Surprisingly, despite me having just moved back to Australia, this post does not pertain to distance, but to time and experience. Since returning home, I have been bombarded with family dinners. And by bombarded, I really only mean two family dinners in two weeks, but when you’ve been away for six years, two dinners in our household can feel a little overwhelming.
What I’ve been struggling with and have been agonising over since returning home is this concept of an experience gap. These interactions with my family have resurfaced many feelings I had confidently buried while being in America. Having been able to move away from home at the fresh age of 18, I was able to grow into my own person without significant familial influence. I was able to think for myself. To see things by myself. To fall and fail by myself. But most importantly, I was able to be myself.
Family, although the intentions are always in the best interest of the individual, can sometimes hamper our growth. The best things that happened to me in America weren’t anything joyous or positive, but the opposite. The best things that happened to me in America were my struggles. I went through fucking hell during my four years in college. And I did it alone. I did it without my family. I did it without a strong friendship group. But it’s because I was alone, and I mean completely alone, that I was allowed to fall. And fall I did. But I also learned to pick myself up. And pick myself up I did. By myself. And there’s something empowering to be said about surviving your darkest days alone because you realise that at the end of the day, you really don’t need anyone.
The beautiful thing about my time in America is that I found people who not only accepted me, but embraced me for who I was. It might have taken me five years, but I found them nonetheless. I’ve alluded to my struggle in former posts about my difficulty with accepting myself and my intensity as it pertains to discussions and conversations. The main reason for that struggle is because the people closest to me, family and ex partners, have talked of my intensity as a flaw. As an edge that needs smoothing. And for years I internalised their words; “There’s something wrong with me. Why can’t I just enjoy talking about superficial nonsense?” And I would try. But any time I tried, my heart felt heavy and my gut sick because I wasn’t being true to myself; I was suppressing my authentic self. And I’ve never been good at that. Shit, even as a server when someone would ask me how my day was, I couldn’t even lie to them about that.
Having struggled with my sexuality for years and the underlying fear of being a disappointment, acceptance became a core value of mine. When I recall individuals who have had the most profound impact on my life, it’s invariably those that accepted me as I was. And that’s one of the reasons I adore my Oma – she embraces me, all of me. Including my at times, very inappropriate gay jokes. And that’s what has been hard about my return home. Throughout my entire life, I have struggled with feeling accepted in my family – I have felt invisible, unseen, and so misunderstood. What I realise though, is that I have spent the majority, actually all of my adult life in another country. What took me five years to establish in America, I am wanting to achieve within the first few weeks of returning home and I know that’s not realistic. My intense nature is wanting to force myself into the lives of my brothers and my parents, people who I have had very little to do with in the past six years. I am trying to bridge a six year experience gap into a few interactions and it’s left me feeling nothing short of miserable and upset.
After interacting with my brothers, I concluded that they were ignorant, sexist, and incredibly sheltered and people that I didn’t want to associate with. Why would I? We have nothing in common other than our genetics. I was judging my brothers for living what I had perceived to have been a very sheltered life – they have never lived outside of Adelaide and to me, never really struggled either. But my cousin called me out on this victim mentality – she stated that I was being judgemental of their experiences and struggles. Just because they haven’t experienced the same adversities as me does not mean they have not struggled. Yes, there is an experience gap, but that’s to be expected when you move away from home for six years. And it’s a gap that can be bridged, but in time. And so she encouraged me to find the common ground, discover what struggles they have been through because if there’s anything true for all humans, it’s that we all struggle. And often times our struggles are the same, just masked and experienced differently.
As for my parents, I know that’s a work-in-progress too. Much like there’s an experience gap with my brothers, there’s a time gap with my parents. We grew up in different worlds, in generations that accepted different things. Some of the most prominent differences between our generations are the presence of technology and the abundance of options. Twenty to thirty years ago, my parent’s generation didn’t have either of these things. Technology, although incredible at what it allows us to do, is changing millennials’ brains. Children today are wired differently than their parents. We’ve grown up surrounded by stimulation; we’re permanently over-stimulated to the point where we get bored watching television. Because of this, our brain seeks novelty. We get bored easily. And that is why it’s unrealistic to talk to this generation about their future or what they want to do for the rest of their lives. These kids, myself included, are just trying to figure out what they want to do a month from now. And I get it, that’s scary to parents because there isn’t that security and stability of career-based employment that they’ve grown up knowing.
But much like we can’t help needing novelty, nor can we help the overwhelming feeling of having choices. Everyone believes that having options is a positive thing, but numerus psychological studies suggest that having options merely breeds dissatisfaction and contempt. I witness this regularly with friends and even my brother the other day – because he is so unsure about what he wants to do, he has done nothing for the past three years. He’s afraid, because of how he’s been conditioned by society, that if he chooses a career, he has to commit to it for the rest of his life. But that’s not realistic anymore. Two years ago he wanted to get into construction, but was discouraged because it’s not something one can physically continue into their 50s. So what?! Because of the demand within Australia, there’s a guarantee of a job after two years of TAFE. And that’s exactly what he could be doing right now, but he’s not. Instead, he’s still doing nothing. Committing to something now doesn’t mean you’re selling your soul to that field. If there’s one thing that’s constant in life it’s change. And it’s never too late to change careers. The worst thing you can do is to do nothing. I live my life guided by what I enjoy doing, and so I encourage others to do the same. If it doesn’t work out? So what?! You’ve now figured out something you don’t want to do which is often just as invaluable as figuring out what you do want to do.
And when it comes to support, sure, it’s great to have it, but it’s not necessary. Because at the end of the day, you have one life. And it’s yours, no one else’s. Fuck whoever doesn’t agree with your choices; you were brought into this world to please no one but yourself. So you can either choose to be the author of your life, or let someone else be the author for you.
I know what I choose.