We are the generation of children whose parents told us to go to university and get an education. We are told by adults that it will open doors and allow us to have the stability we need to thrive. The thing that I have found through moving overseas for the third time in the past decade is that stability is great and something I also crave – but there is something truly beautiful about feeling. Personally, I find that being somewhere that is not where I grew up paradoxically teaches me more about myself than any degree. I am under no illusion that all of this is only possible with my years of study and sacrifice, but I certainly feel like the moment we are unfettered of the bonds of our cultures and societies we are our true selves.
We find the parts of us that will always be tied to our cultures and families, and the parts of us that are more fluid.
We find the parts of us that will always be tied to our cultures and families, and the parts of us that are more fluid. When I am in Australia I am Australian. I walk barefoot around my house, eat toast for dinner after a long day at work, and look for the best cappuccinos and lattes my Melbourne dollars can afford. I leave work later or make sure I let people know that I am taking work home (essays as I am a teacher of sorts) all to prove that I am living to work. What I find in Italy is that I take the best elements of these habits and give them a European twist: I wear cute little InBlu slippers with mice on them around my apartment, eat grilled vegetables with a generous dash of olive oil and cold meats for dinner, and, before a long-ish day at work, spend half an hour at my local cafe savouring my cappuccino and wholemeal croisstant. I leave work earlier and sashay past the principal with nonchalance because I want a lift home and do not want to be caught on the Metro for an hour. I make sure I make time to read about educational theory again. I do not run into many lessons unprepared anymore. I savour every component of my day.
Do own a house? No! I went to an auction a few years ago and almost boxed in my soul and my life. I was going to live that dream of many that would have been oppressive to my soul at that stage in my life. Some of my friends have bought their first homes and I am super proud of them for meeting the goals they set for themselves. Personally, I could not do both: travel and buy a house. I had not lived with my parents since I was 18 and, therefore, did not save all my adult wages as much as people who had this luxury. Instead, I invested in myself and took a gap year in 2019. It was the best investment I every made. The only thing was that it took me away from that idealistic Aussie dream. The lifestyle I have chosen to lead (for now) comes with compromise (other everyone else’s expectations).
Why do it? In the words of the sagacious Lizzie McGuire: Why not?
My question: Am I Australian? Bloody oath (cue cultural cringe)! Do I hate Italian men leering at me when I walk down the street? Yes! Do I hate the judgement when I order a cappuccino instead of an espresso in the afternoon? Absolutely not. Do I change who I am to live in another place? Not really. I merely shed the part of me that is not necessary. Maybe it is the part I fake in Australia to feel more at home.
A very close friend recently said to me that I need to accept that I am culturally fluid: that is, that I cannot always compartmentalise every part of my identity into separate boxes. Indeed, I am a melting pot of my experiences. That, my friends, is what travel (not tourism) does to your mind.
This year, I am turning 30. That 3 in front of my biological or chronological age changes something according to society. I guess the wisdom that I want is acceptance of myself. It is the greatest 30th present I could receive. Australian? Yes! Culturally fluid? Yes. Accepted it? Almost.