When you first leave home, your hometown, family and friends farewell you with an identity that they have helped carve. One that is based on the limited experiences, ways of life and morals that you have been exposed to throughout your short life. No one tells you how that first step into a new city, or the uncovering of new culture will shoot images into your mind that you will never forget – because they differ infinitely of those that have been on replay for the past 20 odd years. Those very images challenge your entire identity. They have you rethinking your beliefs, and your perspective of the entire world.
I grew up in Australia, and I had a wonderful childhood encompassed with some life long memories. Though it was a world surrounded by mirrors – and I’m only just beginning to see out. By the way, did you know that most of the world hate vegemite? Shocking, I know.
The media can paint a pretty accurate picture, though nothing compares to physically stepping into a foreign place. Of course, as kids we knew of the starving bubs in Africa, and the news showed us of wars tearing through the middle east. But no one tells you of the youngsters working the streets of Indonesia, the elderly still working the till to make ends meet, or the teenagers sleeping on cardboard along the streets of London. And all of a sudden, you realise that your normal is the miniscule of its definition, that is only held by 0.33% of the world’s population – home.
I now know why there are so many people staunched in the one mindset that they will beat down anyone that throws a diverse perspective in their direction. They are so stubborn and close minded with their opinions that they refuse to accept anything else with fear that it will be the end of their identity – that it must never be changed.
There was an advantage that I was granted by growing up in a Western society, and that is not having to see or feel the reasoning behind why certain others carry themselves the way that they do. Since leaving my hometown, I made an oath to listen, to hear out every story, and because of that I’ve felt diversity seep right through my body. I am obviously not flawless, there are times where my smugness reveals its ugly head, but I have these new experiences that without a doubt pull my head back into place.
Experience is what has allowed my perspective to be forever changing, to be so adaptable. Seeing and experiencing a whole new world allows us to step back and analyse where we come from.
What we know, and what we’re familiar with is never invariable. Much of what makes up our identity is momentary, permitting us to accept and adapt to diversity. We are surrounded by a beautiful world, which makes me smile every day. Though I now know that it takes just one smile from a passer-by to see that my definition of happiness has been seriously misconstrued.
I’ve now an open mind, and a will to listen to every soul I pass. Every single person in this world has a story, each one the opposite of the next. I love to note how each and every chapter of time can not only cultivate a person, but a whole culture. This knowledge is what I hold my arms wide open to, as I’ve only been to eight countries – I know I have a lot to learn.
– Haylee x