Salaam. Welcome back to those who have returned, and to those new here, welcome for the first time 🙂 If you haven’t read part I, I recommend going back and reading it, God willing.
Just to quickly recap, in the first part of this blog series I explained a little about my childhood, my upbringing, and a small number of the major circumstances surrounding my youth that I believe to have shaped me significantly. There was a heavy emphasis on my fathers death, mainly because I believe it was the lack of a strong male character in my life that probably fuelled the fires of rebellion in the stage that followed.
During my youth, me and my friends essentially did what ever we could get away with. As just a few examples, we broke into warehouses at the age of 11, stole a lot of alcohol, and got all the kids on the estate drunk; we also started smoking very early in our life, and by the age of 12, we were frequently smoking hash (otherwise known as resin, or sput), and would spend time drinking and smoking in places secluded enough for us to have our privacy. One such place was in a particular friends house. His mother was a single parent, and an alcoholic, who had little control over her household. Her son would invite a number of us into his house, and we would all smoke Hash in his bedroom, play computer games and listen to musics.
Its not that my mother wouldn’t have been extremely disappointed with me had she found out. She would have been if she knew. I was just good at keeping secrets and being sneaky, so it took a while for her to click on what was happening. I was never the naughtiest child on the estate, there were plenty of examples of kids doing much worse than I, experimenting in much worse drugs and being involved in much worse crimes (breaking into houses or mugging people etc). These people could be scary, and they were always around me. I tried to avoid them, but there was always a link between one friend and one of the scarier individuals who would make having them around you at one point or another an inevitability.
In highschool things also developed towards me being a clown/rebellious type. At this stage in my life I had no concern with religion. I had experienced a number of deaths, and at that point I just felt resentment for having to have gone through the pain that these loses entailed. I was very much a hedonistic atheist. If I could get away with something and it didn’t make me feel uncomfortable or effect my conscience too much, I’d do it. I had no sense that I was being watched by a transcendent power, and not much respect for authority, so why not.
When my dad was alive, he never respected authority either, and I guess this rubbed off on me. In school I would often misbehave and mess about if I was bored or wanted the other kids to think I was funny. I would push certain teachers who annoyed me as far as could to annoy them and try to show them they had less power than they thought. At one point, I annoyed a teacher so much he threw a chair and a book at me. Another time, our entire science class destroyed the classroom. We had a water fight, threw the teachers plants around; some of us even brought in bags of flour just for the occasion. Eventually one of the senior teachers turned up to try regain control, and I wound him up so much that he took me to his office, got in my face, screamed at me till he went blue and demanded that I punch him (I guess so that he had an excuse to hit me back or expel me). But I would just stand there calm with a cocky smile on my face and tell him I’m not an idiot. As it stood, I had only been annoying and collectively disruptive with an entire class, there wasn’t much punishment he could justify other than detention for the whole class.
My teenage years were characterised by this messing around, being cocky, and constantly demanding that anyone who posited themselves as an authority explain themselves comprehensively, while simultaneously being unwilling to engage in any sort of productive conversation. Rather, I usually inclined to being an emotional little twerp, who thought he was clever.
I started working on the weekends around the age of 13, which gave me money to feed my hedonism. I left highschool, went to college and dropped out quickly. I hadn’t managed to get past my dossing stage, and as there was no one forcing me to stay, dropping out seems to have been the inevitable result. Instead I got a job as a waiter, earned money, bought clothes, jewellery, aftershave, weed and computer games etc. My life became increasingly more hedonistic. I thought, naively, success was to be found in having material things, smelling and looking good, and being liked by everyone around me.
It was around this point, where I think the law of diminishing returns began to kick in. The more I returned to this kind of behaviour, the less satisfying it became; and so more effort was required in order to achieve a similar sense of satisfaction as what was felt in the moment of “first experience”. Drug addicts experience something similar. They never get an equivalent feeling to their very first try. Every time they return they need a little bit more in order to make that intense feeling return again. If they stick to the same dosage for too long, it begins to have little effect and so they need to up the dosage. This, however, requires more money, which requires more effort to attain. Eventually such behaviours become unsustainable, and one either evolves into something horrible, crashes, or is forced to reevaluate their behaviour.
But I was blind to the way I was living and how self-destructive it inevitably was. I was heading towards a crash, yet I could not see the danger around the bend. I powered on, committed to this life style.
During my teenage years, I also became a bit of a “social chameleon”. This is a term I use to describe my ability to move from one type of social group to another. I was good at socialising, and had many friends that were very different types of people. I had a group of chav mates that all smoked weed, spoke with an over the top council estate accent, and spent a lot of time hanging around parks getting drunk and being overly boisterous. I also had a group of mates that were “moshers”. We collected and painted small Warhammer models together, and battled them on tabletops. These were very different groups of people, and the types didn’t mix very well. I also had a bunch of older mates who drove cars and would go on long drives together. Again, very different kinds of people from the other two groups.
Each group of people acted a particular way, and in order for me to not stand out too much, I unconsciously acquired the habit of mimicking the patterns of behaviour specific to each group. It came natural to me, and I guess I was able to stay as close to neutral that it did not come across as forced or fake. I essentially had a malleable character. However, if these groups ever came together, if one friend was to meet another, my brain struggled to know how to act exactly. The end result would be that I would not act like I do with either friend group, but rather, I would be on edge and confused. Whether or not this was obvious to my friends, I’m not sure. The best I can come to explaining the experience is like when you’re walking normally, then you walk past someone and become self-conscious that they are watching you walk, and so begin to focus so much on the way you are walking that you forget how to do it naturally. The end result is that you walk like a plonker. A strange feeling indeed.
All of this was to be the seeds of a much larger issue with an identity crisis further down the line, but I will expand on this in part III. I will conclude this part with the following. At the end of this stage I had turned 18, and was officially and “adult”. I was also a fully-fledged consumer, and obsessed with how I looked. I got patterns shaved into my hair with a cut-throat once ever 2 weeks (costing £15 each time), and always listened to music – namely Lil’ Wayne, T-pain, garage music, etc – and memorised all the words to nearly all the songs.
Looking back, I cringe at my old self. A part of me that now seems like a completely different person. More than a decade has passed since this period of my life, and a lot has happened over that time. The transformation I have taken since then is strange to observe; especially when compared to old friends who seem to be stuck in the same old patterns of behaviour, doing the same things we used to do when we were younger. The next two parts of this series are going to take you through that transformation.
I hope you’re enjoying this read so far. Please, if you did, then like the article, subscribe, and leave a comment 🙂 tell me what you think. Your feedback will be greatly appreciated. Am I giving away too much information? Not enough? Have you experienced something similar, or was your life completely different to mine? How does having a little sneak peak into my life make you feel? Do you have any thoughts you would like to share with me? Comment down below and I’ll reply when I have the opportunity. Until then, asalaamu alaikum, and take care.
Regards, a fellow ponderer.