He was a weak, selfish man who damaged my University career, took away my self-esteem and left a vulnerable, emotionally unstable 21-year-old girl sobbing at the side of a road late one night as he turned his car around and drove off.
It was during the early part of this decade, when I was home for the summer break from University, that I went to temp for a large company in Nottingham. The manager (Mr. X as I will refer to him) who I was working for, was to become my first serious relationship – so serious we became engaged to be married. He was 15 years older than me, a professional and earned, what I thought was a fortune. In fact, for many years my measure of success was to earn more than him. He was perceived as ‘middle class’ as opposed to my ‘working class’. I subconsciously believed that I had done well to ‘snag’ him. Of course, it all went ‘tits up’ and that hurt me enormously. It was a truly awful time where I suffered from depression and believed I had lost my one and only chance at being ‘someone’. My belief was that by marrying him I would be stepping up a ‘class’ and that mattered to me. Looking back the reality could not have been further from the truth. He was a weak, selfish man who damaged my University career, took away my self-esteem and left a vulnerable, emotionally unstable 21-year-old girl sobbing at the side of a road late one night as he turned his car around and drove off. He took back the engagement ring, no doubt to sell or re-use. I took a year out of University to re-group and recover. I returned to a different University, to complete my final year, disliking it even more – I had less money, less friends and a much harsher view of life. But I got through it, I graduated and was finally free to get out there in the big wide world to make my mark and make my mark I did.
The rest of this decade was completely and utterly focused on my career. Nothing but nothing else mattered. I worked hard, played hard and started to earn great money. I got into debt quickly. I was in debt because I wanted all of the things that a kid from a council estate couldn’t have. The banks were queuing up to lend me money – I was young, ambitious and by 28 years old earning significantly more than Mr. X. I had the bit between my teeth and I was on a roll.
I remember being truly delighted when I was able to buy one of the houses that I used to look at as a kid, where I thought only ‘posh’ people lived. To this day, I still have dreams about owning that house, it was truly beautiful. I pulled out 3 times when I was selling it – at a £200k profit made within 4 years, all of which got spent and I have no idea on what. This whole period was about making it in my career, earning the money, spending the money and making sure people could see that I had the money. I worked hard, every hour god sent – I was so determined to be someone and I thought that meant having the big career, the big house, and the big life.
My 2nd Decade (The Teenage Years)
My early teenage years were difficult. I was badly bullied in the first year of secondary school – by a girl 5 years older than me. It was mainly physical resulting in me having to access school for months across the playing fields rather than via the school gates to avoid yet another black eye. In addition to this, girls can be bitches, real bitches and some of them were, myself included at times, I am not proud to admit. I vividly remember returning from a trip to Gibraltar where my sister lived. Upon my return, I went to school to meet my mates, excited to be back, tanned and full of stories to share with them. The ringleader came out of the school and point blanked ignored me, followed by the rest of her gang. I remember running after them, asking, begging to know what it was that I had done, why were they ignoring me. To this day, I have no idea – maybe they were just jealous, bored or didn’t really know why themselves. Either way, I was ‘sent to Coventry’ for months and had to start afresh and build a whole new set of relationships which turned out to be far healthier in the long run but initially, it meant many lonely nights sat at home with no friends. Interestingly, I have recently connected with the ringleader on Facebook – I wonder if she will ever understand the deep hurt she caused or recognise herself in this story.
During these early teenage years my sister’s marriage also broke down and she was left penniless to bring up three very young children on her own. I clearly remember one day shopping with her in an electrical store. In those days, if you were on benefits and needed some basic goods you were issued with vouchers to purchase the goods. My sister had a voucher, although I cannot quite remember what for – probably a washing machine or something of the like. Anyway, what I do remember is the appalling treatment she received in that shop simply because she had to pay with benefit vouchers because through no fault of her own, she had been left with no other choice. That day sticks in my head and I remember thinking, no one but no one will ever get the chance to treat me like that. A belief was hard-wired into me that day, money = respect and a lack of money = lack of respect. What a shit message for society to be giving out but it lit a fire in me, I was determined that I was never going to be poor.
My life was about friends, going out and getting pissed, loving work, snogging boys and just having fun. I hit a snag with the A-levels – my GCSEs had been plain sailing so it was a bit of a shock to all but fail my A levels.
My latter teenage years were much better and great fun. I earned loads of money for my age though waitressing and bar work – but mainly by being very good at my job and earning good tips. I was free, I had no responsibilities and I partied hard. My life was about friends, going out and getting pissed, loving work, snogging boys and just having fun. I hit a snag with the A-levels – my GCSEs had been plain sailing so it was a bit of a shock to all but fail my A levels. Not one to be deterred, I sat on the phone in my parents’ front room for 2 full days, working my way through the UCAS book until I eventually found a University with a place, on a totally obscure course, that was willing to take me. Now, it’s interesting as to why going to University was so important. It was important because it meant I could access the higher paying jobs and I could align myself with really brainy people because that’s who went to University. I really didn’t care where I went or what I studied, I just needed to go – it was a means to an end.
My 1st Decade (My Early Years)
This period of my life was difficult at times, I have to say. I was actually a quiet, gentle child – very sensitive and emotional. I have clear memories from a very early time including being in a pram, in a white furry coat being taken to a party, being left by my sister at gymnastics and trying to navigate my way home but getting stuck at a road as I knew I wasn’t allowed to cross them on my own. Just as I was trying to solve the dilemma my dad drove up, he had been looking for me when he realised my sister had simply forgotten to get me. I remember my first day at school. I remember meeting my best friend called Kerry, who I sadly lost contact with when she had to move away with her parents. I remember being accused by the teacher of stealing Kerry’s dinner money – I hadn’t, I had simply put it down by mistake on the side when she had asked me to hold it for her and then forgotten where I had put it. The teacher never apologised, I was traumatised by the whole event and my mum made the school change the class I was in – I believe the teacher thought I had stolen the money because we had none.
I remember being sat in a corner of the classroom, given a book and simply told to read it. I remember hiding from the milkman behind the sofa because my mum didn’t have the money to pay him.
I remember having to come home for school dinners some weeks because we didn’t have enough money to pay for them and that meant I lost friends as I wasn’t there to play with them.
I remember burning the carpet in the front room after poking some paper into the gas fire to see if it burnt and then running off to my friend’s house for the day to avoid being told off. As the day wore on, I forgot about burning the carpet and panicked when I realised that it was 8 pm and I always had to be home before it was dark. I ran home as fast as I could only to find my dad nearly in tears as they had been out looking for me thinking the worst – I didn’t get told off for burning the carpet. I remember getting our kitten called Wellington, we adored him. He ran away one year when we were on holiday and my older sisters were left in charge. I remember seeing him in the window of a house around the corner and the girl refusing him to give him back so my mum went round to get him back. I remember the hushed voices in the front room after seeing an eviction notice on one of the doors on our estate – they had got behind on the rent. I remember the shame of being in debt. People who were in debt were talked about in harsh tones like they had committed a crime – if you can’t afford it you can’t have it, it was as simple as that. I remember my friend’s grandparents taking us out for a walk some days and buying us a crunchie from the corner shop. It would take me forever to eat as when I was very young, having money for expensive chocolate bars like that simply wasn’t there.
But most of all I remember money being part of the on-going battle for survival in the early years. I remember the miners’ strike and seeing them at the bus stop as they could no longer afford to run cars. I remember my parent’s desperation every month to find the mortgage money after they had made the brave decision to buy their council house, only to have the interest rates go up to 13%. It was considered posh to shop at Asda and we only went at Christmas, Kwik Save was our weekly supermarket. Our clothes were mainly handmade by my mum and that included my dolls clothes. The early years were tough and money was tight. I used to look at other kids who lived in houses on private estates with a dining room, who had music lessons and breakfast at a table that was set the night before and dream that one day I would be rich enough to have a life like that – a stable and comfortable life.
We are now at the end of the story, has it been possible to work out the secret that lies beneath my relationship with money? I think it has. There are a whole series of beliefs and experiences that have been built up over the years, layer upon layer, resulting in where I am today. Could any of this have been avoided? I really have no idea. What I do know is that I have identified 7 beliefs/layers that I have allowed to lead me widely astray:
- Having money = respect and not having money = no respect
- Being in debt is bad, a place of shame and to be kept secret
- Money allows you to climb the ‘class-ladder’, therefore creating more opportunities and freedom
- Having money is not enough, it needs to be shown and bragged about in order for people to see that you are good, special and have achieved something
- Money can buy things that bring comfort, happiness, and stability
- Money feeds the ego, therefore, you can be special, unique and successful – but ego also eats the money, therefore, an insatiable appetite is created
- Money drives a flawed sense a measurement against which our achievements are judged and pollutes the understanding of what is really of value.
Every single one of these layers are optical illusions and lies. I now know that the secret is ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes.’ I have spent a fortune on trying to buy an outfit that does not exist, it never existed. I am more naked than I have ever been. I believed the lie, the illusion and have paid for it with money, my self-esteem, my freedom and that of my family’s. The truth is that only 3 things really matter:
- Being content with who you really are, warts and all
- Loving and being loved, unconditionally
- Making the most of the moment you are living in.
None of these things cost money, therefore, my balance sheet is far healthier than I thought. I am now free to work on my profit/loss with a real understanding of the value I am trying to achieve. A short-term recovery plan was presented to the Chancellor and signed off last week. A longer-term strategic plan is being worked on as we speak, due to be presented next week. Fingers crossed the Chancellor will sign that off too. Then it’s on to the operational phase, wish me luck!