THE FLOELLA BENJAMIN TROPHY 2019: Children are our Future
The winning story
A Monologue from a Child in Care – Boxes and Labels
By Ella Cook
“I know what you see when you look at me.
Though you try to hide it, your frustration, sadness, judgement and pity is reflected in your eyes as you look at me and see the things you’re glad you didn’t have to face. Things you’d rather pretend don’t exist.
Because I’m the living representation of your darkest fears – I’m what happens when love goes wrong, or isn’t strong enough to protect you, and all the world’s evil is let in.
I’ve been battered and bruised, bloodied and betrayed by the hands that should have loved and protected me. I’ve felt pain, loss and fear that should have been banished from my childhood like monsters under the bed.
It’s no wonder I’m damaged goods now.
To you I’m just another troubled child – an unwanted, unlovable problem kid. I’m wasted potential, a catalogue of bad choices and wasted chances, a criminal record waiting to happen.
Abused, unloved and battered, I’ve done everything wrong. I’ve made every stupid, regrettable mistake possible. I am wrong. Autism, ADHD, learning difficulties, disabilities and illness. Depression, schizophrenia, bipolar and addiction. A neat line of ticks in boxes that lay out my flaws for the world to see – meaning you can judge me before we ever meet, tying me up in convenient little labels that let you feel better about giving up on me.
There are so many things wrong with me that I won’t amount to anything – I’ll always fail and remain an unwanted waste of space. Just a benefit claimant waiting to grow up and join the queue. I’ll never be anything, anyone, worthwhile. I’ve heard it so often it’s bound to be true. After all, the odds are stacked against me.
But I’m not alone. Spread across the country I have 100,000 siblings, related by the boxes and labels that allegedly define us.
And I’m more than my boxes and labels, and the history scribbled across my case notes. I’m more than your expectations and misconceived preconceptions.
I’m stronger than you could ever imagine, because the trauma and pain that would have floored you? It hasn’t stopped me yet. Just made me stronger.
I’m not a tick in a box against a list of problems, or any label you can give me. I’m a bright and beautiful gift, waiting for the right person to find me – and offer a helping hand. A chance.
And I’ll seize that chance and explode from your boxes, shredding your damn labels as I soar – unconfined by your ribbons and ties. I’ll blast across the sky, burning golden and bright through your expectations and preconceptions like the sun withering clouds under its power.
Then, maybe you’ll see me for what I truly am.
Beneath your labels and outside of your boxes.
I’m your doctor, kid’s teacher, social worker and nurse. I’m your receptionist, shopkeeper, librarian and hairdresser.
Because I’m more than just a child in care, troubled by my past.
I’m your future. And I’m going to be glorious.”