30 years ago
I had an interesting conversation with my daughter yesterday that left me reflective about where I have come from and who I am today. We were talking about homeless people, drug addicts and people living with mental illness as she works in the city and comes across people living in a different world to her. I am so grateful she has not had experience of that world, but I have, and it made me think about my family and myself and how different my life is now compared to 30 years ago.
I work, have a driver’s license, I have a university degree and I have secure housing; all these things were not even conceivable to me 30 years ago (at 17yrs old). At 14yrs old, I broke into a house in Sydney with my sister and brother-in-law, at 18yrs old I did heroin - along with many other poor lifestyle choices. Who am I to judge my sister’s path? I am no better a human being than her; there but for the grace of God go I. For whatever biological reason, heroin did not have the same physiological effect on me as it did my sister, because I certainly would have done anything to numb the pain of my life at that time. But luckily for me I didn’t experience the emotional euphoria and escape that so many do, or the physical addiction – but maybe with only ‘using’ a few times, I dodged that bullet too?
How easily I could have gone down the same harrowing life path as her; children taken into care, homelessness and occasionally prison. I am grateful and humbled. I often think of my sister, especially in winter and wonder if she has shelter and is safe. We both experienced abuse growing up and it is not that I have amazing human strength or a ‘higher’ path; I was just very lucky. Lucky I didn’t become addicted, lucky I have a different personality, lucky I had an older sister when I was a child, as she sometimes protected me.
In my conversation with my daughter, we talked about whether we would recognise either my sister or her eldest son now if we came across on them on the street or if they would recognise us. I believe they would recognise me, but probably would not be making eye contact with someone like my daughter; she is too ‘together’. I remember when I was younger I would never make eye contact with people from ‘that’ part of society. I would always smile and chat with other disenfranchised people, but ‘*normal’ people lived in a separate world to me and it was almost like I walked invisibly among them.
Who would have ever thought I would become a normal person – ha ha. Although back then, my brother-in-law often remarked that I thought I was better than them – but he was wrong; I didn’t think I was better than them; I just felt there was more. The difference is I now see that I am the same as everyone else. I would have loved to share this world with both him and my sister, but I all I can do is send love to him in spirit (he overdosed several years ago) and warm, loving thoughts to my sister and hope that she has ‘good’ moments in her life.
*what I referenced as ‘normal’ people back then would have been; someone who works, someone who has savings, someone who plans holidays, someone who buys new clothes, someone who fits into the world.