When I was a young girl and all my friends were talking about boys and falling in love, I of course participated. I, like many girls, fantasized about my perfect match. At the time it had more to do with the characters I saw on TV and the whole “damsel in distress” scenario. As I grew up and realized how disempowering that fantasy was not just for myself but for all women; that ideal quickly went out the window. As I grew older, the conversations turned to marriage and babies. That is really where the fantasy ended for me. Don’t get me wrong I think if marriage and babies works for you then that’s great! Raising a child is the most important job you can ever take on, and I applaud all the men and women who dedicate their lives every day to this endeavour. However, this has never appealed to me. I grew up as a first generation Canadian of Italian decent. There was no lacking in both religious and cultural dogma in my house. Instead of moving with it, I rebelled against it because I wanted more. Fortunately, this traditionally strict mindset was not as pronounced for me growing up, as I observed it in other households and with my elder sisters, but it was there nonetheless.
So here’s my story. I’m proud of my heritage and I love many of the things that come with being of Italian decent. The food, the culture and history, the loving family unit, and especially the feeling of support. Early on however, I realized that this was not all there was to life; it wasn’t all of “me“. It was a very confusing time feeling separate from the “us.” It was even down right scary at times. There was an I that was separate from all of that, and I wanted to see and know more, I just didn’t understand this at the time. What does that mean you ask? At the time I didn’t even know what it meant. I just knew that I always had a nagging feeling that there had to be more to life than following what my family expected, or following what “everybody” else was doing. I never felt like I fit in, and I didn’t see the sense in caring what the neighbours thought. I didn’t believe in doing what “should” be done, or all of the other cultural conditioning. It felt confining, and as I looked around I grew increasingly resistant and rebellious. I wanted to rebel against what I perceived to be the prison of my culture. In regards to the concept of marriage, I didn’t have the best example of a happy marriage growing up. This may have contributed to the negative view of marriage I had at the time. On the other hand, the idea of having a child, OH DEAR… never mind a prison, that was a straight-jacket concept for me! How would I travel, see the world, and learn everything I wanted to learn if I was tied down with a baby and a husband?
Another infraction, so to speak, against my upbringing was when I abandoned the Catholic faith. I began to view the church as a play, and it became fake to me. Everyone had their lines and repeated them dutifully without much thought about what the meaning behind them was. “Mia colpa, mia colpa, mia grandisima colpa” we were asked to repeat every Sunday, seriously? I was supposed to take the blame for my so called sins, the whole world going to hell, and killing Jesus? Oh, this was too much! The idea of the proverbial sheep following the Sheppard, along with all my other cultural shoulds and should nots, came crashing down and I had to get out. Of course this does not apply to everyone that attends church or any organized faith, but at the time this was my perception. Still many of us today follow cultural and religious mandates blindly and unconsciously without serious thought or awareness, which I will cover later as a topic in itself.
It angered me, as following blind rules still does today, and I wondered again if there wasn’t more to life than this. After battling the intense “Catholic guilt and fear” I came into the light and started to read more about other concepts surrounding spirituality. Ever curious and eager to learn, I spent much of my time at the public library reading and taking out books to read at home. I was interested in many topics of course, but I seemed to gravitate towards books about the “super natural.” What I realize now is that I was already aware of the something more I thought existed. The something that’s bigger than us and goes against what I had been told up until then.
So, I had scratched marriage, babies and religion off my list. Now what? My feeling of not fitting in intensified in high school when much of the talk often led back to the topic of boys and marriage. I remember, just before graduation, I had a conversation with a friend of mine on the phone. I asked her what college she had decided to enroll in and what she wanted to pursue as a career. Her reply both floored and infuriated me. She said, “I think I just want to stay home and be a housewife like my mom.” WHAT!? I have always been strong minded and perhaps a little too judgmental, so I blasted her. “How can you say that?” I said, “Don’t you want more for yourself?” I always dreamed of being a career woman; strong and independent, maybe a girlfriend, but a HOUSEWIFE? Let me just say to all you housewives reading this and sending daggers my way, hang on. If this fulfills you, as I mentioned in my previous blog, makes your heart sing then you’re on the right track, but if it doesn’t, read on.
At 18 I thought I had it all figured out. I would go to college, make lots of money, travel, and meet a guy and have a whirlwind romance. This would make life would good, right? Wrong! What you resist will persist, says the old adage. I was resisting my conditioning so much so that I forgot to actually look at it head on, and accept it for what it was without judgement. Well, I did go to college. Less than half way through I realized that being an Event Planner at a glorious hotel, like on the short-lived 80’s T.V show Hotel, was not all it was cracked up to be. After graduating college I tried to find my place. Where would I work? What would be my calling? Turns out, when you’re feverishly searching for the answers they don’t appear that easily. Instead however, I discovered divine intervention!
At 21 I was in relationship that was going nowhere fast. I had broken up and gotten back together with the same man more times than I care to count, and I felt that I just needed to spread my wings. While looking for a job in the newspaper I saw an ad for entertainment staff needed on a cruise ship. Wow, this sounds exciting, but entertainment? Well, I was in choir, band, and drama during high school and I loved watching The Love Boat in the 80’s. Ah, what the hell! Before I knew what was what I had a call from an agent in Los Angeles who was coming to Toronto to interview me and some others. The rest is a blur. I went home after my interview and announced to my parents that I was leaving to go work on a cruise ship. I might as well have said I was running away from home to join the circus, but surprisingly I had no resistance and relatively docile reaction. If you’ve grown up Italian-Canadian you’re aware of the magnitude of that last statement. 🙂
I have always had a strong mind of my own and I think my parents recognized this in me. So off I went, traveling, teaching line-dancing, performing, improv acting, and a whole host of other mundane things that were a part of my job on the ship. I had the time of my life. It was away from home, away from my culture, and away from the known (the BORING)! Again, however, I was running instead of looking. After two and half years of globetrotting and loving every minute of it I was “home” again. Unfortunately, the feeling of it not being “home” was even stronger and I began to feel I was suffocating again.
At the young age of nineteen I had been introduced to a woman who would later become not only a good friend and soul sister, but a spiritual mentor for me. Through her I was opened up to the whole new concept that we create our own reality. What? You mean I can’t keep blaming other people for my problems? This simple concept made me feel both empowered and exhausted. I now had to take full responsibility for the world around me and what happened to me. Having heard this and many other lessons before leaving to travel I tried each day to see my world through this lens. To see what impact my thoughts, actions, and beliefs had on the world I perceived around me. I will confess, this is really hard to do at first and to do all of the time. It’s easier to feel victimized and to blame. it is much harder to look at yourself and see your own wrong thinking or doing. However, because I held these lessons in my heart; when I returned home and realized that it wasn’t “home” anymore I had to get to work.
To be continued…