Tell Me Your Story
Suzanne Freyjadis and I can talk for 3-hours straight about our lived experiences. I kid you not when I say that we look different but we're the same. We both love Madeline Albright - the former US secretary of state (how in the world!).
Yesterday, we decided to do this thing called "Tell Me Your Story".
We had just had one of our long yarns where we talked about the cultural differences that we've both experienced and the mind-boggle that often follows. Some of the things that I hear in our globalised world:
Where are you from? I mean, where are you originally from?
You sound Aussie/English but you're not, are you?
You speak really good English!
You're not typical for an Asian/Indian.
It must be your culture (Asian or Indian).
I'm so used to hearing these comments that I half-expect them. Most are actually said with surprise, no sinister intent behind them. I get this from both the east and west. It can feel like "you sound like us but you don't look like us" or the other way around.
When I first hear the 'speak English' comment, I would chuckle. It's truly hilarious as I've been speaking it for all my life. Felt like you were pointing out to me that I was breathing really well. I'd put it down to.. ah you don't know much of Asian history - that's cool. When I'm in the mood, I'd say "Of course, I received a million-dollar world-class education based on the British system. English is the main language" to a deafening silence. Nothing quite feels makes one scream that louder when one has to sit for IELTS in the pathway for their PR in Australia. As I write this, I know it's no different for anyone who crosses the racial or cultural divide either for work, passion, adventure or for love. I digress.
I was explaining to Suzanne that I often feel caught in two worlds when I hear them. Where traditional vs modern/non-traditional thinking exists. One world that finds me aggressive, vocal and caring about too many things that don't bother her and the other that embraces it. Guess which one is which?
There's a part of my life that strives for sameness. Sameness allows us to maintain the integral structure of who & how we are. There's an even bigger part of my life that struggles with maintaining sameness. Way bigger. Because that very sameness has made it less safe for an individual or a for a few in the tribe.
What I saw growing up was sameness didn't help the some who hid in plain sight - the old woman, the abandoned child, the unwed mother or the refugee.
As I've ventured further into the world, I saw that this sameness has negatively affected most of us, way more than we thought or are aware of. They are suffering in silence because we've been trained to not challenge the system, to be content, to settle or to not be bothered as long as it doesn't affect us. It's in poverty, human rights issues, abuse, sexuality, identity, health, civil liberties, power struggles..... pick one.
Our prayers & thoughts just don't cut it, do they?
The more the system demanded that we maintain that structure for sameness, the greater the cost to belonging. That's the price that people pay. Some of us are in, rest are out. How often have you felt like you are on the out?
We have so much indifference and apathy to the crisis of the human spirit where the need for belonging isn't fulfilled. This makes me sad. Very sad and troubled. Sad cause people don't belong and trouble cause it's not I, two or a few of us who can change things. We need more hands.
Thing is - has anyone asked... who created the system and why? And more importantly, what do we change it to become? Or have we unconsciously become complicit because we stopped asking?
I know that when I write something like this, it puts us in a mood that most prefer to stay away from. The uncomfortable discomfort. The propaganda from the "let's be happy crowd because that's what the world needs". Maybe so.. but we've been saying that for more than 20 years now and things haven't only changed, they've gotten worse.
That's why I respond to that bigger part of me that seeks change. It frustrates me and fills me up at the same time. I cannot sit idly by. I fight, with others, to make the difference to change the world in some way or other.
So this is one part of my story.
Tell me your story.
We want to hear your story. Every Wednesday, we will publish some of the stories that we have received. To submit your stories, click this link.