Being poor is not fun, though that’s not news to most of you. I spent probably the first 10 years of my life worse off than all my friends. I never had the latest toys and games. I was always that kid whose Mum didn’t drive so other Mum’s would have to drop me off to birthday parties or my dance classes. I couldn’t afford the ballet shoes with the ribbons and half my school uniform was from the second hand section. Santa brought my friends sacks of presents whilst I made do with a stocking. But I wouldn’t change a single thing about my childhood. And I’ll tell you why.
Not having money taught me appreciation. As I got a bit older sometimes out of the blue my Mum would hand me a £20 note. And I used to feel like I had all the money in the world. I would always head straight for Woolworths and buy the doll I had been waiting for and the big tub of pick n mix sweets I could never usually get. That £20 is a lot to a normal kid but to a kid that knows what it’s like when Mum doesn’t even have a spare pound, it’s winning the lottery. I appreciated those moments so much. And not just because of the value of the money itself. But because I knew my Mum was going short to make me happy and that taught me not only about appreciation but also about generosity.
Beans on toast, cooking with economy items from the supermarket and asking relatives to buy my new school shoes was a regular occurrence. But looking back I don’t think I innately felt deprived. It wasn’t part of my identity. I would carry on and make my own fun and as an only child that was probably just as well. I had many imaginary friends, I avidly read whatever books we had in the house, I would ride up and down the promenade on my bike. I even recall putting on my swimming costume and a pair of tights and copying my Mum’s work-out tape pretending I was a grown up. Hours of fun that one provided. But I don’t think I needed much more because everything I did need to be a normal child and to learn and feel loved was pretty much provided for free.
I definitely learnt that the world isn’t always fair and that compassion above all else will always come first with me. When I got to secondary school I soon came to realise that there were children across the country, and of course the world, who didn’t have grandparents who helped where they could or a Mum who always economised well with next to nothing. They were children much worse off than me and the older I got and as life for us slowly got more comfortable I didn’t forget those times when I could have so easily been in real poverty. We came close – but were still far enough away from the very worst.
Having little money or material things when you’re young prepares you for life in ways that security can’t quite reach. It teaches you that when you survive on the bare minimum… Nothing ever seems bad after that. When you’re finally an adult, anything in your purse at the end of the day becomes a bonus and not a worry. No savings is better than minus figures and debt. Turning off the TV to save electricity forces you to talk to your family or play games you haven’t got out in years. It brings simplicity to life that having money to dispose of just doesn’t consider.
I value the money I have now as obviously it makes me feel a lot more secure in every respect. But god forbid I should ever have to go back to what I had then… It won’t be the end of the world. And the lessons it taught me have never left – the way I treat and value what I do have.
I believe our life experiences are the way they are for a reason and questioning or resenting them only takes you away from their real purpose. Always listen to what the lessons all your circumstances, good and bad, teach you.