In BCM311 last week, we were asked to talk about the importance of narratives and stories, and how they help to portray our values. We also discussed the importance of caring for the words of others, particularly when they’re speaking about topics that are close to their heart. This has never been more apparent to me than when I was reading the blog posts of my classmates this week.
Kris Christou’s emotional story about discovering his father had a brain tumour made me cry when I read it. Not just the story itself, although it is tragic. What made me cry was the reaction of Kris’s mother, when she could not believe that the wonderfully uplifting words she had used were her own. Kris’s writing conveys far more than he may have intended about how much he loves and admires his mother for her strength and optimism.
Claire Farquar’s confronting account about family violence and her parents’ divorce was especially shocking for me to read. From my time with her, I’ve come to know Claire as a mostly quiet, sweet and passionate girl; in other words, not someone who has been through a trauma of this magnitude. It changes my impressions of her to hear her speak so openly about her childhood and her father’s issues with alcohol, and it demonstrates an iron strength within her that I have not yet seen.
Reading their stories has helped me to address an incident of my own.
As a white Australian female from a loving middle-class family, I’ve had a very lucky life. I’ve been sheltered from the dangers and injustices of the world. I’ve never had a relative pass away or attended a funeral. I’ve never even broken a bone beyond a chipped elbow.
I think it’s important to state this outright as it helps to put my story into perspective.
When I turned 18, I was excited and nervous about the prospect of being an adult. I did what every new adult does when they finally turn 18 – I went out to a club and got really, really drunk. I danced with my friends, I took shots of tequila, I kissed strangers and sang at the top of my lungs. I was also raped.
Using that word makes it sound so violent, although my reality was different. I didn’t know what to call it at the time; I simply assumed it was what young adults did as part of growing up. I tried to find my friends and tell them that two guys wanted me to come out of the club with them, but they were lost in the sea of people, and I was swept away. It was only when I woke up the next morning, with a sore head and a disgusting feeling in my stomach and legs, that I realised the gravity of the situation.
I never said anything about it at the time because I couldn’t see the point. I was still dealing with depression at the time, and these were some of my darkest months. My thought patterns were skewed. I had flirted first, I had led them on, so I had an obligation to follow through, didn’t I? In my mind, I couldn’t complain because I was at fault.
I still see one of them around campus. Seeing his face makes me feel ill.
In retrospect, I can see how the story has changed over time. Now I can see it for what it truly was and I no longer blame myself for it. I have gravitated away from saying “we were all drunk”, “I didn’t agree, but I didn’t push them away”, and “I don’t want to upset them or ruin their lives”. Not that I know their names.
I can also see how my values have changed. In the past, forgiveness came easily to me. I trusted others easily and I was a big believer in second chances. After a series of events in Year 12 that went against everything I stand for, a deep self-hatred grew within me, fed by my blossoming depression. It could be that my actions were a direct response to how I was feeling; a form of self-punishment as it were.
Forgiving myself for my actions, both in Year 12 and in this incident, have taken many months; years, even. Now I am far less likely to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I am less likely to forgive. But I am more likely to treasure and appreciate those who love me; a double-edged sword of sorts.