CHILDHOOD, WHAT THE F**K! | CHAPTER 5
By Ryan Elson | Broadcaster & Entrepreneur
Chapter 5. Out of the darkness, an opportunity presents itself. A friends parents take an interest in a rebellious young man and show him that a family can actually be about love, differences, acceptance and discussions opposed to blame, punishment, shame, yelling and scorn.
The Whitehouse was situated front and centre of the school as you drove in, you had to drive around it to enter. It was the oldest part of the existing school, had separate rooms, balconies, a kitchen, very little supervision and it was home to the year 10,11 and 12 boarders. Junior Boarders were not allowed to enter without specific invite and were generally made to wait at the door if they wanted to speak to a senior boarder. It was sacred.
My first Sunday night back at school for year 10 was weird…..it felt like I was starting again. I rocked through the door of the Whitehouse (without invitation) and met Damon in there. We sort of stood around in the main lounge not sure exactly what to do. There was another guy there too, a new guy. His name was Ray, we extracted from him that he was from Rosebery on the wild West Coast, he clearly did not want to be there and that was about all he offered. Whatever! Pretty soon the boarding master arrived and we were allocated our rooms, I got a single room about 2m x 3m on the South side of the Whitehouse. Damon and Ray were allocated a shared room and Tim and Ben got their own rooms as well. Woodsy had left during middle school. There were a few Yr 11’s, only one Yr 12 who kept to himself and that was the Senior boarders.
As we now had our own TV we watched TV trying to get used to our new level in life before hitting the sack in the luxury of our private rooms. In the morning we got up and after getting ready hung out in the lounge waiting for the Senior Boarders Bus to arrive, I was nervous, excited and proud to be a senior! All was going well until the Boarding master came in and asked where Ray was? “Ray who?? Oh the new guy………nope haven’t seen him”! Turned out that Ray had bolted during the night and was missing! Wow!! That made for some pretty cool first day goss!
Ray was located the next day in Melbourne at his Mum’s place after getting to the Airport, buying a ticket and getting the fuck out of Dodge! A week later he was returned to us and was duly given the nick name “Runaway Ray”……..it was quite an opening week for the new guy! Ray didn’t run away again, became an integral part of our group and to this day is one of my best and most trusted friends…..I am honoured to be the Godfather of his son.
Senior School was certainly a step up. There was far more freedom and far less of those weak bullying teachers that I discussed earlier. These guys knew their stuff and were far better at handling me than most of the middle school teachers, I learned a lot of life skills from them. In addition a lot of my reputation for being difficult had been left behind and I was, to a degree, turning a new page. I could still get myself in the shit rapidly but it was because I deserved it and it was generally handled at a lower level. I started to feel different and stopped fucking about quite as much. As far as my peers went we were certainly back at the bottom rung but there was far less of a division between years 10,11 and 12 as there had been in middle school.
Everyone was pretty cool and my ability to play a half decent game of the highly illegal “Animal Ball” gave me an opportunity to hang out with the 11’s and 12’s on a fairly even level. This relationship came in handy a few months later when I tried out for basketball with our American Coach. I was picked for both the yr 10 side and the Varsity (Open) teams which I was very proud of. I learned a lot from these older guys, especially on our road trip up North later in the year which was the first time I got thoroughly pissed with a bunch of blokes.
In year 10 I started to seriously question my thoughts on religion. I remember sitting in a Religious Education lesson (compulsory in my Catholic School) thinking to myself, this is all a crock of shit. My Mum had always taken us to Church, then my Grandma insisted that we attend Church, then the School made me go every Tuesday of middle school. I had lived with Priests, Brothers and Nuns for 3 years and I had seen the best and the worst of them. I asked many questions of these Religious people about my Mum and Dad and my problems at home. They never had anything but a stupid rehearsed answer like, “All things happen for a reason” or “It’s all part of Gods plan” or some such practised bullshit. If I questioned the Religious Ed teachers they were just as bad and no one could give me any answers. From then on I bullshitted Grandma about going to Church on Sundays and just rode around on my bike for an hour or so before heading home saying that it was a lovely service. No one ever checked up.
One thing I was struggling with at this time was my temper. It had always been fiery but these days I tended to be going off more and bigger. I was a very angry young man inside and I was struggling to hold it in, often fighting with other kids or explosively losing my shit over very small things. Looking back I think this may have been a pressure cooker type issue. As I mentioned earlier I was so violently controlled at home that I was basically powerless but I would then be released to a place where I had power over smaller weaker people even though I knew it was wrong and I have often hated myself for it. I was always smiling and messing about but inside I had a whole heap of hate. Hate for my Uncle, Grandma, God and myself.
On the flip-side I was doing better at school now, perhaps the expectation that I had to be a clown each day had died off. We were treated like young adults, not kids and I really enjoyed this feeling of respect. I was enjoying a few classes, especially English and Science and my grades were going in the right direction. I wasn’t praised for my academic achievement but maybe I wasn’t a dumbass after all. I was however still hopeless at Maths though.
As I felt things were getting better at school my Uncle said he wanted to talk to me. He sat me down and told me that they felt that going on to year 11 was a waste of time and money as I was probably going to be a labourer for my life. I was stunned. I had taken a mate to our shack once that had told them that when he left school he was going to be a labourer and they were aghast, they spent ages telling him that he was better than that and why would he aim so low. Yet here my Uncle was telling me that I was only worth this low position in life. He didn’t try and tell me I was worth more or that I could make it better……he just matter of fact told me that I wasn’t worth the money. I had always thought I would do year 11 and 12 but I wasn’t exactly set on it until that very moment. Maybe my Uncle was doing a bit of reverse psychology, maybe he wasn’t but it certainly worked that way.
Mid way through year 10 something cool happened, something that would change my life. I met a girl named Alf. She was a very quiet red head in my Science class and in all honesty I didn’t really notice her for a while, I was too busy chatting up the other better known girls. After a while I found myself sitting next to her and getting the odd laugh, she was smarter than me but wasn’t as socially adept at that point in time. I liked her and we became friends.
I tried to get closer to her but she wasn’t really interested. I hung out with her a fair bit and it felt really easy. Eventually we ended up being classed as boyfriend and girlfriend but in truth it wasn’t really like that. Everyone else was madly shagging (I had certainly done my fair share) but we never did. It was more friends and even more importantly I became very close to her family. They were the Lawson's and they were so very different from my guardians or my Grandma. They were welcoming, encouraging and positive and it created an amazing feeling in their home. Dramas were not solved by a public dressing down or a smack around the head, they were discussed often as a group, in a calm and reasonable manner. There wasn’t always an agreement but if required there was a compromise rather than a stalemate. It actually took me a fair while to be at ease with this style of family and I often got overly aggressive or defensive in those earlier times. After a while though I felt accepted and valuable and I felt more at home with these people than I had ever felt anywhere in my life. They cared about me! That was over 30 years ago and the Lawson's are still (thankfully) who I refer to as my Foster parents and my kids grandparents.
I spoke to the Lawson's about my Uncle suggesting that I finish school in year 10 and they were horrified. Unbeknownst to my guardians they came to the School and spoke on my behalf to the Senior School Principal and spoke about the issue. There was a problem in my doing any higher level studies in Matric (level 3’s) as I had never been in a level 3 class and wasn’t therefore considered capable by those that set the curriculum. The Lawson's argued my case and I was asked whether I felt I would be able to handle the workload and whether I would put in the effort required. With my Uncles words ringing in my head I straight up lied and said I would was very confident and would be doing all required. I wasn’t sure exactly what that was but I had to have a go. Eventually it was decided that I could do one level 3 class and 4 level 2 classes. If I could pass all of these I could do more level 3’s in year 12. That level 3 class was Biology and as you will find out I’m so glad it was! Year 10 started to wrap up and it was determined that I was going to Matric.
Here goes nothing!!