... when you're constantly on the move, few things remain unchanged.

reflections

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I apologize for being M.I.A once again!  It's been a whirlwind around here for the past couple of weeks with family members graduating! As I mentioned here, our four day trip to Dallas for the graduation of Will's little brother was immediately followed by the arrival of my cousin, Rita, her mum and mum's boyfriend: all celebrating Rita's graduation from Illinois' Bradley University by relaxing and touring the country before returning home to Kazakhstan.

I met Rita for the first time (in my conscious, adult life) in 2012 - shortly after she'd moved to Illinois for her studies - when she came to stay with Will and I in Atlanta over Christmas.  Of course we've known of each other our whole lives (just as I know of many other relatives) and used to play together as children in the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan, where we were all born.  But those memories had long faded and I grew up feeling estranged from them all, often discussing with my brother how simply knowing of family or calling them thus, doesn't stir any of that associated warmth within.  I always felt much closer to Will's family who I saw constantly when we lived in Atlanta and with whom laughter, experiences and help of any nature were often exchanged. Now I'm truly grateful for the chance I've been given to get to know Rita and her mum, my aunty Natasha.  To experience a connection of that long estranged part of me, my relatives in Kazakhstan and to be able, for the first time, to really mean the word family in reference to them!

I remember how I felt when Rita had left after her first visit with us.  Strange that I feel it all over again.  It's some kind of sadness, loss and emptiness... with the faintest flame burning deep in my rib cage, of hope for the future.  I know meeting her and her mum was a wonderful thing!  Our friendship and strengthened family ties are unbreakable and the world seems somehow smaller now that we have somewhere else we are welcome to visit.  But I'm plagued with a few aching questions that swim around my otherwise presently hollow skull over and over... just as they did before: what if my parents had never moved to Australia?  What if I had grown up in Almaty?  What would have become of our family?  What would have become of me?

Our political and civil convictions are so different to theirs!  Our dispositions are so relaxed and carefree that surely we appear ignorant and lazy.  They seem more educated and worldly than us, yet we seem more at peace and happy.  Free from social pressure, free to live without judgement.  I know our way of life is as puzzling to them as theirs appears to us; yet the love, the bond of blood and history is so strong that I swear there were moments I was with them that I felt a closeness I've never felt with anyone. If we'd stayed in Kazakhstan with them, would the gaping holes my father, mother, brother and I each have inside of us even be there?  Surrounded by all that family and all that love, how could they have formed?

Dad's hole begun to form after a couple of years and several attempts to translate his qualifications that would allow him to practice medicine in Australia failed.  An inferior job status and male ego caused that hole to expand for years until finally defeat kicked in.  He has never been happy with his job.  Mum's hole was caused immediately by cultural difference, bitter loneliness, un-relatability and cruel distance away from the very family bond I'm just now beginning to understand.  She was lucky with her job.  As for my brother and I, our holes are of a different nature: holes caused by not understanding our Soviet parents as we turned into the Australians they did not understand.  Holes that would have been filled by acceptance and being able to relate to one-another.  Each of our holes have, in varying degrees, impacted so much of our lives.

It's beyond tough, moving overseas.  Now that I'm older and have done so myself, I can understand it much better than I ever did before.  But I wonder, if we'd remained in Kazakhstan, would my parents' marriage have survived their explosive arguments, when each actually had somewhere else to go every time either one threatened to leave?  Would my dad have made it to the height of his profession, as was always his dream, or would he have been utterly shattered if he had failed? Would my mother have been happy with all the constant bickering between her husband and her family?  Would my brother have met a woman who cares for him as much as his wife does now?  How would I be different? Would I be in a career I hated with no means to change?  Would I have found happiness in marriage?  Would I have met a bestfriend that utterly completes me, the way Emma does? Perhaps we'd have different holes, watching our family and friends struggle financially and professionally, maybe would we have struggled too...

I know I never would have met Will.  My chest tightens at the thought of a life without him - the thought of a different life in which I am not grateful 1,000 times a day as I am now!  Without puppies, or writing, travel or all of the other wonderful things I've successfully filled my own hole up with over the years and with Will's help. Even if soul mates somehow find their way together regardless of circumstance (like in Sliding Doors!), I cannot envision Will falling in love with me if my political convictions were like my cousin Rita's. Convictions that are surely a result of upbringing, society and individual experience.  Had I remained close to Rita growing up, it figures that we have thought somewhat alike.

Political opinions matter so much in relationships.  Not just between a man and a woman, they matter between families and friendships too.  I do not talk of my own convictions often.  In my life, I've walked upon three radically different political fences and I have strongly come to distrust them all.  My earliest childhood memories involve a communist lifestyle: no running water in the house, lining up for hours in front of shops to buy groceries only to be told they had none or we'd missed out and not knowing a single person with a car because they were impossible to get (unless you were KGB, of course).  Next was the 'democracy' of Australia that anyone who understands socialism would agree is in fact closer to the truth.  And now, the capitalist America which bares hardly any difference to socialist Australia.

Once you delve past our similar qualities of free-spirit-ness, determination, love of adventure and nature: it's plain to see that Rita's political and civil convictions are almost opposite to my own.  On more than one occasion I have felt that my own opinions are perceived as ignorant, indifferent or lazy.  I will not argue my opinions because I don't see the point, but Rita enjoys to and I've often wondered whether this is a cultural difference since I know many Aussies (and Americans too actually) that wont as well.  I was raised in a system that harbours deep distrust of government, the parties, representatives and agendas in a country that (for the most part) regards politics as impolite dinner conversation, since it's not worth getting upset over something you cannot change.  I wonder if we'd stayed in Kazakhstan, would I believe I could make a change?  Would I openly discuss politics at a dinner table with a nice bottle of wine, as if I may be heard or as if my personal opinion matters in any small way?

My parents have 'relaxed' a lot in Australia.  A concept which is foreign to many in this world but important to Aussies and Americans a like.  Politically, they no longer get worked up over governmental scams, games and deceit.  In a cultural sense, they are no longer shocked by invitations to BBQ's that require bringing one's own meat.  They still (and perhaps always will) remove their shoes upon entering anyone's house and never visit empty handed.  But they are happy to switch off the telly during a political debate and call them all 'a bunch of wankers.'  No doubt shocking to my cousin, yet completely the norm for me.

It's scary to consider the unknown.  What would have happened to me if we'd stayed in Kazakhstan, a country and family I know so little about?  We left when I was young and it was still communist, so I've always assumed we left because it was bad.  Now I realize that isn't true.  The country of my birth boasts many beautiful places and a booming economy.  While it is true that I seem happier to myself than my dear, sweet cousin Rita (despite her being surrounded by the family that I've never had but always wanted) I think she would be just as afraid considering the thought 'what would have happened to me if my parents had moved me to Australia with Lena's family?'

I'm sad that she's gone.  Once more I feel like a part of me is missing and as I reflect upon our differences, I feel grateful as well.  I am grateful to my parents for my upbringing, even if it did create a huge divide between us and often cause friction.  I'm grateful I got to wear and say and do and be everything I wanted, whenever I wanted with carefree friends just as silly as me.  I'm grateful for those life experiences, mistakes and triumphs that lead to my meeting Will who then took me to America, where I have overcome many personal struggles and can now sit with a coffee, after a day's work doing exactly what I love and contemplate the what if questions of my life.  Above all else right now, I'm grateful to Rita, Aunty Natasha and her boyfriend for a wonderful three days that created a bond of family I will feel for the rest of my life and all of their differences which will make me more open minded and curious about the country I was born in.



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Sharing my stories of migrating from Australia to the US | travel adventures | married life | furry kids | new experiences | lessons | and loving life despite always missing home. xo.

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