Life was a struggle as far back as I could remember, often lacking in financial security, always having to make do with what we did have. Yet I never felt lacking in any way as a child because my mother was so resourceful and determined to give me the very best - and she did. I was rather spoilt in the sense that she would always give in to my requests or try her best to fulfil my wishes. Anything I wanted as a young child (from toys to pursuing hobbies), I would more often than not get it.
From the very moment I began to go to school problems with teachers started. It seemed I used to ask far too many questions beyond my age and while still in pre-school, aged around 5 maybe, I was sent straight to primary school. Because teachers always seemed to elude my questions or tell me off for being too vivacious since I felt so bored, my grades never slipped but they weren’t as good as they could have been at times. I was also branded as talkative and therefore rather disruptive in class as I would lose interest in what was being taught pretty quickly.
When I was around 8 years old the teacher I had began to tease me in class, in front of all the other children, telling me I could never understand anything, that I was a failure. Not only that, but because I had a Polish surname it was easy for him to make fun of it. Until that time I had been a very bubbly, extremely confident child. I chose the friends I wanted and always seemed to have things my own way. Once the teasing began the kids quickly picked up on it and everyday was a struggle to fight off bullies.
I was already so proud that I didn’t tell my mother until I was ten and anyway I was witty enough to always find mordant replies to any gibe I received from other kids. I remember how I used to tell myself that I would not let them have the last word- ever. And so kids would mock me or my name and I would turn around with a smile before replying something even more hurtful to them.
When I was 10 the teachers had become so nasty to me in class that it all became too much for me to handle and I told my mother everything. As a result my mother did something nobody could have expected. She felt so angry and powerless that she took up a job and spent all day and most of the night working from home to earn enough money to send me to private school. She asked of me only to keep doing my best at school and when I turned eleven she managed to send me to private school. From 11 till 15 I was immersed in what felt like a different universe. I mingled with the children of wealthy families.
My mother kept working hard to keep up with the school fees, until debts slowly spiraled out of control.
One day, aged 15, as I came home from school my mother had packed our bags and announced we were leaving for London-she had lost her job and could not find another one. I was so excited - London!- that I happily packed a bag with my most precious possessions: a few photos,, an old teddy and all my writings constituted the bare essentials to me.
When we arrived we had nowhere to go. All we had was a guidebook. We had about £ 800 ($1,500) in the pocket and the race to find a place to live began. That first week in a foreign land, barely able to understand a word people were saying, the knowledge that with every passing day the money did too... It was so intense that I’m not sure I could ever find words to express the flurry of feelings or thoughts. Intense fear? Disbelief? Chaos at its extreme. I felt almost too detached from what was happening, as though this was all part of a dream. I suspect that during that time I began to wonder about human behavior and society itself. I also think that during that first week I went through one of the most intense experiences of belonging nowhere, of having no place- to feel like an outcast and be completely alone while you watch the world go by without you. I had felt it most strikingly as we took the tube on the 2nd day or third and we kept going at random, not knowing where we’d be spending the night, and as the end of the day approached suddenly there were masses of people in black ties and suitcases. As they got on the train, they all seemed to have a purpose in mind -to go home, go some precise place- while at that same moment I had none.
That day I think I came across the notion of purpose and I must have felt its importance though I would spend years to try and define it later.
It took about a whole year to get back on our feet, find somewhere half-decent to live and then to resume my studies. Going into the English schooling system would have meant that I would lose another year before being able to catch up on the curriculum, let alone the language. So it was decided that I should carry on with the French system but as it happened the only French school in London is also one of the most expensive and we could not afford it. What did my mother do? She decided to send me to a Polish/French school in Poland. She contacted the only person in her family she was still in contact with- her sister-, packed my bag and sent me to her place to go back to school in some sort of boarding home where there was no real supervision.
I must have had in me a strong sense of what is best for me and while I was for the first time completely free to do as I please I remained in fact exceptionally obedient- for my own benefit. My goal was to get my baccalaureate, anything working against that aim was to be avoided.
What happened next was uneventful. I spent a few months travelling before going to university to study law in England and for a long period between the age of 19 till roughly 24 I did almost nothing. All the writing stopped. I had been a fervent diary keeper but even that suddenly stopped overnight. Perhaps I needed a break, time to finally process all the experiences and only now am I beginning to see through. While at university, I didn’t enjoy studying law but I always had a good 'academic' memory and merely learnt enough to get a degree while falling into a deep depression. I wouldn’t know how to describe it but the words drained and lost come to mind- oh, and such a deep sense of emptiness within, as though nothing truly made sense and therefore I ended up caring little as to whether I should live on or disappear in a world I could not make any sense of. A sense of never truly belonging anywhere grew stronger and a feeling that I was dreaming my life instead of living it, in the sense that I did not know what to do with my life in surroundings I simply failed to understand or relate to. While there seemed to be so many different opportunities or directions one could pick, I felt as though none could ever be enough or fulfill me. I wanted something more, something more meaningful to strive for, even if I would fail to find out- I wanted for my life to have true meaning, not just existing and “make do” as it appeared to be the norm around me.
For so long my life had taken so many unexpected turns that I could almost define my teenage years as chaotic and filled with random events that clashed strongly with my idealistic side- a fascination for all things perfect and order.
What I came to understand from my own experiences is that all false purposes (having a home, work, success, friends...) are distinguished from true purpose in that the false ones can be lost overnight, they are not a constant. You never lose sight of the true purpose, you only choose to ignore it.
As far as relationships went, I never cared much about the intimate or romantic side of them in reality, though I am a romantic or idealist at heart and spend most of my time daydreaming or inventing fantasy worlds in my head. In fact, as far back as I can remember I have always felt at odds with reality itself and have a strong tendency to ignore the latter to escape in my own perfected little world inside my head. To this day reality seems more to me like a debilitating playground filled with mind-numbing illusions or a prison for the mind than anything else.
In the end I refused to let experiences or society itself turn me into another broken mind and yes, perhaps it would be easier to just remain blind or aimless, find some hobby for the sake of it and never again dwell on anything. The gut feeling I have that it is possible to achieve so much more- striving for a perfected society- by challenging all that makes no sense is too strong to ignore.