My friends asked me at the weekend what I’d write about if I were to write a book.
To be honest, like most people, I already have a book inside me. Of course, the natural assumption would be to write about this strangely unique life we have as a volleyball family, which I sometimes talk about from the standpoint of expats; it’s easier to put yourself in a box that people understand than try to explain a life that’s not part of the norm. We aren’t expats at all, however, far from it. The “W.A.G” life in volleyball isn’t as glamorous as it is for football wives or basketball wives, in fact, on the scale of glamorous to gutter in professional sports, we’re somewhere close to the bottom. It’s a working class life for the most part, which for me is pretty symbolic of what my real story is.
The story inside me isn’t one of privilege at all, it’s of struggle and calm, conflict and harmony, feeling like an outsider then completely at home, it’s not an easy one to tell, but none of the great ones are.
For most of my adult life I felt like an imposter. Quite a bold statement, I know, but in order to explain the why I need to go back a bit, so stay with me.
Growing up in an extremely impoverished community in Thatcher’s 80’s, and then latterly in the wake of Thatcher, was an experience that no one will really understand unless you were in the trenches at that time too.
You see, we didn’t know we were poor. It wasn’t until I went to high school in 1992 that I started to see a different life outside of our community. Both of my parents worked, we had food on our table and a roof over our head. We were loved in abundance. My mum made sure we didn’t want for anything, often working in a factory until 10pm to provide for her family. I always remember going to our neighbours house after school then waiting up for her to come home with biscuits for us. My dad was a joiner (tradesman) and work was sparse in the 80’s, so when he didn’t work he was in the pub. Like most men of his generation in Glasgow, alcohol was part of the family, a more dominant part for some families. We were, what I can now identify as, working-class poor.
I had a happy childhood, I will always look back on those early years with a sense of belonging and comfort. All of my peers were just like me, we lived in the same houses, wore the same clothes, went to the same schools, went on holiday each summer…we were all so, free. Or so we thought.
Darren McGarvey writes in his first novel Poverty Safari, an excellent portrayal of life as an underclass in Britain, and whilst his personal story is nothing like mine, his was harrowing and full of pain, I could relate to a lot of what he encountered. The people he writes about are my people.
The 90’s came, Maggie Thatcher left Downing St and Louise from Shettleston started high school, completely unaware of the damage this woman had left in her wake. Knowledge is power, of course, but when you’re underprivileged with knowledge, you can’t just pull up your boot straps and go forth chasing your dreams. Contrary to what Maggie and her friends thought back then and still think today, there are other factors that can stand in your way on that road to real freedom. Those other factors are the ones that stay with you, hang over every decision you make, every page you turn, they’re the factors I’ve spent years trying to overcome. Factors that sometimes make me feel like I’m not worthy, that I’m an imposter.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a wonderful life in parts, I’m not trying to play a “poor me” card or say I didn’t have any control over my decisions, I just want to try and show people a little snippet of my truth.
And the truth is, that I’ve never really told anyone my truth before. So here goes.
To be continued…