My Life Is Not Mine

All my life, I’ve been surrounded by loving members of my family who have done everything within their power to keep me clothed, fed and educated. I have been nurtured into adulthood, receiving everything in exchange for loyalty to the family and obedience. I followed the rules as much as I could and obeyed, the quintessential child.

90s Baby

I tried as a teenager to obey but I was a little too strong willed. I enjoyed getting calls from my male classmates, I enjoyed the concept of trash talking, I wasn’t fond of copying my notes. I also stopped wanting to obey because “Mommy said so”. I wanted to know why and what the negative consequences were for not doing or doing things contrary to the edicts laid down for me to follow but the more I resisted, the harsher the punishments I received.

Growing up, my mum always stressed on the fact that anything I do would either bring shame or pride to the family so I have to be mindful of the perception people have of me. To a Catholic girl growing up with nosy neighbours and church friends around, this pretty much meant I had to toe the line or lose everything I had — the respect that came with my name.

With time, I became a sneaky person, selecting my words and masking my true intentions. Sex was a taboo topic and I was slowly discovering my sexuality. I couldn’t talk about the budding emotions I felt with my family but I didn’t have a group of girlfriends my age I could talk about these things with. Soon I was bundled up and sent off to boarding school because I was developing an attitude problem.

I read a lot more, slowly chipping away at the fundamentals church and home had set up in me, realising things for myself. The knowledge that my personal values were almost at direct odds with that of my family was very depressing and I didn’t know how to be true to myself while remaining obedient to my family. I slowly came to resent the time I spent at home, praying for resumption so I could leave and become myself.

I’ve always hated how outdated societal norms and toxic patriarchy have influenced what is deemed shameful and what isn’t. I’ve always wanted to do me and damn the odds but ever so often, I get reminded that I’m only where I am because of the sacrifices of my family and I don’t represent myself alone. My life isn’t mine alone and I need to be mindful of that.

I’m nearly 22 and I feel stifled by my half-life. Maybe in time, I’d find a balance without feeling like I have betrayed myself or my family. Maybe I’d have been better off if I had more room to grow into myself and make my mistakes without the subconscious manipulation to keep me in line. Maybe.