So today I’m going to be talking (again) about the one thing that will always be a part of me, whether deliberately acknowledged or not. I say deliberately acknowledged because I use the phrase “I’m a foster child” as more of a calling card than Bruce Wayne uses “I’m Batman”, although unlike the caped crusader I did not turn my parental setbacks into motivation to put on tights and beat the living daylights out of baddies. There are a few reasons for this, such as the fact that I’d bend under physical pressure like a 1970’s BBC presenter’s alibi, and following on a similar theme I think the only way I’d be intimidating in a back alley would be if I let my pathetic pencil moustache grow and put on large frameless glasses. Of course, it could also be that I’m not exactly the brooding type, and the events that put me where I am happened when I was too young to feel much more than carried along by circumstances as they unfolded, and so it was easier to just not question it. So while I’m not saying that Batman overreacted, he could have at least spent the money he didn’t earn on normal billionaire purchases, or at the very least, some new cybernetic parents if he really cared that much.
I’ve been told that I have quite a dark, or even sick, attitude to my situation, but if the deceased half of my parental unit wants to complain, she can do so when I fix my Oujia board. In all seriousness, I think that this is because our “individuality” is in reality just a culmination of our quirks and gimmicks, and everyone has their “thing”. It explains the emergence of nicknames, the constant re-telling of embarrassing stories, and the development of stereotypes and characters in groups that are mirrored slightly differently a million times over. Now, I am known to milk my “deprived foster child” image amongst friends, because it brings with it such a crushing sense of Irony that actually I have been stable for longer than I was in any real domestic trouble, and whilst it is funny to watch them groan and roll their eyes, I’ve also made a more mature decison to not get too caught up in the stereotype in a wider sense. However, as previously stated, it is bound to follow me around. I have been asked to appear on the news simply for passing my GCSE’s, and subjected to special needs tests, as well as asked to mentor other young people, all because I am in care. I am also lucky to recieve some benefits and headstarts, but I have learned to take these and run without thinking about it too much.
One of the reasons I decided to write about this again was a programme about fostering that I caught the end of when I came home last night. I am very dark about my misfortunes, but only because I am comfortable enough to know that they are just drops in water under bridges already burned. But there are thousands of young people for whom care isn’t just a joke to bring out to disturb your friends. I once saw a collection box that said that young people in care are more likely to go to prison than University; and I’ve just finished my first year. So i’m kind of up there with the Dodo or the Wooly Mammoth in that I’m often told my existence is exemplary and unusual. I guess it could be taken as an ego boost, but really it just makes me kind of sad. Every day people are judged for the very same reason that I have been praised, and I think it is wrong to see all the things that make someone unique put down to a circumstance they have no control over. We are all so, so much more than the labels and images, and yet we often conform to these just because we have found a place to belong. I’m one of the lucky few to look at the benefits of a system which only has a reference point from the outside because of Tracey Beaker, but I still feel slightly guilty that I was carried through largely unscathed whilst others paint themsleves as the negative stereotypes because it is all they think they can do. Hopefully these people will realise the potential they have as people, and not just as foster children. Until then, I don’t think I blame them if they go into Waterstones and set the entire collection of Jacqueline Wilson’s most popular character on fire.