Thursday, August 16, 2012

Family Matters

Establishing Independence

Your Choice, Your Voice

Me with my parents- family vacation last summer-
"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family.  Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. " 

- Jane Howard

I started this entry in a different way- with a quote. And I don't plan to define or analyze it at length. I just felt the need to share this statement with you for the fear that the following words may inaccurately communicate how I feel about family more specifically my family. Whatever or whoever you consider your family- blood relatives, old friends, a house full of cats- they are important for they are always there for us and keep us upright when we are unable to support ourselves. The key element that creates a family is love. So much of the time we don't interpret our family's actions as loving or an argument as productive but at the end of the day we need them and they need us. The unconditional love that a family provides, whether it's a traditional family or not, is irreplaceable and creates a niche of safety from the chaos and cruelty of the world.

Nothing beats blogging poolside!
Currently I'm at a new location for me- poolside in Bermuda. I welcome this vacation as a relaxing break from my day-to-day routine, the hustle and bustle of the city, the non-stop work that I experience while taking classes. However with all the good vacation brings comes challenges and frustrations that I don't encounter when I am living life on my own. As the youngest child and only daughter I am extremely protected by all members of my nuclear family. Sometimes it's welcome and even warranted but at other times it becomes aggravating and even adds to my level of stress. My dad will try and tell me what to eat- reading and suggesting menu items as if I can't read them myself. My mother watches like a hawk as a pour a second glass of wine or order a cocktail even demanding that I ask her permission at times. And my brother judges my smoking habit, criticizing it and me, resulting in further self-loathing and insecurity. It is at these times when I long to establish a sense of independence within my family. I may be the youngest and may not be perfectly healthy but I am nearly 23 years old and have lived on my own for extended periods of time. Occasionally I'll exclaim "I've been living on my own for months  now and guess what...I am still alive!" When we feel like we are receiving unwanted direction or being controlled by those around us we must speak up and use our voice, make our own choices and subsequently our on mistakes sometimes, and establish our independence. Whether it is among family or friends we need to assert ourselves, tell me what we need and what we don't, what is helpful and what is hurtful, and hope that they listen to and respect our requests. I understand that this advice, these watchful eyes, and protective measures come from a place of love. I respect that they want to help and care for me. But now it is time for me to be independent and care for myself. I'd like to share a couple quotes with you about establishing independence and speaking up on behalf of yourself. The first quote is from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre-

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” 

- Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Goldfish asserts his indepedence!
I love finding useful quotes from works of literature or an era long passed. This quote is still relevant even in the 21st century with it's female declaring independence from the world that works to confine or trap her. This is how I feel in my family at the moment. I am define as the youngest, the girl, the sick one, the weaker child or child that needs help but I want to fight all these definitions. I want to establish a different identity from myself- the creative thinker, the successful Penn student, the fashionista, one with a distinct point of view. My family sees all these elements in me but I am not sure that they are the first things that come to my mind when they think of their only daughter. I am an individual with my own voice and power to make my own choices for my life. Whether it's a big or small decision- what I'll eat for dinner, how many courses I'll take next semester, if I'll purchase a kitten- these choices are mine and I have been trying to use my voice to assert my independence and establish myself as a grown and fully capable young woman. The next two quotes I have I chosen speak to using your voice despite fear or possible condemnation-

“When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.” 

- Shannon Adler

"Speak your mind even if your voice shakes."

- Maggie Kuhn

I am fully aware how difficult it can be to speak up on behalf of ourselves especially when addressing an elder, higher authority, or are concerned with the response of your audience. It can be terrifying to the point where as Kuhn says "your voice shakes." But if you can't fight your inner fears, step out of your comfort zone by using your voice you are bound to receive rewards or results that would have been impossible to achieve had you stayed silent. The person you are speaking to may not fully listen, understand, or respond/react the way you wish but you are more likely to get the results you desire if you put yourself out there. No success is gained by staying silent and letting your thoughts or issues ruminate within your head. Whether you are speaking to a co-worker, a professor, a parent, a doctor, anyone let your thoughts and opinion be known. Using your voice is the only way to allow others to know what you want and what you need. If you keep it to yourself people will continue to go on unaware that their words and behaviors are bothering you. The last quote I have for you on this topic is extreme, perhaps a bit too extreme, but forces the question- How willing are you to establish your own identity, assert your independence, and use your voice?

“I'd rather die my way than live yours.” 

- Lauren Oliver, Delirium

I am not sure I'd rather die than live by my own standards but I think the message is still very powerful. Oliver's words imply the importance of living your life with your voice and your choices. It is a sad existence to live by the strictures that others set for you and the decisions that you do not make yourself. In order to live fully we must be willing to take the risk of going it on our own and using our words to make others aware of who we are at core and how we would like to be treated and seen. As I said before this is not an easy task especially when it comes to family matters. We know for the most part our families love us and only want the best for us. Speaking up against them can be hard because we don't want to hurt them, be disrespectful, or seem unappreciative. But at the end of the day we come first. If we don't let our families know how feel, what we want, and how we perceive ourselves than we are not being honest and they don't truly know us. In order to live a full life we need live the way we desire and live the life that we envision for ourselves. Don't back down, don't succumb to pressure, don't let your important words go unsaid. Establish your independence, create your identity, make your own choices, and always use your voice. It's your life don't let yourself or others stand in your way!

Challenge yourself by making your own choices and speaking your mind,

Declare your independence!

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