Pull your head in. You’re being an asshole. Don’t be so smug. You’re so up yourself. It’s all about you. You’re so power hungry. Stop trying to control other people. The list goes on… Being humble is a process of learning and today’s lesson is all about recalling my past and the place’s I’ve come from. The seasonality and how I’ve grown to see myself and others in a different light. So much is going on in my life! With so much happening and a tremendous amount of opportunities popping up, it can be so easy to get caught in the hype of it all. So that is why this reflection is all about getting back to my roots and remembering to whom I have to be grateful for.
Like a Kowhai tree growing yellow in spring. We grow comfortable with the new season, new clothes, with social network exposure, we can live off the reputation that we are doing quite well for ourselves. Well, at least that’s where I’m at. It was never my life goal to be any more than just me, I love being just Mana.
In the last few months so very much has happened for me. I was awarded the civic youth award by my district Mayor, had lunch with the Prime Minister of my country, I spoke in front of hundreds of people, some including Ministers and judges, cycled the length of the North Island of New Zealand and raised thousands of dollars for an organisation that I am now a board trustee of. But before all of this was I somehow a different person?
When I was 14-years-old I was depressed, it was my longest winter. I remember things being grim and I remember my family being split apart after our brother passed away. Our whole family struggled to communicate our feelings for one another, no shit.
My father was a man brought up in a rural New Zealand town called Waimate in a white family not very well off with parents who lived through the depression of the 1930’s. He was born in the baby-booming society, raised in a preconceived environment that believed sexuality and race were either phases or inferiorities. He grew up in a New Zealand that believed in the “harden the fuck up” approach, where men couldn’t communicate their emotions openly, yeah you get where I’m coming from.
He worked very hard to be as understanding as he could be though. He loved all of his kids equally and loved our mum most of all. He had a fairly good idea of who I was and what I was interested in. It was not until after the fact that I became his only son to succeed him that he became a bit more expectant of me to become something.
Not by way of becoming the next Prime Minister but more of an everyday typical New Zealand bloke kind of thing, somebody he could relate to in a way that was convenient for him. To play rugby for the local Moutere club, to sit at the pub while the All Blacks beat France. To get a decent job and start up a family with a wife. But that’s not me. I’m no good at rugby and I never was. Really shit at the damn game and cricket too. Any ball sports, which in New Zealand is essentially all of them, I was better off with my head in the sky looking at the birds. Then there was the relationship stuff…
As a tree, it’s difficult to grow up straight if the people you look up to cast a looming shadow. Ohhhhh, deeeeeep you say. For sure, there is a depth to this little story but when we talk about depression it’s never surface level stuff. In my last blog, we talked about the different kinds of love, the hard kinds and the soft kinds. We identified that fathers and mothers breathe a different kind of love for their kids and for me that was the case. My mum was more accepting of me because she loved me softly whilst my dad was a hardass about doing the chores around the house, not having a job and me not living up to the conventions his parents expected of him. Tough love.
A father who has high expectations that his youngest son will grow to become a man of great strength. When a boy is growing up and is seen as anything less than straight or “conventional” then he is seen as judge-worthy. Especially in this microclimate world of New Zealand where everybody knows everybody who knows somebody that heard about somebody else. You could argue that perhaps I shouldn’t have cared about what others thought of me but we always care about what others think of us and we always care about what we think of ourselves. The cause of my depression I’m pretty sure was down to my own self-doubt that I wouldn’t amount to what my dad expected of me because he didn’t accept me for the person I was growing up to become. He couldn’t communicate how he was feeling and I wasn’t brave enough to challenge that. So nothing changed.
Most people won’t even see the dominant male culture for what it is in this country. Guy’s need to express how they are to know how to communicate how proud they are of their children because if they don’t then the cultural attitude will only ever continue. Our harden up culture has had a huge impact on my relationship with my dad and I’m sure I’m not the only one experiencing this.
After moving down to Christchurch I kind of found myself even more isolated. I’d spent ages trying to establish this small community of mates in Blenheim and to be dropped in the ocean was a real burden for some time. This was as low as I ever got into questioning myself. Wondering if maybe I was bisexual, maybe I was useless at all sports and that maybe my ways of meeting other people were forever disconnected because I was the “weird” kid. The one who didn’t conform, the one who didn’t fit into many boxes, the one other kids couldn’t place. Yes, I am brown. Yes, I have red eyes. Yes, my parents could afford to dress me well and yes other kids judged me because of those things. But to hate myself because I didn’t have the full acceptance of my whole family was the biggest judgement of all.
Then one day I stumbled into this game of dodgeball at school with these dudes I’d never met before. Some of whom were pretty quiet to start off with, others not quiet enough. Turns out I was pretty good at running and I was pretty good at dodging passed all of their tackles and I also really enjoyed playing their games.
Long story short they were the best friends I ever had. Some of which I still talk to nearly every day. I didn’t care what their backgrounds were, I didn’t care about what colour their hair was or what job their parents worked as, I didn’t care about what race they were it didn’t matter to me. I was just so fucking grateful that some amazing people had stumbled across me during a sunny Tuesday lunch break on the top field at school because when you’re isolated in your own head the slightest bit of light changes your life.
I got to meet their families, I got to be apart of their lives. In some cases, ruin their parties with my drunkenness and apologising for my mistakes in jail pretty shortly after. But it all seemed to work out for me and it was because they accepted me and it all came down to a beautiful moment of being humble in the pure fact that they didn’t care what my background was either, they just knew me as Mana and I am forever grateful for that.
They gave me the sticks to grow taller. Much taller. It’s like toughing out the first month of winter and then growing a skin for the cold. Coming to grips with who I was as an individual without the direct relationship of an understanding but a biased father. Getting around those curve balls with the help and advice of friends I’d made playing a game of dodgeball. Winter was slowly lifting for me, and it continued to do so for years after that. So much so that I am now where I am today. In spring.
Coming out of the muck of depression and learning that acceptance doesn’t just come from having amazing parents but it also comes from learning to be humble and opening yourself up to things you’d never thought you’d be good at like dodgeball and stumbling across an amazing group of people you learn to call friends. A community of lads and ladies, all of whom you can still share great banter with.
There is so much I have to be grateful for. It is so easy to get bogged down by all the bull shit, all the nonsense all of the social-political drama especially your own self-image but for me, the only things that glue me together are the many friendships I’ve been so lucky to build and the trust and unwavering acceptance they provide which gives me strength. That it’s not about me being power-hungry so much as it is just another part of me simply just growing up.
Thanks again for checking in.