I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth. As one of six children, I didn’t enjoy the privileges of abundant wealth. My parents did do their best, but money can only be spread so thin. Us kids were no stranger to numerously handed down hand-me-downs; the dreaded garish, hand-knitted bobble hat that my eldest brother and I burnt on a bonfire, so that our youngest sister could be spared the humiliation sticks out in my mind. We were no stranger to free school meals, car boot sales, makeshift birthday cards for Mum and Dad and our cousin’s second hand playstation games console that brought us so much joy.
Despite the scrimping and scraping of my childhood, I was happy. Despite the difficulty, I always had my brothers and sister to play with. It wasn’t until my teenage years that I became bitter and angry with my parents for being unable to shower me with the frivolities that young adulthood demands: money for the cinema, money to keep up with fashion, money for a ‘decent’ phone. For years, the house rang with the reverberations of a thousand slammed doors and a thousand screams of ‘I hate this family.’
Keeping up with the ‘Jodie’s’ and the ‘Brogan’s’ was paramount in slotting into at least a mid-level position on the formidable hierarchy that is secondary school. I could never keep up, and I was thrown, battered and bruised, to the bottom of the pile. My secondary school years were a constant battle between wanting to fit in, and wanting to work hard so I could break away from the struggles of family life.
I chose the latter option. I kept my head down, studied hard, and juggled twenty hours of work a week at two separate jobs. A-level results day, when I opened the letter and found I had achieved the grades to move to London, was the most exhilarating day of my life.
My first year of independent living absolved my bitterness, and I looked upon my upbringing as a valuable, character-forming experience. This satisfying realisation has spurred me on to write a word of advice to students with parents who can’t help them out. It is, admittedly, exasperating when your flatmate can call home, whine, and gain three hundred pounds of Daddy’s money in the blink of an eye. But refrain from bitterness. Here is why the plastic spoon trumps the silver.
You learn, at a younger age than most, the value of money. The wisdom that money does not grow on trees in Daddy’s garden will prevent you from throwing it at frivolities like lunch (pack your own!) or particular brands (Sainsbury’s own is no different!) These real life lessons are just as valuable as your academic education. Appreciate it.
Secondly, you will understand and sympathise with those members of society who are afflicted with true poverty. When I walk past the homeless, or hear of famine in the third world, I feel remorse for ever having felt ungrateful for my lot. These people truly have nothing and although I can’t afford the Timberland boots I really want, I am fed and sheltered and that’s all that
Lastly, and perhaps the most important point, you learn just how important it is to work hard to get you to where you want to be in this life. Education for some, myself included, is a path that culminates in the possibility of a fulfilling life, your own children someday benefitting from your achievements. For others, education does not have the same significance…some have the connections to walk straight into a prestigious job. Personally, I am thankful that I have found whatever it is within myself to succeed alone, and not rely on nepotism and bailouts from the bank of Mum and Dad.
The plastic spoon may leave a bitter taste in your mouth but honestly, the sweetness of silver is an illusion. Own the plastic spoon of your youth, because it might just be the best thing your parents ever fed you.