Half My Life Ago

Do you ever think about the years gone by, the things that happened and how far you’ve come? Well, half my life ago I had just turned seventeen, it was two weeks before Christmas and I was homeless.

You see, my parents had split up the weekend before my GCSEs started the summer before and by the time I started college in September my relationship with my mother had reached breaking point. I was juggling college with a part time job in Woolworths and time with my boyfriend and I just didn’t spend much time at home at all. I didn’t want to – without my dad there it just wasn’t a happy place.

But my mum didn’t like me being in contact with my dad – he wasn’t biologically my dad and even after being in my life since I was two she found his continued presence in my life after their separation really hard to deal with and gave me an ultimatum.

That day in December 2001 I had to choose between staying at home and cutting contact with my dad, or leaving home and maintaining a relationship with him.

That isn’t an easy choice for any child and so it didn’t really feel like a choice at all. So I found myself in my boyfriend’s spare room until I went to Dublin with him and his family for Christmas. It was the loneliest Christmas I have ever had, my first one away from my family home and my first one with separated parents and I knew when I got on the flight back home that I couldn’t stay at my boyfriend’s house anymore, his parents didn’t want it to be a long term solution and so I had to move on.

But where could I go? My dad was living in his parent’s spare room and I didn’t really have any other family to turn to. So I ended up sleeping on friends’ floors for a few weeks whilst still trying to juggle college and work. It got to a point where I just couldn’t go on.

The council wouldn’t help me as I wasn’t a child in their eyes, I was in the 16-18 limbo that thankfully doesn’t exist anymore. So I gave up college and I started working full time, at the same time renting a room in a house that I stayed in until I’d met Dave and we bought our house together in 2006.

Half my life ago I was a mess. I didn’t know how life would turn out. My family had shattered, most of my friends I left behind when I had to leave college and I was thrown into this adult world of working full time and paying rent that I couldn’t really afford.

Looking back I wish my childhood had lasted longer – that I’d had those carefree college years of going out, going on holidays with friends and just enjoying myself. But instead I started to build foundations for my future, moving from Woolworths to the world of banking a couple of years later and taking steps up the corporate ladder.

My childhood ended half my life ago but my life also really began back then too – with so many downs before life started to come back up again. I’m not going to lie – it was a really, incredibly hard time between moving out of home and meeting Dave eighteen long months later. But it’s a time that I learnt from. It helped shape parts of me and it taught me so much. It taught me how little money I could really live on, how far you could stretch money if you needed to and how little food you could exist on. I wouldn’t recognise that 17 year old me if I met her now. Her life was one long day stretched into the next, existing but not living and I was so empty inside.

I’m not writing this as a woe is me post. I am writing this to look back and see how far I have come. Looking back at half my life ago it hardly feels like that was my life at all – I feel so far removed from it and it feels almost like it were someone else living those years.

Looking back I know that given that impossible choice all those years ago I made the right impossible decision and that, despite everything, life has turned out better than I could have ever hoped. If I have taken anything from that time, all those years ago, it’s that I don’t want my children to grow up so soon, so quickly, so suddenly. I want them to go to college or university if they want to. I want them to build lasting friendships and I want them to experience some of life’s freedom before they get tied down to paying bills, rent or a mortgage. All of that really doesn’t need to start at seventeen.

I’m in a good place now. I have a solid home life, two great kids and a job that I could never even have dreamed of back then. But, half my life ago the future was bleak and I think it’s grounding to take a step back every so often, look at your journey and appreciate where life has taken you. Even now life isn’t all rosy. There are tough times – but nowhere near as tough as the times I’ve had. I think my seventeen year old self would be proud of the life I have carved and I need to thank that girl for going through what she did to bring us out the other side. We didn’t do too badly.

Half My Life Ago


  • Donna Wishart

    Donna Wishart is married to Dave and they have two children, Athena (12) and Troy (11). They live in Surrey with their two cats, Fred and George. Once a Bank Manager, Donna has been writing about everything from family finance to days out, travel and her favourite recipes since 2012. Donna is happiest either exploring somewhere new, with her camera in her hand and family by her side or snuggled up with a cat on her lap, reading a book and enjoying a nice cup of tea. She firmly believes that tea and cake can fix most things.

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