I survived father hate in a typically male way, I had the privilege of pretending to be one of them, I knew it wasn’t logical. I was told I wasn’t one of them, I had my mother’s face, I was a Mullin through and through, I was stubborn because I wouldn’t bend to his commands, wouldn’t flinch as he lay down the law, wouldn’t be swayed by his superior adult male logic.
I will never be able to let go of these feelings of being an outsider, they are who I am, I can only attempt to stem the survivor guilt in me. When I remember hugging my dad after he’d finished brutalizing or demeaning my mother or brother I feel ashamed. I feel a wrongness that I was oblivious to interpret, a wrong emotional response rather than a vengeful active approach. Now I know how lucky I was, that I knew on some level I wasn’t ready to full on forward attack my dad, at the time I didn’t know there was any other option but loving your dad.
One of my earliest memories is sitting by a river bend after school just sitting and thinking, being, remembering family togetherness building dams on the river, playing poo sticks. I wanted that deeply, I was aware I couldn’t be seen directly, playing with the other kids, but I liked the idea that the adults would have to take time and think to know where I was.
With this came an identity, I heard a pride in my mum’s voice when she told the other mums where she found me, a deep nature boy that one.
I knew she would because whenever there was bedlam at home I would always take myself off outside. I knew how important it was that I didn’t see her cry because I saw it once, or get upset or argue but more than anything, she didn’t want me involved in the drama; to become something I didn’t understand.
Joshua was a resistance fighter, in the trenches telling both parents what they were doing wrong, living the trauma, with two sunburn creased lines between his eyebrows to prove it.
I was a dreamer I liked this new state of being, I distrusted and held onto my words because I saw them used by other people like daggers or simply to pull on heart strings. I must have thought a lot about how words are only used to hurt each other and get one over each other because by the time I was in secondary school I’d been given another personality story to hold onto.
I was like my great granddad I told people, he was a quite honourable man, would say hardly a word, but he always knew when something was at odds, so when he did speak his words had a profound impact on people. I became the listener and solver.
I thought about how small I was in this incomprehensible beautiful universe that I read in stories, I didn’t try much to understand it just admire it. I wanted to mimic its uniqueness, I wanted to be compassionate. I probably started labelling a lot of things, good and bad, normal and extraordinary. I went vegan with this people gave me the identity pacifist.
It wasn’t till the army came to school that I had a chance to practice what I’d learnt. Reading back over my diary at the time I felt a huge responsibility to my friends that they wouldn’t go off and get killed for no good reason. I’ve tried to stay as real to the 15 year old kid who’s newly forming ideas were shaped through the experience of what follows.
I spread my ideas militantly, if they were going to advertise the killing of innocents in my school me and my young cronies were going to disrupt it. I wrote up a petition, confronted every kid in school with this reality. I made a ruckus because I was doing something radical that had never been tried before in the school’s history.
I must have got three quarters of the whole school to sign my little clip board chart, not least because of the rumours that were spread, some of the kids straight out of primary learning about conscription in history class cued up to sign it, expressing a tangible fear.
My betrayal came suddenly, the teacher who invited the army to school flipped out at me, saying I was trying to limit other student’s access to knowledge about the army. I walked away furious, even more committed to stopping them, I schemed with friends how we could lock doors and sit on stage. I thought how an institution committed to educating, expanding minds could let someone go off and kill others half way across the world.
I stubbornly asked all the head of staff each day when the army would be coming to school, all of them told me it hadn’t been scheduled but they’d tell me when they knew, not for a while…
When I walked into the school the next day to find everyone at assembly with teachers keeping a close eye on their forms in rows, I was pissed. I walked in from one side of the hall and surveyed the scene with contemptuous hilarity, down the hall, past the class sitting quietly transfixed on me, ignoring my form teacher’s calls to come sit down, and out the other end.
I sat outside with 4 girls fuming, a teacher came round to ask us back in, I glared back but 3 of us slinked back in. So this was the great resistance effort the 2 of us crumpled down to the floor.
We started talking about how depressing it all was, how powerless the teachers had made everyone feel, people had been scratching their name off the petition for fear of getting punished. We hated everything that was in that room and we threw in a few choice words of our conversation into the hall.
The teachers guarding the doors peered through the curtains at us, they were afraid of us! Aha so they should be! Our beings and ideas were powerful!
The talk ended, the army officer came out and I felt an anger welling up in me, but I had nothing to say to him, the head of department came next, I had a maths lesson with him next but he’d lied to me only yesterday, I had no interest in hearing what he had to teach me. He encouraged me to move, saying it’s finished now, I laughed a laugh that came from the pit of my being, it was just the opposite of how I was feeling, a dramatic change in my being, nothing had come and gone, only feelings inside of me had grown a 1000 fold.
He threatened me with truancy, I learned the best way to get on an adult’s nerves was never to rise to them, never give them any ammunition. I just looked at him. None of the politics needed words, we weren’t going to get one over on each other, we were simply diametrically opposed and I wished the opposite of wanting to be understood by him by engaging him in conversation. I just watched him walk away.
The rest of the day I sat exactly where I was and made paper cranes for peace and talked to anyone and everyone. I was committed to public resistance. Resistance is emotional, beautiful even and I’d crossed a treasonous line with characteristic style. Action would from now and forever be how I wrote my story.
The next few weeks I was in and out of full time detention where I wasn’t even allowed to go to class, I had to be watched carefully to curb my disruptive ways.
I raged against the teachers that had lied to me, but when I was in detention I got my first whiff of privilege, the kids I was in with admired my rage but with a sense of novelty.
I thought they’d understand more than anyone why I was fighting them, but they didn’t, they believed in the system more than anyone, they just got angry sometimes and needed to lash out and so were seen as unpredictable.
For most of them a care worker or teacher were the only people that would believe in them, show them the rails. I knew where the rails were but I wanted to derail them and set a new course.
But I began to hate the idea that I could afford to step off and be an example only to later intelligently articulate a political reason to excuse myself.
Even more entitled than that I had a co-conspirator mother who used her knowledge of childcare regulations to stop me from being expelled and afford me an easier sentence than my new friends who earned their detention by setting off alarms by setting fire to bits of paper and smoking in toilets
I came out of school feeling a strong sense of purpose, that words weren’t necessary in finding my-self, which validated my search for a spiritual interconnectedness based on compassion. Also the people telling you what you should or shouldn’t do can be the worst amoral shits on the planet.
I grew up as an outside, the scouser adopted into a tiny village in a valley in Wales. This moment was the activation of an identity I only knew through the biker friends of my mum and the stories they would tell together that I looked up to. An identity known only to myself that no one could take away from me, and I felt my internal world growing stronger, I felt a sense of purpose, the more active I felt fighting oppression, the more alive I felt. Now I have the privilege of being able to jump into so many struggles without getting burnt out or losing face.
My only limits are when I am being asked to conform to a situation I don’t agree with, in this way I need to stay spontaneous, my inner strength comes from the efficiency by which I can throw myself into a struggle and make gains, I am learning now to transform that into a circular routine of building my bases.
My outer self is a culmination of novelty stories of struggling through hardship and pushing through in pursuit of truth and finding pockets of hope. I need people around me to be open, allow me to tell my story slowly and not restrict my image to something that suits them.
When I’m on the road I’m still that little kid who disassociates, but the game of living with strangers allows me to feel creative. I feel like I need to make connections more strongly; because mutual aid is so important, the entire journey is dependent on other people. When I look at my life I see the journey, my life is about the means by which we make change not the end.