The I in FAMiLY

I appreciate in this recollection of my early days, the awkward spots we all find
ourselves in from time to time because of what’s expected of us – even without our knowledge. The post considers how the acknowledgement of individuality within a family can occur willingly or be shoved down the team’s throat. The telling of my youthful mishaps, as I fell short of the roles to which I was assigned, uncovers how the recognition of the unit can happen smoothly or as a rebellion. But that it is an essential component in the family’s growth nonetheless.

I stumbled upon hints of this revelation earlier in my childhood – even without the full understanding of the weight of the lesson. As the last born in a family unit of four, I’d slowly begun to suspect that I was everyone’s shot at a clean slate. I was a tiny package, my eyes filled with wonder and my ears, a fresh pair. Ever so impressionable, I was a sponge that easily absorbed with very little resistance. What and who my family told me I was – because I knew they had my best interests at heart – were once taken as the Gospel truth.

What follows is a resumé that outlines what I sometimes dismally failed at and the person I still managed to find through what felt usually like trying times:

The confidant
Between Dad and Sestra, a sudden obsession of probing about what Ma had said about the either of them had developed. And I, being none the wiser, would willingly let them in on whatever they had trouble understanding. It was not even an issue back then; they knew I didn’t need much prompting to share. I’d like to think that I can blame this on being a talker, all too keen to engage while uninformed on what keeping a secret really meant. With consistently ashy elbows and an outdated head full of hair ‘growth’ and the occasional booger creeping up on me weekly, maintaining filters and keeping secrets couldn’t have been further from my list of priorities. Full disclosure though, the Sestra was in her teens, a period any younger sibling will only come to understand later as what is both your
older sibling’s steez and uncertainty at their peak. So obviously tensions between her and Ma were running high. She was too cool to keep me in her room. Heck, I would exchange information any the drop of a hat just to get a pass into her room. And by the time the soundtrack of deceit began to sound in the distance, I said I’m sorry Mama…, I would be sitting at the big people’s table, ready to testify.

I realised eventually that my involvement in any smear campaigns never worked out for the better. If anything, I probably evenly distributed the shots fired equally among my family members because I adored all three; was overworked and underdeveloped, and had no idea that I’d been dubbed certain things by three older people who would confide in and seek counsel from a kindergarten graduate.

The tape recorder
As a result of this, I could not critically process nor could I produce the receipts as well as had been expected of me – as I was a tape recorder, at best. I was asked to talk, and I did – just as I had heard. A failure to produce meant picking sides, but so did giving each of them what they had asked for. No one can win once the record’s been played, and neither did I once the real traitors had sold me out.

At times we say we want the truth, but taking it in requires a lot more courage. It’s usually a hard pill to swallow, no matter how necessary the prescription may be.

From The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down : How to be Calm in a Busy World by Haenim Sunim

The inquisitions, no matter their content, no matter the information uncovered all seemed to have one aim and one conclusion – to demonise! At times it felt as if I had to dig really deep to help portray someone as being in the wrong. Was this the aim? – I would ponder in bewilderment. Did you long for a reason to be upset, especially at the person in particular? Why do the questions keep getting harder? Because whatever your intention was, you cannot tell me that your mood has been tremendously altered by the intel from the one guy in the room with Spy Cam and Pathological Liar tatted on their rap sheet.

We subjectively seek the information that supports whichever way we choose to view the world at that point and however it makes us fell at that moment.

From Unlearn: 101 Simple Truths for a Better Life by Humble the Poet

A clean slate
Through the day-to-day life at home, the extent to which everyone around me seemed to be missing some sense of belonging – and was feeling misunderstood while trying to not be so lonely within a place called home – slowly became evident.

The truth bomb
The problem-solver
Having realised that the gift of the gab was an actual thing, that it had an effect on
people’s feelings and that it was something I possessed, I would slowly learn to bite my tongue. Growing up, I got into a lot of trouble for saying things in an impolite way and for generally speaking out of turn, even when I was only unknowingly speaking my mind. As time went by I would learn that it’s especially when you’re telling the truth that you might tick some people off, even those dearest to your heart. This post relays one instance, out of many untold, where I realised how the tongue held the power to create or destroy, but also how the receiver in any message plays a role in the reasoning too. And with this began
a journey of internalising – of learning and adapting to my surroundings. By experiencing a wave of emotions that may have not been too much to feel, but that I remembered needed to be watered down a little so they could go down better, the process was underway.

A sweetheart
No matter the exterior I had developed, I must admit that it involved a lot of resistance within. Sitting the 4 – 8-year-old chatterbox in me down while she constantly insisted on rearing her little head proved to be a challenge. But I had to remind her that beyond being a part of the solution, being appealing seemed to be expected of me too. So if telling the hard truth politely seemed too awkward to manoeuvre, we would maintain the peace with silence instead.

The All-Saver
So many challenges, we faced while clashing because of misallocated roles. Because they are expected to fulfil roles they have little to no experience in all the time, family tends to be pushed to show up for things they don’t remember signing up for more than any other stranger is expected to, simply because of love.

The team player
When our loved ones overlook our individuality, hoping that we will be more invested in growing together, they also miss how we can use it for the betterment of ourselves and the family as a whole. I reckon we are built not only to function, within the family as a support system – be it for the collective or selective individuals within it – but mainly as individuals who make even stronger team players. Once family members are acknowledged as such and allowed to evolve in the safety and comfort of their homes, family units discover a new-found opportunity to collectively perform at a higher optimum level. Only then can we find ourselves better equipped to balance loving ourselves and those around us.

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