Finding my Roots – TJ Matthews

For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt like an outsider in my own life, searching for a place where I could truly belong. Our society is structured in a way that puts immense pressure on all of us to achieve, succeed, and reach high targets, leaving little room for simply existing.

I grew up in Portsmouth and then moved away from friends to university at Bournemouth, and then moved away again to Luton for my research degree. I’ve never had a place which has felt like home. I often found myself buried under anxiety and struggling with self-worth as I desperately tried to attain a good degree and a high-paying job. This quest for success consumed me, leaving no room for personal connections or self-exploration. A monotonous office job further distanced me from people and from nature, something longed for time to experience more of.

But then, by almost complete accident, I was directed towards Penrose Roots, a sanctuary among the soil.

Everyone treated me as a friend from my first cup of tea here. It’s a place where everyone genuinely wants to be, and the warmth and compassion radiating within the group are palpable. I was encouraged to participate in activities we don’t get encouraged to try daily: gardening, arts, crafts, baking, etc. These activities allowed me to explore different facets of myself. I quickly discovered that there was so much more to me than just my job and academic achievements.

At Penrose Roots, I found a place where every achievement is celebrated and appreciated. I no longer need to measure my worth solely through professional or academic successes. Instead, I’ve discovered that my contributions, however small they may be, are valued by my friends and staff here (though they are one and the same). I have truly found a sense of belonging and acceptance. The love and support I’ve received here have allowed me to grow into a more grounded, confident, and authentic version of myself.

As I continue to nurture these passions and connections, I am grateful for having discovered this oasis in a world that can often feel cold and unforgiving. Had it not been for Penrose Roots, I might have never overcome my mental health crisis last year, gathered the strength to regain control of my life, and successfully completed my university degree to embark on this new chapter of my life.

In the end, finding Penrose Roots has helped me find serenity and myself. And for that, I am forever grateful.

TJ Matthews