Thursday, April 25, 2013

Talking to Family

This morning I went and had coffee with a friend. We were sitting there talking about nothing of consequence when a girl came up to us. It turns out it was a cousin of mine. Conceptually, I know her, but I hadn't seen her in ... years. And she's that age. That age where you still remember her as being knee high to a Nevyn and now she's changed into this full sized human being.

For years, while I was trying to figure out how I fit into things and suffering with depression, there was a certain shame. I didn't really talk about what I was doing. In fact, other than the occasional "hi" and speaking to how my family was, I didn't say anything to extended family.

This gets worse when people come up and talk to you as if they know exactly who you are and what you're about and you just don't recognise them. Their assumption that their values are the same as yours grates and that sense of isolation deepens. Instead, coping mechanisms come into play and you figure out that it's okay - you don't need to know who they are. The same responses seem to work with everyone. A bit like having one of those electronic toys which make different noises depending on the button pressed. It's artificial intelligence. Pick up on key words. Respond appropriately.

There was this weird sense of pride in that I wasn't having one of those moments here.

So she asked me what I'm up to nowadays. Despite all of those things that I'm incredibly proud of, my response was "nothing much".

No mention of Tangleball. Little mention of my involvement with Manaiakalani. Some vague comment about an award. Nothing about the sense of... pride when I meet someone, tell them my name and suddenly they launch into a litany of places they've heard of me from (or quote something from this very same blog). Nothing said about the future and how it's looking fairly good as I get involved in new, albeit, smaller things but with a nice rounded completeness to it. Just nothing... A vagueness...

And I recognise it for what it is. It's the vagueness that I've used for years while I wasn't all that proud of myself and what I hadn't achieved. Those compliments I did get - while at Unitec I was told that I was the most promising programmer in the place (just as I was leaving),  in high school I entered a science competition and when I got back the score, hid it from everyone and then got an award (top 80th percentile or something) for that very same score that I was ashamed for - I always had some sort of excuse out of.

My father, when once asked what I did for a living, launched into this long litany about how I did electronics and then gave up after a year and then went into computers instead of business (like any good Indian boy should've done) and didn't finish that either and went off to Christchurch and got a job but gave that up etc. So it wasn't JUST me. I'm sure there's a message for parents everywhere in there. Our own fears and insecurities that we have about our children are probably felt by the children themselves - these things have an effect.

It gets worse though. She tells me she's a wedding photographer. I've got an interest in photography myself (though I haven't yet been able to justify the purchase of a decent camera. Besides which, there's always the threat of being mistaken for a tourist). But I ask her what she does for the rest of the week... as if taking the photos were the time consuming bit... The walls were definitely up... And I'm feeling ashamed with myself... again.

I've absolutely no doubt that I'll bump into this cousin again. Only next time, I'm going to make a concerted effort, take myself out of my comfort zone, and actually talk to her properly. Not act the vague drunk who is doing "nothing much" (although... that's very rock'n'roll). Perhaps even invite her to sit down and join me and whoever for a coffee...

Update: Have you ever thought you were done with a piece of writing only to find that you suddenly had to change something, alter it, make the wording just a little more perfect (as if a blog post were a piece of poetry). There we go: Segue set up... Watching a TED video to end the night and I came across this poem which I thought fit into that whole "daddy issues" paragraph perfectly (note: it's a excerpt from a TED video).


Update: I'm off to a family funeral tomorrow morning, just a few days after writing this. The writing's fun (it's raw and honest and really does feel like a great piece of writing) . Meanwhile I'm preparing to be in full defensive mode for the day.

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