odd one out but this is normal and it’s ok to feel like this, but remember you’re not different and you’re just as capable as the next person. School will fly by and the you’ll be onto sixth form where being a ‘Care leaver’ gets easier because although it is still a bit of a taboo you’ve learnt to accept it and no one really cares where you’re from or your past. Be prepared for things at home to get difficult because the older you get the harder your placement becomes ‘til you finally have to leave, but remember your friends will support you and you will get your A-levels – this is through no fault of your own and in time the relationship between you and your foster carers get better.
University is really where you grow into your own person, it’s a place for you to reinvent yourself and come into who you really are. Applying to uni feels quite daunting because realistically you don’t know what you want to do and as result days looms you end up doing better than expected – which is actually really exciting and you’ll end up going to Manchester. Applying through clearing will be an experienced and you’ll be glad that your brothers are there to support you with the process.
The actual practicalities of moving to university is what you’ll struggle the most, because again this is a key moment in life that you wish you had your parents there, but this is just another moment that you learn to deal with yourself. Not knowing you had to buy bedding for university was a bit embarrassing but you’re lucky enough that your friends mum who will move you in will go buy you some so that makes everything feel a bit better.
The first week of uni is where you realise that this is where you’re meant to be. The work really isn’t too difficult, and the tutors are really understanding if your work’s going to be late – so put your mind at rest. This is especially valuable in the final year.
Your whole university experience will be an absolute whirlwind and in final year you’ll think about dropping out because you don’t see the point. Life at home starts to get hard, but with the support of Ivan and Bev you make it through and finally graduate with a 2:1. Being able to do your exams in the summer helps so much because it gives you time to breathe and do the best you can.
Graduating feels very surreal but this is another achievement ticked off and makes you realise that you’re not just a statistic and you’re capable of so much more than the stigma attached to the ‘care kid’ status.
Through work and uni you make friends who don’t care where you’re from and are only interested in the person you are, makes your experience so incredible and it is something you would have never experienced if you’d stayed in Essex – uni was never about the degree but the experiences and opportunities you’ve had along the way.
You’ll experience things you never thought you could and take opportunities that open so many doors. Never forget where you came from and where it all started, but embed that into your life. Adult life really isn’t that scary and you learn to just understand that social services can be rubbish, that contact with your family is just part of growing up in care and the challenges you faced as a child/teenager really aren’t as difficult as they seem.
Just remember you are doing alright kid and you’re on the right track.