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Living Loz
A post about my life... 
10th-Oct-2012 07:23 pm
Where I Live (From Another Angle)

It's hard for me to judge how well I've adapted to being back here, in Adelaide, because sometimes it feels like I never left. Like those four years didn't happen. I didn't teach those students. I didn't live within another culture. I haven't seen another life. I've forgotten most I ever knew of Pitjantjatjara. I talk about it sometimes and... it's disconnected, like I'm talking about someone else's experiences. But I've always been a bit like that, when it comes to reality. Unless I am there in that moment it never feels like it happened to me.

I've never been good at keeping in touch with people anyway, and the people I'd really care to (M, the Anangu Coordinator of the school, and N, P and, S people I was close to) are self-conscious about writing, or just as bad as I am at the whole 'keep up correspondance' thing.

And it hurts, somehow, worse than if it had been impossible to adjust. There's a real sense of guilt, there. It should have been harder. I should miss being on the APY lands more than I do. It feels like a disservice that I don't.
10th-Oct-2012 11:54 am (UTC)
You are not alone. I feel the same sense of disconnection whenever I think about my previous job and the colleagues/friends I worked with. It's like I never shared anything special with them in spite of the 8 years I spent in that office, talking to them and living with them for longer hours than I did with my family.

I guess it's just life bringing us onwards and making us forget about the past, because it's our future we should focus on instead. That's what pictures and journals are for: to help us remember that we were that particular person in that particular place at that particular time. Everyone changes and evolves in time, but we hardly ever realise that such a process is happening to us, too.

10th-Oct-2012 01:14 pm (UTC)

It's a strange, bittersweet sensation, isn't it?
10th-Oct-2012 12:02 pm (UTC)
Possibly part of this is from focusing on your inner emotional state and feeling like you should have certain feelings about it all? I think there's a lot of pressure on middle-class white people to have certain feelings about the whole Go Out Into A New Culture experience, and for individuals, it's never going to completely match up. Sometimes it's not going to match up at all.

And that's okay. You don't owe anyone a specific set of feelings. You went, you had your experiences, you did some real good out there, and you can just let that fit into your life however it does. How you feel will probably change over time, and you'll look back and see a kind of connection there that works for you.
10th-Oct-2012 01:10 pm (UTC)
Though I am ostensibly middle class now --- I don't exactly come from a middle class background (I'm the first of my family to go to Uni, we never had much money when I was growing up) --- and it's funny how our own hang-ups and prejudices can get the better of us, because my immediate reaction to your comment was "I'm not middle class!" Well, I am. I know I am. You sort of can't get more middle class than a teacher (a doctor? and aren't they even more upper-middle?) And even if I weren't, I'm certainly white and straight, so I have oodles of privilege regardless.

But I will also say that teaching on the Lands wasn't actually a conscious "I shall go out into a new culture" kind of experience for me. It was a happy accident that ended up meaning a hell of a lot (just not enough, apparently, that I can't view it as someone else's 'hell of a lot' on occasion.) I never seriously entertained the thoughts that I could change the world, or that I was a saviour. It wasn't a mission for me. It was 'I'm here, I'm one of the few who want to be here, I might as well do my best, I might as well stay longer than the average bear'. Although I have thoughts on society's ingrained prejudices/imbalances and social justice and I will always want what's best for those kids, for me it was never about 'I'm going to go experience this and do good works'. It just wasn't. I found myself teaching in a far off land and decided to stay longer. And it's hard to articulate, because it was certainly an experience, but it wasn't premeditated?

(I don't know why I am arguing the semantics here. I think this is part of the reason I'm feeling this way. Because there are people who go up to the Lands for a year who either only go for the money, or for 'the experience', or because they feel they have a mission due to their belief in social justice and/or God, and that was never really me. I guess it's this horrible selfishness I have where that awful inner voice of mine is asking shouldn't this mean more? you never had an ulterior motive, you just went to live your life. My brain's pretty fucked up. Not least because someone's reasons for going to the Lands doesn't invalidate their connection. ETA: and maybe it's because I just went to live my life that I continue to just do so, you know?)

Edited at 2012-10-10 01:12 pm (UTC)
10th-Oct-2012 09:00 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's really interesting how words like "middle-class" and "privileged" can be perfectly accurate descriptors, but seem like insults. I think it's because they're so often used to describe negative things that it's hard to hear them any other way. (For the record, I'm white, American, upper-middle class, and extremely privileged in a number of ways.)

A lot of people have actually said they prefer your sort of "I'm a person, ooh, this looks interesting and useful, may as well stay around and keep it up" attitude towards the more mission-focused type. (I have an emotional tendency to get drawn into "I shall go forth and Do Good!" so my natural inclination is to defend it, but it's definitely something that can often cross the line into icky White Savior territory.)

It sounds like the whole experience did have an impact on your life, but one that doesn't exactly fit the conventional narrative of how these things are supposed to go, and that may be part of the reason why you're having trouble.

I did the Peace Corps with an eye towards going forth doing good and noble stuff, and it mostly ended up being just living. There was a lot of time spent sitting through boring staff meetings, going out drinking with friends, popping into the nearest city for pizza and a movie, and doing stuff that would never make the Noble Overseas Mission montage. And when I came home, I'd learned some new things, but I hadn't undergone any kind of radical transformation. I think that's how things end up for most people.
10th-Oct-2012 12:38 pm (UTC)

Try not to worry about it, petal. The important thing is that you did it and it has become a part of who you are now, even if you're not conscious of it.

We're all just wired in very different ways. Overall, my memory is much better than MG's -- there are reasons why no one wants to play Trivial Pursuit with me -- but when it comes to these sort of life memories he's much better at it than I am. For instance, MG can tell you the names of all his primary school teachers, who his classmates were and regale you with endless anecdotes.I just don't connect to my past the way he does. My memories of my own past come out much more fragmented and yes, that includes my more recent past.
10th-Oct-2012 12:49 pm (UTC)

Thanks. I guess it's just that the APY lands are largely ignored by so many, it doesn't seem fair that I should ignore it too, even if it's unintentional (especially because it's unintentional.)
10th-Oct-2012 02:53 pm (UTC)
I don't know that this is all that surprising, though? Your life has undergone a sea-change. Everything has changed: your job, your students, your home, your social circle, your responsibilities, even the landscape you're in. All sorts of major AND minor things. You can have a drink now, for God's sake, without thinking twice about it. That one 'little' change alone speaks volumes.

Whenever I've made huge changes in my life, it's been exactly like shedding a skin... a much-loved skin, perhaps, but like you I've felt this strange sense of unreality afterwards. Maybe it's a kind of emotional cognitive dissonance.

I guess I'm saying that the sheer scope of change in your life, the fact it's overwhelming, may have made it easier for you to adjust? And that you shouldn't give yourself a hard time about it? Not to mention that you kinda had to hit the ground running when you returned to Adelaide, and when you're absorbed in getting ready for/getting into a challenging new job, or buying your first house, other concerns have a way of receding into the background.

Feeling disconnected now doesn't mean that you were any less passionately committed when you lived and worked on the APY lands, or that you're uncaring now. It just means you're human, and adaptable. And that's a good thing.

I'm sorry about the difficulty of staying in touch with your friends on the lands, though. That's happened with me, too, to my unhappiness. I don't know the solution to it, sadly. Life pulls us all in so many different directions...
16th-Oct-2012 06:58 am (UTC)
I haven't been drinking, though, hah.

It's good to know this seems to be true for everyone, though. And I think you have a point about the scope and scale of the change helping the transformation.

Thank you ♥
10th-Oct-2012 05:22 pm (UTC)
We lived in a village for 23 years, brought up two kids and a year after moving its very hard to relate to it at all.
16th-Oct-2012 06:56 am (UTC)
Wow, really? It's just --- it's such a strange sensation.
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