This remarkable essay was written by Adam, a 19-year-old university student in Scotland.
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost
'Will you come into my office.' Those hallowed words that terrified me the most when I was around Ms Smart. She was a giant of a women. She must have stood 8ft tall, without high heels of course. My friends and I believed she hunted hobbits in her spare time because she caused fear in the mind of every child. Even more so to me. Therefore, being invited into the dragon’s layer was not something I wanted to do, even now I would run away. I reluctantly and hesitantly and cautiously and tentatively dragged my legs into her den of detention; her class of confinement; her office of misery and despair. I stood in a militaristic fashion - those six months in the cadets paid off after all. I stood: head high, shoulders straight, legs locked, knees weak and slight tremble.
She said the most shocking phrase. A phrase unheard in the halls of this high school. A phrase even some of my friends still do not believe. Words that still shock me today. However, this phrase would echo throughout my life: ‘My dear.’
She pulled the seat out and asked me to sit down.
I was confused, why was the dragon doing this, treating me like a pet? Was it part of her evil plan? I realise how ridiculous that thought process was. Nonetheless she continued with these ‘strange’ phrases: “Are you comfy?”, “Do you need a drink?”, “How are you feeling?” I was confused, where was the giant, the dragon, the incarcerator?
Blowing dreams into my mind
I had heard these phrases in in children’s stories. I never believed the stories. They were only a creation of Hollywood. I was fantastically wrong. Someone cared about me. Just like the BFG, in the Roald Dahl book, Ms Smart was blowing dreams into my mind. Dreams of someone looking after me. Even if it was this terrifying women. This giant was friendly and caring and gentle and loving and thoughtful and considerate and interested. Interested in me.
She bought my lunch, from the school canteen, and even bought me a little cake - Empire biscuit (my favourite). I was beginning to like the dragon. She was about to lead me down the road less travelled.
I now realise and understand her actions. She wanted to ease my mind, and not worry me about the news she had for me.The Bad news. The Really Bad news. The Horrible Terrible news!
Or was it? It was the best news of my life!
‘I’m sorry, but you’re not going to go home today, you’re going to go stay with different people.’
Where was I going? Who would look after me? How would they look after me? I never asked these questions, although I was shouting them in my mind.
This was going to change my life. I just had no idea how much. I did not speak; I did not move. I did not think. Ms Smart knew this was going to be difficult for me. She wanted me to return to class. To take my mind off this ‘horrible’ day. I do not remember much after being told I was not going back ‘home’. I have never figured out know why I forgot. I only recognise being in a state of shock and anxiety.
I spent the entire day in her lair, reading and doing lots of school work. I needed to take my mind of what had happened. Ms Smart asked me simple questions like: what were my hobbies, what did I do at home, favourite holidays. but these simple questions could not be answered. I had no answer I had no hobbies. I had no life.
Surviving and living are different
I still contemplate how I lived. Surviving and living are very different and I don’t think I lived. It was hard, having no potential to achieve, nothing to show-off for 14 years of life and no one to pick you up when you felt down. We all take our lives for granted, however I underestimate my life, it was an extremely difficult life but it got easier. A lot easier. I was about to take the ‘road less travelled’.
These roads were the escape from no-man’s land. I had lived in the trenches all my life. A constant bullet of hurt. I was used and abused. Uncared and unloved. It was manipulating me like a pawn on a chess board. If the knight captured me then they were not concerned. I now care about how appalling these people were as a family. They were meant to provide love and care.
Foster care was going to change my entire being. The shy, timid, scared, talentless boy was to become a confident, happy, out-going individual (with an amazing sense of humour!).
I was heading down a road that would help me. There is no way a child could comprehend how magnificent this change was going to be. However, I had to take a giant leap of faith. The road would change my life forever and anything was better than the warzone. I should have been scared but I know it was for the best. Five years is a very long time. I travelled across Europe, I met the future King, I made great friends and memories. Thanks to my new family.
Family is something I have never really comprehended. What is a family? Why do we have one? What is really the purpose of a Mum or Dad? Do you really need to see your grandparents every weekend?
Family is “a group consisting of two parents and their children living”. I live with a very kind, thoughtful and caring man. A family does not need to be related. A man who would lead me down a road very much created by his love, as much as my hard work. A family should be a group of people that love and care for each other.
My friends ask me, if I call him, Dad and I say no. He is so much more than that. He is a mum and dad and a family wrapped into one. I do not know what family is but this great man is the closest I will ever get to it.
I remember it all, all of that day, even down to how many pens were on her desk. Did that matter? No. Not a lot did matter up until that day.
I visited my old school three years after I left. It was astonishing. The wall was the same disgusting grey, they had still not fixed the sign, which I may or may not have broken three years previously. All my past was opened up and flashing before my eyes.
Ponder what my life would have been
Then I saw the dragon. She was standing waiting for her next victim to step into the cave. However, age had told me she was no longer hunting hobbits; she was now hunting a promotion. At first, I tried to escape. Yet I was trapped between a gaggle of pre-pubescents and a steel pillar. You could say a rock and hard place. Going into a school being the only one with a blazer on, was never a great idea. So the dragon saw me and she flew over to me.
In a hug.
Why was I being hugged by this scary women? Oh yeah, she helped save my life. If she was not this brilliant, superb and caring women. I would have been left to suffer the worst fate of them all. Nothing. Nothing would have happened. I would not be living this amazing and joyous life. I would not be writing this essay.
Ms Smart, gave me the platform to what I am today. I went back and visited Ms Smart again on my own terms. She loved this essay it made her laugh, cry and ponder what my life might have been like without foster care. I ask you to do the same.
I am confident, outgoing and greatly modest. I am not a boy stuck in the middle of a battlefield. I am a man walking through Flanders field, staring at the poppies wondering how I survived. I have everything I have ever wanted. Happiness. Belonging. Caring.
I would not be who I am without foster care and without Ms Smart.
And that is why I took the road less travelled.