Friday 26th June 2015
Today I turned Twenty Four. It’s a kinda scary age. Scary number. It makes me look back at all the things I’ve done, haven’t done. The things I planned to do but changed my mind about or opportunities I wanted but missed by accident.
Twenty Four. Sigh. At Twenty four my mother got engaged. She got married six months later and had me 8 months after that (I was 8 weeks premature). It was something that was normal to do at the age of 24, 25 years ago. There’s a little inside joke in my family – a coincidence – my Grandmother got married at 24, and had my mother at 25. My mum got married at 24, and had me at 25. I suppose it is inevitable, that now that I’m 24 I’m getting a few jokey nudges that I’ve only got a year left to ‘keep up the family tradition’. While this is simply a joke, it does sting a little bit. Perhaps because it is so ridiculously improbable.
There are a lot of things I thought I would be when I was 24. I found a plan I’d made, about 6 years ago, that mapped out my life for the next 6 years, when I would finish uni, start work, get married, have kids. And obviously none of these things have happened in the way I expected and it seems laughable now that I even thought I could plan this out at 16 and 18 and expect life to happen according to plan. In fact I’m glad it didn’t. Some things happened that were much much better than what I planned. Others surprised me. And even the curved balls have taught me about myself – lessons I’d rather learn at 21 than at 31.
I haven’t blogged in a while because I’ve been distracted by a few things, the main one being my Instagram poetry account which has literally been my life since I started it. It has consumed me in a way I never thought possible and given me so much freedom to make my voice heard, confidence to write about experiences that have been raw and painful, and the support that I am respected for my vulnerability and my talent by this community of writers and readers.
Shameless plug – please check out my poet on facebook.com/anushkabrittopoems or on Instagram anushkabritto
I feel like today on my birthday there have been a lot of things I’ve been reflecting on. Moments that have made me smile, moments that have made me cry.
I’m 24 years old and I have just finished two degrees, two internships, lived in 3 countries. I have had 5 Homes and 4 schools. I have had best friends, and ‘enemies’ (as I plotted my revenge with 5 year old glee), and I have been in love and had my heart broken. There have been times when I thought I would never ever get married and hated the world and thought I couldn’t possibly trust another human being again. But I have always risen again and hoped for a space for that in the future one day. There have been times when I have hated my body, my impulsive spirit, and my quirks. When I literally could not look at myself in the mirror or I avoided looking people in the eye because I felt like they were scrutinizing my body.I think it’s a hard place to grow up in, in today’s world, where women are bombarded with images of what they should look like and ideals that are unreasonable. I for one am sick of the body shaming that women inflict on other women.
Maybe it’s because it’s my birthday that I’ve been so reflective on what I have felt for the last 24 years. I look back at myself as a child, when I didn’t care what I looked like, when my greatest wish was to go out and play, to make islands with ants swimming on leafs on a gravel road. The highlight of my day was not getting caught when we played ‘Monster-Monster’ on the Monkey bars. I didn’t know how people were seen as pretty, or hot. I was vaguely aware that I admired women who looked pretty. My mother had a friend with long black hair who used to come over and I liked touching the soft folds of her skirt. I liked pulling out all my grandmother’s saris and covering myself with colourful see through fabrics. But I never encountered the concept of me being pretty or not pretty or unacceptable. I was a child who picked the scabs off my knees, had short hair because I hated it getting in the way and loved to collect snails, slugs, feathers I found on the ground – oh and different types of bottle caps!
I cannot remember at what point I started questioning whether I was pretty or wanting to be pretty, but I suppose it is inevitable in today’s day and age. I remember moving to New Zealand at the age of eight and realising that other kids found me amusing and feeling embarrassed. I would get excited listening to stories being read out loud in class. I distinctly remember being 8 years old listening to The BFG by Roald Dahl and I hadn’t heard the first half of the story, just the second, and I chimed in with my theories of what it could be,my voice bubbling with excitement, and catching the glances of other children my own age thinking I was such a child. How do children in different countries renounce their childhood at different stages? What determines when you think it’s ‘uncool’ to be excited about a story? I remember pretending I knew how to do karate and doing fake Bruce Lee karate chops in mid air and stopping, self conscious. Because girls my age just played those singing clapping games I had no interest in.
Fast forward 5 years of bad haircuts, being extremely tall, hitting puberty and hating it, and suddenly I had long hair finally, I was in High School and had lost my chubby cheeks. I remember being disappointed that there was no playground at Epsom Girls Grammar. I soon realised I didn’t want to play any more though and maybe that was why they didn’t have one. I played netball, ran fast, and regressed to being a kid again for a while with no boys around. But at sixteen everything changed. I met a boy I thought I loved, and maybe given time I would have realised I didn’t. But our abrupt end, meant that it took me about three years to get over him. During that time I planned. I thought I knew what I wanted. Not just then, but for the rest of my life.
I thought I would finish high school, become a journalist, or a child psychologist, I wasn’t too sure on the finer details – but something rewarding and vaguely artsy. It would be cutting-edge, something that pushed me and had me rushing from scene to scene in this movie reel that was playing in my head. I had it all figured out. When I would graduate, get married, have children, buy a house – the kind of house, kids names, the kind of wedding. My imaginary husband would obviously agree to everything. And I would have this all by the time I was 25. Ha!
At the ripe old age of 24, I can say that none of that is going to happen, and neither do I want it to. It’s funny how my perspective on things has shifted so much in the last 8 years. I no longer want to simply be married, have a decent job, and have children. I want so so much more than that. I will no longer settle for something that is just okay.
I never ever thought I would ever get an internship in a Big 4 company. And that happened. I never ever thought I would be able to move out of home and look after myself and actually be a functioning adult that cooks and cleans and does laundry and pays rent. And I did. I never thought I would have the confidence to know what I want and wait for it, that I would stand by my Indian values for as long as I have and to make choices in my life because I want them, not because of my culture. It is funny how when there is no one forcing you to do something, you realise you want to do it anyway.
From the age of 16 to 22, I had a love hate relationship with my body. I grew up being comfortable in my body and then suddenly I hated it. Overnight almost, I felt like I had to compete with this ideal of what I was meant to look like. I felt insecure about how I looked, the way I acted. I believed what guys said about me, and my personality, and my emotions, way way too easily. I think these are things that need to be said. This is a conversation that is not taking place between teachers, parents, young women, and their peers. I was underweight when I believed I should weigh even less. Now at 24, I am trying to gain back the weight I lost as a sixteen year old who cried, puked, and starved off 8 kgs in 3 months.
Who knew, that I wouldn’t finish my degree at 22, that I would take a year off and go to Melbourne, that I would do not one, but two internships, that I wouldn’t ‘enjoy the freedom and independence of being single’ which was the plan, but that I would meet people who interested me, discovering more about my wants and needs, my quirks and boundaries, than I have in the previous 22 years of my life.
The best decision I ever made was to go to Melbourne for a year. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and my confidence increased in leaps and bounds. I grew comfortable in the body I was in as I met people who respected me for who I am and were attracted to the woman I had become. I became driven, ambitious, and resilient. I may wear my heart on my sleeve, but I think people admire me for that. Travelling to Thailand was another brainwave. I came back from a trip to Tasmania, and decided overnight that I would go to South East Asia, booked a trip to Thailand within the next two days. It was spontaneous. It was impromptu. It was hella unlike me but I needed it. I made friends quickly, did things I have never done before, and ate dubious food with local people at street markets. Everything about that year makes me happy I did it – not least the people I met.
I’ve made a lot of choices I never thought I would, but I hope my sixteen year old self will understand. That there are somethings that mean more to me, than I thought they would. Or maybe that I never met the right person at the right time, and life doesn’t always tick those boxes in the order you want them to. I’ve thought about it long and hard and I realised that my top five priorities are vastly different from what I thought they would be at sixteen. The most important things to me right now are my career, my health (physical and emotional), my writing, travel, and lastly financial security for the future. Funnily enough, a relationship doesn’t even feature in there.
Right now I am 24. I am brave, and resilient, and I love the skin that I’m in. I want to travel, work my ass off so that I’m no longer trading time for money, and live a life that is fulfilling. The most important relationship I will ever have, is with myself. I hope I find a love that is foundational and engaging, one that celebrates our differences and encourages us to be the best version of ourselves and pursue our goals as individuals. And if I don’t? That is absolutely fine, I love myself enough without it. I would love to have children one day, but I know that its not likely to happen in the next 5 years. But I hope that when I do, I’m the kind of mother who shows her children that loving yourself is the most important thing you can do. I know with every cell of my being that I was meant to be a mother. I know I was meant to be a mother in the way that people are called to the priesthood. It’s a vocation. But I know now that to be the best mother I could be, I need to try to be the best human I can be. The best version of myself; for me, for them, for all those who love and support me, and the legacy of my life that I leave behind. I want people to look back and say she loved her life and backed the choices she made with every ounce of self-belief and courage, she loved fiercely and tested the limits of what this world could offer her.