Today I cried in public on the bus. Luckily it was at the top front which as we all know are the best seats on a double-decker. I’m willing to cut anyone and everyone out of my life who disagrees btw! Rather than pretend to drive or watch the tall trees hit the windows or snoop into people’s homes, I used the space to hide my tears.
A lot of emotions were brought up as I recalled the despair and horror I’d felt when my own bio family were refugees fleeing the Rwandan Genocide. I recall feeling so afraid that they hadn’t survived and us trying to do anything and everything that we could to get word of them. My parents’ landline will never change in case someone needs it, so I knew that my bio-mum if she had the chance, would be able to call us, but this was back in 1994 so it wasn’t as simple. Teenage me, having learnt a long time before to compartmentalise every emotion to focus on what was at hand played multiple roles at that time to make sure that those around me didn’t know the extent of how much everything was affecting me. Pretend everything is fine and eventually it will be…the basis for fake it until you make it! Please don’t do that btw! Authenticity is so much more beautiful in a person!
One of the worst feelings in life is that of powerlessness and desperation. That you have no control over anything or anything important. This can sadly lead to the misguided notion that you are therefore unimportant. That is wrong! You are important. The chances of you being born, having your life and your experiences are 1 in 400 trillion or more, so your existing matters. Your life matters just by you existing. But I digress, the feeling of powerlessness is horrible. Let me take you on another tangent whilst we hope it all comes together in the end.
As a pre-teen, I gobbled up all the magazines. My friends and I would swoon over the models, actors etc. We would devour each article on what it meant to be cool as we eagerly awaited to be that elusive creature that was the proper teenager. We marvelled at schoolmates who were allowed to wear make-up or even heels. A lot of that time was spent fantasising about what we would be as adults. It was these fantasies that made me start writing into the magazines. I laugh now, and I am honestly sure that none of the actual people who were at the time, the centre of my undying love, wrote back; but I did get responses. I got “letters” back accompanied with signed photos which I treasured. I’d never felt so important that these gods got back to me!
And so it was a few years later, lost, powerless and desperate that I began writing again to celebs. However, my media gods had changed based on need. I wrote to every media war correspondent that had anything to do with the Rwandan genocide asking them for help. I needed them to help find my bio-mother and sisters. I needed to know that they were alive. I decided that newsreaders must get a lot less fan mail than actors/models/singers so they’d have to respond to me. Unlike my fan-mail for entertainers, my mother helped me write these, they were too important to make mistakes on. I even wrote to the government at number 10, they gave me a standard response thanking me but saying nothing.
It was one amazing war correspondent that got back to me and agreed to help. They got in touch with us, helped to track my bio family at a refugee camp & forever changed the lives of many people important to me. They kindly didn’t make us news although they could have, became close friends with my bio-mother, helped me adopt my sisters (my parents adopted them off me once we got them here after some time) and are still a godparent to one of my siblings. What stemmed from desperation and powerlessness lead to hope. Everything you do has the power to help you later. All skills are transferable, but this isn’t the point I want you to take. Why was I crying on the bus in broad daylight?!
I believe as a developed world, needing charity is one of the biggest indicators that we have failed. We as people have failed on so many levels and it takes my breath away. Our governments keep failing the people based on what I believe is a lie. There are enough resources for people to go into space, have enough food to eat & drinking water, have safe accommodation, be able to travel & discover, be free to express themselves whilst being competitive. I applaud people who work hard to do better and gain more. I don’t think that who you are born to should disadvantage you. I’ve no problem with a wealth divide and think it can be healthy because life is unfair, but to actively disadvantage others makes me sick. To me, it shows that you recognise your failures, and so rather than improving yourself, you will drag the world down with you. A small pond or crab mentality. This, however, is not the real reason I was crying.
The real reason I cried on the bus was remembering how it felt when I believed I didn’t matter, that no one could understand me and how terrible that was. I’d tried many times to explain to those in my life what I was going through but soon realised that unless people had gone through similar experiences, they were at a complete loss to truly comprehend. What made it worse, was that if I tried harder to get them to see my perspective, they doubled down on their defensiveness and so any pain I felt was somehow an attack on their character. In a lose-lose situation that I felt I was in, the only way to survive was to compartmentalise. Hide your pain and try to show that you are in the moment to those around you. The unhealthy fake it until you make it or break mentality.
I’m sorry, I’m yet again getting ahead of myself. Why was I travelling on busses today? An international charity that helps refugees that my mother is involved with had me meet up with someone to give them some donations whilst they were in London. I love the bus because it’s wonderful seeing the world outside from the top level. We met up, had a coffee and chatted. My language skills are poor so I was grateful that they at least could speak better English than any other language I could fuck up. When one goes through hardship one doesn’t want to be a charity case. Sometimes you need someone to moan to. Other times when dealing with hardship you need an escape to remember what normalcy is like. In every case and moment of your life, you are still a person and it’s important to feel like it. It was a lovely time where we laughed and connected on a basic level. They laughed at me when I tried to explain to them that I find having a cat extremely hard work and couldn’t handle a human kid. They even took the piss out of me for that. For those few hours, we were just two people having coffee, getting to know each other and just hanging as if there wasn’t a care in the world. I’d handed over my bag of goods for them when we first met to ensure no obligation on their time. When our drinks were finished, I was invited back to their temporary accommodation because they could cook food for me as thanks.
I declined the invite. It’s human to share. When you connect with someone, you want to invite them in and show your appreciation of that connection. You want to show gratitude for those that help you because no one wants to be a charity. It’s also very lonely going through the horrors that make you leave your home to become a refugee. No one would choose that. No one would choose to leave their home, culture, family, friends or life unless it was necessary. Fleeing from terror isn’t the same as moving abroad. Having no one, nothing to your name and being reliant on the kindness of strangers isn’t the same as a fresh start. The emotional turmoil, the fear, the pretence of being ok so as not to scare those that help is a nightmare that I hope you don’t have to experience ever.
I can’t begin to know their experiences and nor would I try to. I declined their offer of food because I didn’t have the capacity in me. I don’t have the strength to give more than a few hours a week of my time and attention to those in need. I don’t have the capacity to start new relationships that I can’t fulfil because I know they need a lot more. At this moment, I won’t forfeit any more than that because I want my comforts and need them. It’s not that life is unfair that upsets me, but that charity is a failure of the world. We pay taxes for these reasons do we not?
With our coffees finished, we hugged each other goodbye. I gave the biggest bear hug I could for that was the minimal I could give. I had no idea the last they had human contact and a hug can be so powerful- who doesn’t love them? Once on the bus, I realised that my bag was noticeably less bulky. I rummaged through and a third of the way home I realised I’d lost my scarf. It was my favourite scarf that I’d had for years. It had no sentimental or monetary value at all, but I was gutted that I’d lost it. Tears rolled down my cheeks, collected by my face mask and I cried at the top of the double-decker bus.
“No good deed goes unpunished” came a thought that made me gurgle as a cough and laugh tried to splutter out of me at the same time. Luckily it was at the top front which as we all know are the best seats on a double-decker. I’m willing to cut anyone and everyone out of my life who disagrees.
If you have the ability to help in any way, please do get in touch with me, telling me your location and I will be able to provide you with further information on charities that help refugees.