I was the poor, fat, religious kid at school. To top it off the importance of personal hygiene was never really impressed upon me – this I learnt the hard way! I was teased at school for being the fat, smelly, poor, religious kid, I’m not sure I’d go as far to say I was bullied; I was never physically hurt. Right from an early age I realised that I was different.

One of these ‘afflictions’ would have been tough to handle, 4 were just a recipe for emotional instability ;) ! We were taught that we were different, because of the religion, and that it was ok to ‘not conform’. I’m not sure this was what they were alluding too! I would often find myself on my own. Needless to say my school years were not a happy time.

I grew up in a family of 9, 5 brothers, a sister and my parents – 4 older brothers and a younger sister and brother. We lived, for the most part, on a council estate, in Essex – I have no doubt providing for and raising that amount of children was tricky in itself – I find 3 tricky!! This proved to be a weirdness in itself, as I would often get asked “do your parents have a telly”. We had just enough money to get by, as I mentioned in a previous post, material things and career aspirations were frowned upon. Although, we never went hungry and we did have a caravan and my parents did ensure we had a holiday at least once a year.

This is one particular memory that sticks in my mind. It was 1983, nearing Christmas – I was 5 years old and in the infant school. They were doing a Christmas play, Hansel and Gretel. I had been told by my parents that I wasnt to take part. I vaguely remember telling my teacher “my parents said I can’t be in the play’ so I was given a chime bar to play – I think this consisted of hitting it several times, at particular moments during one song. I, of course, never told my parents. The day of the performance came and I performed my part. A couple of days later my parents had clearly found out that this had happened, needless to say I was punished – I felt very confused. Looking back and being 5, I don’t remember why I wasn’t allowed to be part of the play and why this was so significant – as I grew older, I knew it was because we didnt celebrate Christmas. Every year I dreaded that time of year, the having to explain and the sticking out like a complete freak.

Children can be so cruel, and the sad part is that they will never know the impact of the words and taunts that they spoke and found highly amusing at the time. Can you imagine what its like to try to explain to other children that you don’t celebrate birthdays, christmas, mothers day, fathers day, easter, halloween, buy raffle tickets, play out after school or go round other childrens to play? Why you didn’t wear the trendiest, new clothes and shoes? I had to sit out of religious education and sex education, often in the corridor on an empty desk or in an empty classroom. All the normal things that every other child does – my school peers thought I was weird! I just thought there was something wrong with me!

My parents never attended any parents evenings as it always seemed to fall on a ‘meeting night’ and to them that was more important. To my teachers, they didn’t seem interested, to my parents their worship was more important. Gaining qualifications and further education was also discouraged as earning money was seen as a means to an end, as it was believed that the end of the world was very near. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school and my parents took very little interest; the bible and the beliefs were their focus. They would have been happy for me to clean or work in a shop, and whilst there is nothing wrong with either of these professions, deep down I knew I could, and WANTED to do more than that.

Whilst we weren’t allowed to associate with other children outside the religion, there were other children within the religion we would associate with. Although, for the reasons above I still found myself struggling to fit in, I was a complete social retard and didn’t really make proper friends in the religion until I was around 16, and I seemed to gravitate to the ones who were a bit naughty!

It was probably around this age that I started to try a few things that I shouldn’t have done, smoking, drugs (only weed), drinking etc. This, I guess, was my first taste of the ‘real world’. Safe to say I never really suffered with attention or ‘temptation’ from the boys, so the whole sex thing had never been an issue.

I learnt quite quickly that being the funny, smart one earnt me some attention. Right until my early 20′s I was always the fat, funny friend with the great personality of the slim, pretty girl. I would do all that I could to be accepted, and to please people so they would connect to me in some way – I know that I still have this need.

I know some of these things were not a direct result of the religion, and it is not criticism of that or my parents, as I truly believe they brought us up in the way that they thought was right and proper. I now, being a parent myself, have the beauty of hindsight and have learnt many, many things on my 34 year journey to date. Most of these realisations and understandings have been in the last few years, and I have Mark to thank for that – he is my inspiration. I believe that anything is possible if you want it enough.

“what your mind can conceive, it can achieve” Walt Disney

Yours in fulfilling your dreams…

Sarah xXx