Sometimes I feel so small in the world
Like the wind blows and I’ll get swept up in it
And to be taken
So suddenly into the air
To feel weightless and light
Oh, but what a dream it would be.
Sometimes I feel so small in the world
Like the wind blows and I’ll get swept up in it
And to be taken
So suddenly into the air
To feel weightless and light
Oh, but what a dream it would be.
I have lived in Sydney for 6 years now, and while I have not regretted moving here those many years ago, there have been some moments in my time when I have questioned how I have managed to pass a significant portion of my life in such a passive, complacent and limp country like Australia, despite personally harbouring a deep connection with a more vibrant, cultural and inspiring environment.
I recently read some words from D. H. Lawrence, which gave me insight into how I truly feel about Australia.
“This is the most democratic place I have ever been in. And the more I see of democracy, the more I dislike it.”
I found myself agreeing with a lot of Lawrence’s views on Australia, in his letter correspondences that he had with his sister, despite it being written in 1922. So why does it seem like nothing has changed in such a long period of time?
This led me to really think more about why I have such an apathetic view of Australia. I wondered if, somehow in the midst of the many harrowing experiences I have had in Sydney, if this had somehow distorted my views and altered my overall opinion. And then one day, I found a few philanthropic projects that I had enthusiastically started as a student at The University of Sydney, but had subsequently abandoned into the I-will-try-again-another-day pile as it received little traction and interest. I felt saddened that this was a lost passion, something that was more of a distant memory of who I was rather than an active image of who I currently am.
This sudden and stark realisation about myself was not so startling as when I went out to dinner with a few friends and they described me impassively as “the scientist” or “the academic”. I had never aspired to be a scientist and was not pleased to be immediately categorised and pigeon-holed into this confining space; devoid of freedom and stifling even in hypotheticals.
I felt suddenly infuriated that I was not engaging in actively doing more to help the many people in the world who were suffering from poverty, disease, failed governments and unemployment. I had fallen victim to my once greatest criticism of others who I observed around me: I had lost myself in the myriad of quotidian toils and had allowed everyday worries to overwhelm my life. It felt as if I had lost it all: the many years spent cultivating my independent views and opinions, and my diligent collection of the many worldly vices that were anathema to me. So in a desperate attempt to rectify this passing label of “the scientist”, I clambered to speak about my youth, a reminder to myself and to the new people who had entered my life, that I was more caring and compassionate at one point in my life. However, it failed to have the impact that I was hoping for. Instead, I felt like a fraud.
So I thought deeper about myself and who I am. “Who am I?” I asked myself. I realised that, while the course of my life was my decision, I was not the only one to blame for my predicament. Australia has long since been moving towards a more conservative society, engaged less and less in international aid and philanthropy. This was significantly different to the culture I am most familiar with in South Africa, where caring for our fellow kindred and the concept of ubuntu are underlying cultural attitudes.
I feel like over and above feeling foreigner, there is a deeper underlying sense of cultural disconnect between Australia and myself. It is not just the recent changes to citizenship laws in Australia which has made me feel foreigner, nor the casual racism towards Asians (and other foreigners) in general, but the far right wing opinion of extreme politicians like Pauline Hanson, Australia’s insouciant attitude to international aid and philanthropy, the lack of- and dwindling engagement of Australia in helping refugees, that causes a major rift between my own values and the values of the country in which I reside. I am reminded again of a quote from D. H. Lawrence in his experience with Australia:
“I have never felt such a foreigner to any people in all my life as I do to these. An absolute foreigner, and I haven’t one single thing to say to them.”
These matters of international concern are dear to my heart, and something that I feel so passionately about and I think when you are shrouded in a society entrenched in complacency, and a casual lack of concern for fellow humanity, it makes it challenging to constantly remind yourself of who you are and what you want to stand for.
Friendship between two people is a special relationship that offers insight, reflection, joy, connection and love. For most individuals, it is through friendship that we ultimately reflect on everything around us, make sense of it and allow us the opportunity to grow into ourselves. A life without friendship is more challenging, less enjoyable and ultimately less fulfilling.
Humans are complex people and friends are the people who care enough about you and your life to offer you that much needed discussion to bring greater understanding and clarity on your life. Friends will call you to ask for updates on your life and discuss the upcoming big decisions. Big decisions can be anything that significantly alters your daily routine, or changes your physical environments. Through this, we offer our account of what is happening in our lives and they allow you to openly discuss in a non-judgemental environment your thoughts and feelings. Once we express these thoughts and feelings openly, we are better able to map out where we might have gone wrong in our understanding and therefore gain a better understanding on our decisions. Armed with this greater understanding and clarity, we are able to reflect and maximise on our learning.
Not only so, friends simultaneously offer a true account on what they are going through and through this vicarious living experience, we learn their lessons too. This means that when in future, we are faced with similar challenges, we are better equipped to handle and deal with them. This is due to the power of the human imagination, which allows us to empathise and understand complex situations, despite not going through these experiences ourselves. We imagine ourselves in their positions and living their lives and encountering their challenges. Therefore, we not only learn our lessons but gain insight into their lessons too.
It is through friends that we also gain a different opinion and perspective on life, or on our personal decisions. This candid information can sometimes offer us alternative options that we might not have thought of ourselves. These options can make us feel calmer, and sometimes, they are better than our own. Other times, while our friends may not have solutions, they can contextualise our problems in the greater scheme of the world. Through this we realise that what seems to be a big deal, is really much smaller than we originally thought. This is often due to the fact that our emotions are often heightened in the situation when we are going through it.
Friendship can make us laugh and allows us to enjoy the process of life rather than worry and stress about it. Friends remind us of our best qualities and know exactly how to cheer us up. Without friendship, life can be significantly more challenging and a lot less enjoyable.
I have spent a lot more time recently posting on more serious issues such as mental illness and bullying. This is not to detract from my more personal posts, but rather to offer my readers a variety read as these articles are bits and pieces of my work that I have been doing recently. I feel like these are common issues that many of us face but spend little time discussing. If not just an interesting read, I am hoping that it serves as a conversation starter the next time you are out at an intellectual discussion dinner.
Speaking of dinners, I have been thinking of hosting a few dinner parties in my house soon. There is a lot of preparation that I would like to do before hosting such an event but I am hoping to get things running as of the latter half of this year and next. In the meantime, I am brainstorming a few dinner party ideas and perhaps considering the setting and what food to serve. This idea was originally inspired by “salons”, which were intellectual dinner parties my boyfriend’s friend had initiated here in Sydney. While not wildly popular, I think there is a greater market for these types of dinner parties as a new movement to meeting new like minded people. Through these intellectual dinners, I was able to explore a wide range of topics and ideas. I think the concept could be extended further into a personal exploration of the people in the room. Often, dinners would end and I was left feeling like I knew everyone’s deepest and darkest secrets and yet I knew them so little as people. Perhaps, this idea can grow into some camp or “intellectual retreat” for all those people out there who are looking to meet their fellow nerds.
In the meantime however, I am working on a personal project to document the memories I have had throughout my life. This has been technically challenging but I would encourage you to give it a go have you the time to do something like this is your life. You will learn so much about yourself and its funny how you can sound so different on paper than you feel you are as a person.
To my new readers, I wanted to extend a personal thank you for your follows and for staying up to date with my blog. Every single follow is so special to me as I feel a sense of connection with the rest of society.
Please share any ideas or comments on this if you have any. Happy Friday!
Bullying has become increasingly more common in schools with greater platforms for bullying available today. The effects of bullying a young child are long term and can manifest in a number of ways.
Bullying can stem from a number of factors. Children can be targeted for what they look like, their ethnic background, their family’s financial background, their intelligence, their choice of clothing or their behaviour. Bullying often presents in the form of verbal or physical abuse. These attacks, while not permanent, have a greater psychological impact. Sufferers of bullying tend to develop psychological trauma following prolonged bullying.
This psychological trauma can lead to the child repeating scenes in their head. They initially try to gain a better understanding of why they are being targeted. Some children may be afraid to tell someone about being bullied. Others may choose to tell their parents but the parents may dismiss or ignore their concerns. However, without the correct support, children often lack the understanding and instead focus on developing defence mechanisms to tackle bullying.
As a result, children who suffer from bullying can behave anxiously, defensively or negatively. They can develop insecurities and project a negative expectation of their peers. Without appropriate explanation, they can be seen as difficult children and may be bullied even more.
This ultimately creates a negative cycle. Children are not only replaying bullying episodes in their head, but they are also being bullied as a result of their responsive behaviour. Overtime, even if bullying stops, the effects of bullying remain. In some cases it may even lead to their children adopting their behaviour and getting bullied. This is a vicious, never ending cycle that can ultimately lead some to depression and sometimes, suicide.
Bullying should not be ignored, particularly in those young and vulnerable children who are so impressionable. The long term effects of bullying are severe and can lead to more serious conditions such as depression and sometimes suicide.
It is important to live a life without regret and without the need to have regrets. Gossiping can be extremely detrimental to happiness and the well being of not only victims, but also the perpetrators. I knew little of the negative effects of gossiping until I fell victim to it and I vowed never, to subject anyone else to the same maltreatment.
He was intelligent, motivated and superficially friendly, all seemingly great qualities to have for a successful professional career. He wanted to get to the top, with the least amount of effort and it did not matter who he trumped along the way, including me. I came into the scene, rather naive about personalities in a professional setting. We were of the same rank then. This bothered him the most, and when he realised that he could not defeat me in the same race, he decided to find a new tactic to win. I knew he was a big gossip, but I never let this affect me. When he came to me to gossip, I would reply with rather neutral responses, with the hope that a demonstration on appropriate behaviour might inspire the same in him. I was not prepared to do whatever it took to come out on top, I was determined to retain my dignity and pride, no matter what it took.
This was an interesting relationship that we juggled like a hot potato. Back and forth we would test each other. I pushed back when necessary, trying to maintain the neutrality while preserving my moral dignity. This became more challenging overtime since my reservations to engage in regular gossiping sessions became more evident.
Over the next few months, it became more obvious that his behaviour stemmed from a host of underlying insecurities that he harboured from his childhood. Often, what scars and haunts us when we are younger, we work to protect ourselves from when we are older. He was mistreated as a child, ignored by his two disagreeable parents facing the prospect of divorce and domestic violence.
A thought occurred to me at one point that whoever gossips is likely to gossip about me too. I realised then, that sometimes, people would speak to me with a bit too much interest, as if I had gossiped to them in the past. I made an effort to try not to talk to too many people about my private life to avoid being the talk of the town. I felt more distanced as a result, lonely and isolated. The pressure of continuously being careful of not sharing too much information became physically and mentally exhausting. The mental challenge of resisting gossip became increasingly more difficult. I had seen a friend being bullied through the negative effects of gossiping. While I addressed the immediate effects of this incident, there was little I could do the change the overall culture. So overtime, I grew more unpleasant and less tolerant and as a result, I was short tempered. I suffered mentally from depression and anxiety and this impacted my overall happiness as I brought this home with me. Eventually I had to seek help for my condition.
The price we pay for immediate satisfaction of bullying those around us through gossiping about them behind their backs, can have detrimental, long lasting effects on them. These are easy for the perpetrator to forget but prolonged exposure to these negative effects can cultivate a toxic and harmful environment.
Physical punishment for wrong doings is an ancient practice. While this practise has stood the test of time, there are some flaws to the practice which have become more apparent with time. An apparent lack of rehabilitation for offenders leads to the rise in repeat offenders. The vicious cycle leads to the decline in the effectiveness of physical punishment despite its growing popularity in more right wing societies.
We often hear of the medieval stories of kings and rulers summoning their enemies or betrayers to a few lashings for misbehaving or committing a crime. This practice has evolved little since then. Today, parents still flog their children when they are disobedient. Likewise, political authorities punish offenders through physical abuse, incarceration or execution.
Corporal punishment serves to punish people for their wrong doings but fails to explain why their activity was seen as unlawful in the eyes of the law. Prolonged punishment with failure of explanation can lead to detrimental effects. A similar pattern is seen with disciplining young children. Discipline in the form of physically abusing children is still practiced today. The idea behind this practice is to subject the child to physical abuse when they have failed to comply with parental or house rules. This form of punishment is intended to teach the child that what they did was wrong and to make it clear that they are expected to follow rules of the house. However, the key step in this practice is to make it clear to the child after the punishment exactly why they are being punished. This final step, if forgotten, negates the effects of abusing the child. Continued failure to explain why the child is being punished can have negative impacts on the child. The physical abuse can be traumatic for the child and mentally scar the child for their entire lifetime. The child can begin to associate trying new things with possibly making a mistake and getting physically punished for making wrong choices. They will fail to learn why what they did was so wrong. In addition, they will grow accustomed to the punishment and not be able to predict when they have been wrong, so instead, they will become withdrawn, or in some cases, extremely careless and reckless.
The same can be said about the state exercising its political authority – using violence against their citizens. Punishment in the form of prison should be reserved only as a means to physically contain the dangerous offenders, so as to protect greater society. But the government should not be involved in torturing or harming prisoners in this process. As an example, the government of Indonesia recently gave out lashings to two homosexuals for engaging in sexual activity. This retrograde action not only reflects badly on the government, but does not explain nor justify why violence is necessary in this particular circumstance.
Prisons should offer a safe place to rehabilitate offenders. However, petty crime offenders, particularly juvenile prisoners, should be rehabilitated while in prison and allowed a second chance at life, especially if they show clear improvement in their behaviour.
The idea that we can beat the bad out of offenders has proven wrong. It merely instills fear, leading them to retaliate later on in life in bigger crimes. This response stems from a lack of understanding on why they are being punished, leading some offenders to think that they deserve the punishment, or sometimes that this is just the life they have been handed. The key lesson lies in explaining why the act was wrong rather than in the act of punishment itself. Based on this logic, we should aim not to merely punish offenders but explain why their actions were wrong. Rehabilitation in correctional facilities thus serves as a platform to teach good and to demonstrate the right way to act.
Prisoners subjected to corporal punishment without appropriate rehabilitation are likely re-offenders. This is due to their inability to decipher wrong from right. These offenders, who sometimes have been deprived on a good upbringing, expect punishment and life feels more like a probability game. Offenders lack confidence in their abilities to become good citizens because they lose hope in improving their life circumstance. This trend is evident in juvenile facilities worldwide.
The role of parents as well as political authorities is to teach what is correct behaviour, not to punish. Corporal punishment as a practice without rehabilitation serves little purpose in society.
Division of labour was created to hero every man’s greatest talents in an efficient and orderly manner. However, these intended effects have backfired and instead, we have become a race of unhappy machines obsessed with output and efficiency. To say we have fallen short of our goal is an understatement.
Division of labour causes segregation in society by promoting direct conflict between individuals. Individuals in brtter regarded streams of specialised occupations look down on their peers in less well regarded job streams. Likewise, those in the less well regarded job streams feel ashamed of their chosen occupation and become defensive about their choice in career. We become individual competitors in a race to achieve those “better” job streams so we can be the most well-regarded in society. This false sense of competition, focusing on individual success, has resulted in “a war of every man against every man” as Hobbes once said. We see our peers no longer as peers but rather as competitors. To worsen things, the idea of the individual has transcended beyond the boundaries of just their company, and has become a way of interacting in society. We fail to see our fellow man as a human but instead, we picture them with a resume attached to their face, listing their job titles.
Additional conflict arises from making the wrong career choices. When we graduate and realise that the degree we have chosen is not the occupation we would like to pursue, we are conflicted within and shunned by our peers. Not going down a specialist path is seen as being ‘lost,’ ‘confused’ or lazy in the eyes of society. This tends to make the individual feel less connected with their peers and more alone when facing career challenges. As a result, we are often punished for making bad career choices. Cross disciplinary movement between fields is discouraged through arbitrary parameters such as testing and obtaining qualifications which are both time consuming and expensive. This makes it harder for the individual to change careers and works to maintain the structure of divided occupations.
Despite Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to stress that “all men are equal”, our actions have failed to reflect this ideology. People are left feeling like their choice in occupation defines their class in society.
A good example would be entry into medical school. For professionals seeking to make a career change into medicine, candidates are required to sit an extremely time consuming and expensive assessment exam, which only occurs twice a year in limited locations. As a result of the high costs and the large amount of time required to sit this test, most people do not follow their passions in medicine and instead, they remain within their initial disciplines and become increasingly unhappy and dissatisfied. The idea of a career change later in life is not common and people deem it as “too late”. This segregation in societies ultimately leads to conflict both within ourselves and with other people.
In an attempt to combat worker dissatisfaction, a larger number of jobs have been created to satisfy the individual’s need to have a niche. Despite these efforts, all it has done is create such an abundance of jobs so as to make it confusing to those entering the employment system. There is not enough time in a lifetime to test the various careers out and so we end up settling for a specialty that doesn’t suit us.
We have evolved to become more like machines in the system, devoid of thought, and without passion but with greater output than every before. Ultimately, we choose money and success over passion and a life. We have failed to hero man’s greatest ability which is the capacity to imagine, think and feel compassion.
Division of labour and specialisation was not designed with ill intention. Instead, it was designed to allow the individual freedom to pick exactly their own interest and pursue their dreams. But this dream was not achieved, it has instead created a segregated society, competition and a decreased sense of unity in a new, barbaric age.
Travelling internationally to pursue a better tertiary education experience is growing in popularity. There are many benefits such as personal development and the chance to create a stand-out profile and resume that differs you from your peers. Travelling internationally for a university experience prepares you better than studying locally, and makes you better equipped for paving your path to success.
One of the greatest benefits of travelling internationally as a student, is that you are presented with an opportunity to explore yourself as a person, learn more about how you react in challenging situations and invest in personal development. This process of personal development is facilitated by travelling opportunities, the constant exposure to a wide range of cultures, languages and foreign practices, as well as the spate of challenges which you would unlikely face studying locally. When I moved to Australia in February 2011, the challenges began as soon as I stepped out of my front door. It was the first time that I had caught a plane alone and the daunting task of arriving in a large airport, and navigating the routine procedures, was overwhelming as a young traveller. From exchanging money at the airport, to ordering and paying for a meal, the basic tasks seemed to be so foreign. This trend continued when I arrived in Australia, with transport, navigation, establishing my own bank account and mobile number all posing the same challenges. I learnt a lot about myself in the process and my continued willpower to overcome extremely stressful situations and hardships has continued to surprise me.
A second benefit of studying internationally is increased employability. When the time had come, I graduated with my hard earned combined degree in Engineering and Medical Science. I found interviewing for jobs arduous and generally boring, with prescription answers a norm to the host of uninspired employer questions. However, I found that my brave move to Australia was paying off. In general, employers favour candidates with greater general knowledge, as it aids in creating a friendlier and more co-operative workplace. In interviews, I had life evidence to prove my success, paralleled with my academic success. I followed the seasoned advice of “fake it until you make it”. This experience made me stand out, and I was as a result, more employable overall.
My time abroad has certainly not been without many tears of both laughter and sadness. I have pushed myself to my limits and have not regretted any step along the way. Despite the hardships faced, such as financial pressure, making tough decisions, high pressure for success, these skills are indispensable to face the challenges of the real world.
While it may seem conflicting as to whether the challenges are worth the effort, studying abroad as an international student is an experience like none other, with benefits far outweighing the costs.
So, I decided to have a read around for some morning stimulation and came across “Chips*, Here Come the Chinese” by susanhayden. Have a read of her work, please!! I felt so moved by her work that I decided to respond in a blog post rather than just a comment since I have a lot (obviously) to say on the topic.
I’m a South African born Chinese who now lives abroad. It’s funny, I feel more South African in a general sense and Susan, you’re not alone in understanding where my family comes from but you definitely are a minority in South Africa. You remind me of some of my closest friends who all were from South Africa and some have stayed and others have moved to various other countries. You get it. You should be proud of the South African that you are and that you present to the world because this is why I love South Africa so much and the people in it.
I’ve experienced a lot of racism growing up (esp when that woh shee Japanese drinking ad came out on TV a few years back in SA), however, after high school, I moved abroad and still experienced racism wherever I went, even in Hong Kong (which seems odd but since I didn’t speak Cantonese I immediately was seen as “other”). I realised quickly that racism is everywhere. My roots are something I’m proud of (both being Chinese and being South African) but I feel more South African than I do Chinese (I’m second generation and and while my family have not stayed in South Africa for more than 150 years, I have stayed there my whole life until I moved obviously). I try learn the Chinese customs and the language but since I’ve only really ever spent a few holidays there, it’s hard to be and feel truly Chinese. On the same note, it’s so hard to be South African when every day I lived there, I returned home to a microcosm of a China filled with a South Eastern Chinese dialect, the local foods, traditional celebrations, life principles, stories and the life lessons like work hard, respect the elders, do good for the world). This cycle can go back and forth… But that’s the point.
My world has thus become the rainbow nation that South Africa speaks of. I relate to people based on their experiences of the world and what opinions they have which are racially and ethnically independent. Of course, we are all influenced by where we come from and where we go, but we are more than that, we are all people and we are the life lessons and morals and principles which we develop as we go on through life.
In a greater sense, I think globalisation and it’s effects are starting to become more obvious. This is evident more so outside South Africa where nations like Australia have greater than 50% of their population made up of migrants. It’s pretty hard to meet an Australian who has had a few generations of their family here. Most people I’ve come across are Australians with migrant parents. So they’re similar to me. “Halfies” as in, children born to parents each from a different ethnic background, are so common. It’s not even a novelty, while just a few years back, I only knew of 3 on South Africa.
There are often times in my life which I feel like I don’t fit anywhere. Everywhere I go, I am asked where I’m from because I sound one way, look another but live somewhere else. I speak English, Chinese and Afrikaans. Life would definitely be much easier if I was Caucasian for this respect (and this is where the inherent unspoken racism inches it’s way into this topic). I’ve also met a Danish guy who told me he’s born and bred Danish and that he’s so proud to be from Denmark. I felt jealous when he told me that, like I couldn’t have something he’s had – a feeling I missed out on. But I also think that I’ve got something that he and no-one else will ever have, and that’s the life that I have led and choose to lead.
I’ve since come to accept that I belong to the world and not to any particular country. Once you see the world like that, I think it’s easy to understand culture and not feel so threatened by migrants. I’ve come to see South Africa and China as merely places that I have some relation to and places that hold a special place in my heart for the time and life experience I’ve had there rather than an indefinitely special place that I will advocate for. I value the people that impact and influence my life, more so than the patriotic stuff that I used to care about.
You are so correct, that migrants have a hard life. I’m living as a migrant but really, my life was made significantly easier because my parents have done the hardship for me. It was only a few nice South Africans that have made their journey more pleasant along the way. But you are right, this sadness and deep hardship is not the sole point to a migrants story, the food you speak of, in addition to a whole host of things like the culture, the sharing, and mostly the gaining of a perspective of life is truly what makes the migrant life beautiful and what we should celebrate. Isn’t the world nicer when we’re all too busy having a party together anyway?
Thanks for the blog post, Susan. Your work is amazing. Keep it rolling in 🙂 and, nice to e-meet you!