This post is part of the Humans of FI project which tend to be longer than usual.
They are less concerned about the numbers, but more about the the human story which led them to the path of financial independence.
The stories are raw and un-sanitised.
Please contact me if you wish get involved.
Straight to the Point
- Not a *REVEAL* post, but a sensitive one.
- A bit of personal background about me.
- My past, present and future.
On Wednesday, 12th June 1985, in the middle of the night, a husband and wife bundled their eight-month old baby son together with his eight-year old brother into a small wooden fishing boat and escaped a war-torn country.
They had to leave their daughter behind because her grandparents, at the very last second refused to let her go. The parents just didn’t have enough time to convince them to let go of their tight grip. They couldn’t wait any longer. Guards were on patrol and the boat was leaving.
They had already exchanged the little gold and jewellery they had for space on this voyage into the unknown. Postponing the escape was not possible.
The boat was designed to have a maximum of 20 people on board. In the end, 58 souls were crammed in.
The boat set off. No where in particular. Just to get away.
It was better to be in the middle of the ocean than to be oppressed.
Food was running out. Desperate to survive, everyone was in self-preservation mode. Some adults were even stealing what little food and drink was left reserved for the children.
By the third day, food and water had completely ran out.
Luckily, there was a large storm, allowing those with enough strength left to collect rain water. Whilst the storm provided the gift of water, it also meant horrendous sea conditions.
People were throwing up bile from their empty stomachs and too weak from lack of food and diarrhoea to do anything apart from be at the mercy of the waves.
Five large ships were spotted but no one will ever know if these ships saw the little wooden boat or chose to ignore it.
By day eight, on Thursday, 20th June 1985, a large container ship rescued everyone on-board.
On Saturday, 22nd June 1985, all 58 people were taken to land in a new country and placed in a refugee camp.
They spent a total of 10 days at sea.
They were the lucky ones. No one perished this time round.
The baby in the above story was me.
The country we escaped from doesn’t really matter for the purpose of this post, but eventually, it was the UK who accepted our asylum application.
On Monday, 30th September 1985, we arrived in the UK by plane. We’ve never been on one until then.
Having landed, my parents were full of hope for the future. For the first time, they felt free.
UK was to be our new home.
My grandparents attempted to follow with my sister some time later. My parents had told them not to. Arrangements for them to join us in the UK by a much safer method were being made, but as with everything, bureaucracy meant time.
I don’t know the full reasons behind it all but my grandparents decided to face the seas and embark on a similar journey with my sister. Sadly, my sister passed away because they were not rescued in time.
I can only assume my sister missed us so much and might have been putting pressure on my grandparents. It could be that my grandparents couldn’t wait any longer. The reason doesn’t matter.
A few years later, all the paperwork was arranged and my grandparents flew over to the UK to join us.
To this day, we don’t know the full details of how my sister died or where she was buried. My grandparents have since passed away.
My guess is that she was buried at sea and died due to a combination of dehydration and starvation. It is such a painful topic that my parents did not bring it up with my grandparents again, or if they did, they were too upset to talk about it.
I cannot begin to imagine the guilt my grandparents felt and what my parents went through when they received the letter from them informing them of the news.
What I know about my sister is that she was very bright for her age, kind and wanted to become a doctor.
Although I was too young to know her, I think about her a lot.
Growing up, English was not my first language. Our parents discouraged the use of English in the home because they wanted us to to learn our mother-tongue.
I am so grateful for them for this, although I remember being quite negative about it when much younger because it meant I started school not knowing a single word of English.
In fact, I was so far behind, the teachers ignored me and placed me in the back corner of the classroom. Presumably because they did not have the time to give me the extra support I needed.
It was a Roman Catholic School and it was only when a generous Sister saw what was happening and intervened was I able to eventually communicate in English. She gave me one-to-one lessons during school breaks, lunches and after-school.
Today, I think in English most of the time, but strangely sometimes think in my mother-tongue but the words that come out are English. I still struggle with ‘Cockney rhyming slang’; what the hell is that all about!?
To not mention racism would be to avoid an obvious subject.
Yes, I experienced it growing up. This is nothing unusual. What I found strange was that those who made me feel like an outsider were also immigrants themselves, albeit it second or third generation.
Children can be mean and I hold no grudges.
Adults on the other hand should know better, but I have come to accept where differences exist, discrimination will always be present, be it in people’s actions and words, or hidden in their thoughts.
Now an adult, I still experience moments when I don’t feel welcome in this country. Perhaps my job doesn’t help. When some of the criminals I deal with get bored with throwing the usual insults towards Police Officers and see that it does not bother me, they feel compelled to make it more personal by targeting my ethnicity. I find
dickheads grown men (yes, mainly men) making pig noises amusing more than anything.
One time, someone was charged with Racially Aggravated Public Order towards me. The person was arrested for being disorderly in the town after a night out having consumed far too much alcohol.
Not quite happy with their accomplishments that evening in making the town shittier by their mere presence, they decide to throw vile racial insults towards me. I had not experienced such phrases since childhood.
The person was found guilty at court and showed no sign of remorse. They were ordered to pay £40 in compensation to me. I didn’t receive a penny. I now know I could have applied to get the money another way, but why should the tax payer foot the bill?
These experiences are rare, but they do happen. When they do, it sends a sharp reminder to me that I am different and there will always be some who do not want me in this country. However, I don’t let the views of a very small minority dictate my gratitude towards everyone who has open the doors to us when we needed it the most.
One of the reasons I decided to become a Police Officer was to give something back to the country which has been so generous to us. Being a part of the Policing family to help protect the vulnerable and keep the peace has helped to give me a sense of belonging.
However, despite practically growing up here, I’m not sure I call it home. My younger siblings who were born here might have a very different opinion.
Sadly, the country where we escaped from is not home either. The authorities see us as traitors and those who remain see us differently.
Perhaps, home for me is when I am with my family, wherever that may be.
Maybe I will write more about our journey, why we left our motherland and my mission to find our rescuers one day.
So here I am. The result of my parents risking it all and the sacrifices they have made. A combination of hope, luck, miracle and determination to not waste the opportunities that have come my way.
I have a wonderful supporting wife, two beautiful children, loving parents and amazing siblings. I am proud of all that they have achieved.
I have a vocation in Policing and it also provides a stable income.
I passed the promotion process to the rank of Inspector last week, so the extra money will shorten our time to FI. More importantly though, the higher rank gives me the ability to influence wider, hopefully leave a lasting positive impact for however long I have left in the service.
What more could I ask for?
Perspective is everything.
“When I hear people complaining about how terrible things are here, I smile quietly. Those people have no idea how incredibly fortunate we are to live in this beautiful country. I guess you never fully understand this unless you’ve seen another world out there or understood how rich we are today compared to other times in history.” – Ken Okoroafor
At first, I wasn’t quite sure whether to share this personal story. It is far from unique, but I tell it because it has been fundamental in shaping how I think, why FI is important to me and what gives me the determination to pursue it.
Up to know, it has felt like what I have written here was missing a bit of context. Writing it all down like this feels like a weight has been lifted.
For our children, I hope they grow up being grounded. I hope they learn to positively impact the world and the people around them with the knowledge and resources the path to financial independence brings.
This is financial independence from my perspective.
If FIRE is truly what you want to achieve, then finding the fuel to power you through this, at times, arduous journey is vital.
We all have our own stories, struggles and set-backs. We can use it to empower us to achieve greater things or let it sabotage our potential.
As to what I will do once FI? I will save that for a post another time.
For those who know a bit about history and can probably guess where I’m from, I kindly ask that you keep it to yourself for now. There are not many ethnic minority officers, let alone someone with my background. My anonymity gives me the freedom to write more freely. Thank you.