My Sanctuary

I always felt like an anomaly. When I heard people say that they were homesick, I didn’t understand how they could be. What’s so good about home that you don’t feel well when away from it? I never felt homesick. I still remember the indescribable feeling of happiness when I left home to go to university. I felt like an animal that had been let out of its cage. When they said they hated school, I thought – how can someone hate school? My school days were some of the best days of my life.

So that you can understand why I think differently from most “normal” people, let me give you an insight into my “home” life.

My parents owned a Chinese takeaway business. I came to the UK when I was 10 along with my other 2 brothers (aged 7 and 3). Myself and my 7 year old brother worked in the takeaway 6 days a week (Tuesday was our day off as the shop was closed) before we went to school in the morning and when we came back from school in the afternoon. My brother did the day shift from 4-8pm and then I took over until 12 midnight. If the business was quiet, I would be allowed to leave early and go to bed (or continue my homework if I had not finished before I started my shift).

I loved school. Each morning, I looked forward to going to school where I could be “free”. I loved being part of a “normal” environment where I didn’t have to be afraid, where I was allowed to be a child.

My mother had a pretty bad temper and for some reason she did not like me and my 7 year old brother. To me, home represented repression and fear. She was predictable in that I knew she was a nasty person but unpredictable in terms of when her temper would erupt. My most vivid memory of my “mother” was when she told me not to come into the shop one day as she had friends coming around. She said I looked too ugly and would scare them. At the time, I was taking steroids for my kidney problem and the steroids had given me a bloated face. When I was staying at the hospital for treatment she only visited me once during the month stay.

My time at school on the other hand was the light in my tunnel of darkness. It was my sanctuary. I was just so happy to be there. I would chat to anybody and everybody. One of my teachers called me a chatterbox! I was pretty popular – I think it’s because I made people laugh and I was always so cheerful. No one knew that my home life was the opposite of my demeanour.

My form teacher was quite strict but I could tell she liked me even though she kept having to move me in classes because of my “chatting”. She even gave me the honour of helping her make teas for the staff room! I’m quite good at managing my finance and I have my form teacher to thank for this. She was in charge of the staff room tea budget. She would instruct me to use one tea bag per 100 cups of tea (ok a bit of exaggeration but you get the gist)!

I still remember my first weekend away from home on a school trip to Colwyn Bay and Snowdonia. The place where we stayed at was a mansion turned into a hostel situated on top of a hill. I bribed one of the boys (J) with some sweets to carry my bag up the hill. I had a crush on him but he was not interested unless I had sweets! We went on the swings on the grounds of the hostel and he pushed my swing (I gave him another sweet…). J had a (small) mole on his top lip. I think this was a sign of greediness. The girls and the boys stayed in separate dorms. In the morning, I could hear the birds tweeting outside. I had such a wonderful time. My best school trip ever!

I believe there is always light at the end of tunnel and that we use our experiences to shape us into better and stronger people.

Aged 54, Female, Blackpool
July 2018

My Sanctuary
"My Sanctuary"