One of my childhood issues that stayed with me up till my 50s was loneliness..

And being secretive.

In primary school my school district had coping with all the kids my age. So I went to five different school buildings in five different parts of town....and by 5th grade I had no school friends to speak of.

The neighbourhood we lived in had mostly catholic families so my friends were the boys I would see "after school" or on the weekends. Perhaps because I was the eldest child I never spoke up and revealed to my parents how lonely and unhappy I was.

Years later As an adult i asked my youngest brother for his version of our family and the character of each of us. He asserted that because I was quiet no one ever knew what I was thinking or feeling !

By the way....I wanted to post this in a group dealing with "healthy relationships" . This was the only one though that sort of fitted.

Our father moved us from Allentown PA to Pittsbugh PA when I was in 5th grade. There is an autograph book signed by the Catholic kids in my neighbourhood. Larry R, Jimmy, Michael.....I have that saved somewhere. Kept it all these years for there is an innocence and honesty in their words of affection.

In the suburb of Pittsburgh we lived in there were no kids my age. School in 5th grade was again a new building, 6th grade another one and 7th grade a third.

Like a cork bouncing on the ocean waves my life , and that of my two younger brothers, was turbulent. It created resilience....but the other side of the coin was a reluctance to let others get close.

So at the age of 13 my dad moved the family to Switzerland. Before you tell me how lucky we were let me get in first.

Puberty, and living in a country where you can't talk to the kids in the street as a cocktail was turmoil for me. There were no American schools in the town of Lausanne. So we went off to a private Swiss school. My brothers and I struggled academically. After two years of failing I decided ....out of shame (the other kids in my class were now two years younger ) to study as hard as I could. I memorised chapters and studied all the time. Just as I was getting praise at school in that third year Dad came home and announced we were moving to Hong Kong.

Oh **** , I thought !

The airplane from Switzerland to Hong Kong stopped at New Delhi. We disembarked. How naive we were as children the poverty frightened displayed by the actors in the recent British movie "The Exotic Marigold Hotel".

Hong Kong life for the first six months was unreal. We lived in the Hilton Hotel. Ate our meals in restaurants, coffee shops, ad our beds made, our shoes shined. And many people spoke English. And more spoke Mandarin. I was sent off o a private English school , King George V. I sat an entrance test and spent the first two weeks in a class with academically kids. I felt so welcomed.

Then one day the principal approached me and said your test results were misread. We are moving into another class. Well I was moved to a class where all the kids were struggling, and the teachers were going through the motions as far as I could tell.

An amusing story here. At lunch time I played basketball. Now 90% of the school was Chinese boys and girls. This was the first time in my life I encountered so many Asians at once. Well one day in the middle of a game the captain of my time called a timeout. We gathered around him. He turned to me and said, "Bob, why do you keep passing the ball to the other team?"

I replied, "when I get excited you boys all look the same !" You seen we didn't have uniforms, and I was the only western boy playing.

They all laughed. One chap said we know what you mean. Apparently we western faces appear common to children whose primary school years are solely among Chinese !

HollywoodBob HollywoodBob
46-50, M
5 Responses Jan 31, 2013

My sense now is that those experiences taught me self reliance and resilience.

Having said that I spent a few years grieving for my inner child who was harmed emotionally and psychologically.

Thank you for your question PT

Well one day my father asked me I was doing at school. I answered that the teachers were not concerned with my academic progress and I was expecting to fail. Of course I expressed this in the language of a teenager, not the words I am using here. Since this was a private school my father sought to verify my comments.

Six weeks later I was on an airplane heading to an American boarding school in the Phillippines. Once again I was in an alien culture, trying to cope and wondering why everyone else seemed happy yet inside I was lost and lonely.

I finished year 11 there, though in the last week I was hit and knocked out by another boy. I woke up in the infirmary with a sore head. And the next day my parents arrived from Hong Kong.

At the start of year 12 the vice principal asked to see me. I don't know about you but my reaction to authority figures has always been to experience fear. He sat me down and said " well Bob, to get a high school diploma you need 4 years of English And you will only have two. By the way the name of this school was "Brent" and its still there in Baguio City.

Back to my story.

I think I said something like " we'll I am doing honours English, doesn't that help ?" The answer was "No."

He then suggested I do an intensive year 9 and year 10 as well as my normal class load. They even had a teacher lined up to do that. Being a people pleaser I agreed. That was the start of a hectic year.

In addition to the normal class load others had I found I was doing "honours English", "honours French", 9 th grade English and 10 th grade English. It was strange sitting in a class room of 9th graders when you are a senior.....yet the experience was similar to Switzerland where I had failed a year. They all seemed like little kids.

My algebra marks started to slip. And I couldn't keep up with physics. So there adverse consequences.

Somehow I got through with self reliance and determination. But again I never complained. Never told anyone how I was feeling. By age 18 those self taught traits had become automatic.

How do you feel about these experiences now? Stability is very important for children but it doesn't sound like you ever experienced that.

The world isn't stable...all families are dysfunctional.

This is true...

I really enjoyed this story. Thank you for sharing.

I agree :) our lives have been very different. I connect with how you speak about not letting others in, the loneliness and secrecy. I was hoping to see you get around to the healthy relationships bit. I like how you share.

Giggles, great story. That type of childhood has it's ups and downs for sure. But it made you who you are today. Which I am guessing since we just met a very experienced, interesting person. Thanks for sharing.