Due to years of excess eating, drinking and smoking my father sustained a stroke. He was unable to work for some time and after recovering he did not go back to work. He always said it was because he was too ill and disabled. Despite his apparent disability he was fairly active and capable of performing many tasks but somehow he was always on the verge of death and frequently at the doctors. We lived off his income capacity benefit, the money my mum made working part time as a cleaner and my Nan's pension. His money was his money, my mother's money was his money, my Nan's money was his money and his kids money should have been his money.
Through the years our home looked less and less like a house and more and more like a scrap yard. At one point the garden gate was made from an old washing machine carcass, the shed out of odd off cuts of wood, the greenhouse made from misshaped pieces of window glass and the stone work repaired by my fathers own unique concrete pointing. The inside wasn't much better with its embarrassingly cheap and nasty wallpaper which was poorly joined, never mind the paper thin carpeting. It all looked like a work of art to my father but then it was a masterpiece if only because it was his handy work and keen eye for a bargain that had got the house looking as good as it did.
In my teens I worked after school for a man who consistently found ways to embarrass me. He often called me "fugly" (short for fat and ugly). It didn't occur to me to mind until one day he refused to allow me to take a break so I could check on my grandfather who was dying of cancer. He called me "fugly" and I told him to stick his job where the sun didn't shine.
When my grandfather died my father was obviously upset but I felt it was more because he hadn't been loved by him rather than because he was going to miss him. My mum was hysterical.
I then took my A-Levels in subjects I had no prior knowledge of and were mildly related to my future ambitions of owning my own business. I was only allowed to take two despite having done better than expected in my GCSE's. Even then I was at a loss as to what business was I going to run. I had no idea what I wanted to do except that I wanted to be rich so I could be free. Besides I was too busy thinking of the person I loved at the time.
My grandmother died. My mum was upset. I'd watch her crying in the garden from my bedroom window but she never said a word to any of us. I didn't know what to do for her to make it better.
My brother's lives weren't much different to my own except that the youngest had been spoiled by most of us. We all wanted to protect him from my father's anger, even my grandfather had doted on him. We always tried to get him exactly what he wanted or a little bit extra at Christmas and Birthdays but he was never happy, we could never do enough. When my grandparents died he developed an unhealthy fear of death (which my other brother and I also developed) and every night he would close the curtains and lock all the doors. My father felt this was because he was trying to keep death out of the house.
We all fought with my father. We saw the freedom other children had and wanted more of our own, this didn't go down to well with his plans for us. We were lazy, useless good for nothings that would never amount to anything because we were "pricks". We would never work hard like he had done, we never did anything for the family and would never be as good as our cousins or other peoples kids. In fact we were the worst, most undeserving kids in the entire world and we should be ashamed of ourselves because somewhere in the world children were dying through malnutrition who would love to lead our lives. So there I was verging on adulthood looking out at everybody else, what they were doing and achieving, looking at all the cruelty and unfairness of the world and the people in it. I was looking inside and I was ashamed.
I did poorly in my A-Levels, my head was too engrossed in the boy who did not love me and to be honest Economics and Sociology didn't really hold my interest. So I went to the local college to undertake a qualification in Business still with no idea what business I was going to run. Here I excelled getting good grades whilst working evenings as a cleaner/supervisor at my mums work. I finished the course and University was now an option. I looked in to some courses away from home. The prospect of being away from home and making it on my own scared me so I went to my father. I asked if he would support my decision. He told me he didn't have the money to help me and that he couldn't support me. This scared me even more so I decided against University and got a full time job in administration. It wasn't until later that I realised I didn't need his money, I would have had a grant to pay for accommodation and food but the fact that he hadn't even offered his emotional support had been the biggest disappointment.
I worked hard, day in day out. My boss thought I was amazing and trusted me to do my job completely. I didn't like him to start with, something about him scared me. After a year or two we had a close working relationship and both of us respected each other. I liked that he was clever and able to get the job done (even if sometimes that was through manipulation of others) and I liked that we shared the same viewpoint on different topics. I also liked that he liked me, that he saw worth in me. I started to fall in love with him despite the fact he was married and almost twice my age. He often made me feel special buying me a birthday cake, offering encouragement, talking with me, taking me in to his confidence and showering me with reams of fax paper for fun. When I realised how I felt I longed for him to feel the same way (despite the fact that I didn't think well of women that went after married men) and I did everything I could to make him happy at work. When the business doubled in size I worked extra hours without extra pay. I didn't tell him how much I was doing but I think he was aware. It was also a boost for me because I was always praised for my efforts.
I lost a lot of weight and felt good about myself for a while but it became too painful to see him everyday and not have my feelings returned. Much to his distress I decided to apply for a job at another depot but I didn't tell him why. I didn't care what the job was or who I would be working for I just wanted out of the situation. I transferred and later told him how I felt. I could tell he was flattered but he said he was happily married (even though he often moaned about his wife - like all men do). I continued to work for the firm giving it everything I had.
One of my bosses seemed to have taken a shine to me and had made it clear he wanted to take me out but he made me uncomfortable. As I struggled to cope with everything I was doing I started to eat more and more and the weight piled on. I was becoming stressed out. My life was going nowhere, I wasn't loved by the man I loved and I wasn't achieving anything I wanted. My friends were all happily married with mortgages and their own cars. Then there was me, I was making half the money doing twice the work of my male colleagues and I had to put up with all their moaning and crudeness on top. I took it up until the point I felt I was going to explode and when my boss said I had to choose between putting up with the situation or leaving that's exactly what I did and I quit in a blaze of glory.
I re-evaluated what I wanted from life. Love didn't appear to be an option. I knew I wanted to make money. I knew I liked working with computers and building databases. I went to a Careers Advisor who suggested either working in Information Technology (IT) or being an Accountant. Accountancy didn't appeal because it purely would have been for the money but I felt IT was something I could like and it seemed employers were crying out for IT graduates at that time. I decided to do a degree at the local college which was affiliated with some good Universities. I was still living at home so I knew if I worked part time I could afford to do the course. I worked as a Temp for several months in a variety of roles and never failed to impress. I finally took permanent part time evening work with the Civil Service and started my degree.
As I worked the lure of extra money was too enticing so I did overtime at weekends and went for promotion after promotion. I managed to work my way up to lower management within a year. In the second year my studies suffered as I took on more and more responsibility at work but for the first time in my life I felt I was doing something worthwhile, I wasn't in love with anybody and I didn't feel bad about being me. I made sure I studied hard for the exams because I knew they were important for my grades and I also knew I'd have to reprioritise in the final year which was the most important of all. Despite narrowly passing some assignments my exam grades were good enough to ensure that I got a Distinction overall - I was ecstatic; maybe I wasn't so worthless after all. Sure I was fat, my home life was crap and there was no time for fun but my life was going somewhere and damn I was clever!