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:: on sustainability, interdependence + not being your own island.
“You don’t know where you’re going, until you know where you’re from.” Aunt Wendy, Bailey-Wilson ‘Ohana (family) Reunion.
“I am because we are.” Translation: The African word, Ubuntu.
In Western European culture for the most part, we are groomed to go out into the world, with the intent of staking our claim. We are told that once we’re of a certain age, we should pursue higher education, seek a high paying career, move away from family and be the pioneers of our personal success. The idea that it’s critical for growth, maturity and the harnessing of autonomy is in part, true. At times, the downside of this ideal is the degradation of emotional stability and severing of the core foundation that a family may have intended to build.
I know firsthand, how that scenario can play out. I left home at seventeen, moved back home at eighteen and married at nineteen. Divorced at twenty-one, I moved away from my family in Alaska, back to my birth state of Washington. Prior to my move, my parents were also struggling with divorce; I felt there was no emotional space for me, so I made the decision that moving would be my best option, my only option.
In the first few years of “my independence”, many times I struggled and lost my footing; encountered loneliness and uncertainty, financial hardship, personal crisis and craved emotional nourishment, all in the name of independence and success. Without guidance or mentoring, I mastered the ability to think quickly on my feet. As a graduate of the University of Street Smarts, I mastered the skill of making slapstick decisions as a survivalist would in the wild, based on dire need, not on my heart’s desire. Many may argue that it was character building; in reflection as a woman and as a parent, I call bullshit. To the friends that offered me payday loans, fed me, offered temporary transportation and helped cover my rent, thank you. I have never forgotten you.
The notion that I was on a voyage of personal success, emotionally sound, with a fine-tuned navigational system was a lie: truth was, I was drowning. I lacked spiritual strength, a stable foundation and a sense of myself; I had not a clue as to who I was.
A pivotal experience.
Last summer, my family and I joined one hundred of my relatives for our family reunion on the island of O’ahu, in the town of Laie. At the time, it was exactly what I needed. There is a unique pulse to the Hawaiian culture, as with many indigenous tribes; a reverence for elders, an honoring of ancestry and a collective bonding that I’d never before experienced. For the first time, I felt a part of something much larger than myself. Metaphorically I grew roots; I had a clearer vision of my future, through the stories of my past.
In this world of technology, it’s far too easy to sequester ourselves as if we’re off basking on our own island. We’re not impervious in our desire and need for connection, or our longing for a sense of belonging.
Interdependence takes the willingness to go beyond ourselves, as we are a continuum of one another. Our emotional strength and social survival rely upon it. Only then will we as individuals thrive.
Who are you?
If uncertain, I strongly urge you to explore where you’re from. Everything you've thought to be true of yourself may just fall away. That cathartic experience quite possibly, could reinterpret the course of your life.