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  • Writer's pictureGiovanna Capozza

Growing Up First Gen – Creating a New Normal

As the daughter of Italian immigrants my up-bringing was filled with culture, family, love, yelling and of course food.  I grew up knowing the meaning of family connection, security and safety. There were the regular family routines like cleaning the house every Saturday morning and big family lunches on Sunday.  My parents, like most, did the best they could with the examples that they had.  They raised us much like their parents raised them.  Growing up during the Great Depression was not easy for them, they had to scrounge for everything and just be happy with what they had. Life was all about hard work, saving money. Fun or entertainment was just a luxury, one that they could never afford.  My parents didn’t have the opportunities to live their dreams, having to put family obligations first.  They didn’t have the luxury of thinking about what they desired, everything was about sacrifice and duty.

Growing up all my parent’s hardships and the limiting beliefs that they created were front and centre in all of my learning, in every conversation and argument I heard.  “You can’t have everything you want.”  “Just be happy with what you have.”  “That’s (insert anything fun here) not necessary!”  Suffice to say that lack, limitation and fear were ingrained at an early age and long with the belief that as long as you follow what everyone else is doing then you’ll be just fine.  I first became conscious of this programming not being right for me when I was 14 and one of my sisters was getting married.  I remember seeing all the arrangements, the house hunting, the planning and thinking “Is this it?  You grow up (early 20’s felt grown up at the time) and you get married, move to the burbs and then what?”  It seemed so boring to me, this is what my life was going to be like?  By the time I was 18 I knew I wanted more, but those deeply ingrained limiting belief systems took me sometime to unearth and move past.

One thing that I noticed about first generation Canadians is that there comes a pivotal point in their late teens to early twenties when they choose, or at least start to become aware.  They choose whether to continue along the course that has been charted for them or to chart their own course.  Sometimes you realize that you want something different but don’t yet have the foundation built to go for it, but the awareness is there nonetheless.  This desire to chart your own course may come sooner or later but it does come. We can either ignore it or delay it but we can’t deny it for long.  The full fruition of this desire for more doesn’t really mature until we reach our thirties and it can happen gradually or with a big bang.  And since we Italians have a reputation for being stubborn (well at least I do), mine hit me on the head pretty hard.  All the years of searching and personal transformation work finally got me there, all I had to do was choose… that was the hard part.

You see, when you finally realize that you want to chart your own course and steer away from your family of origin’s traditions and ways of thinking, it can be really scary and wrought with guilt.  Who am I to want something different than my family, my parents or siblings?  “Is it wrong for me to say I don’t want what they want?”  “Why shouldn’t I be happy with the typical get married, pop out some kids, buy a house in the suburbs and spend my weekends in Home Depot kind of life?  What’s wrong with me, why don’t I fit in?  Why doesn’t the thought of this make me happy?  The better question is why is this the only version of “normal” there is?  Why not create a new normal?

Okay enough questions!  The truth is that the “normal” that you grow up with doesn’t have to fit you, in fact if it doesn’t that’s great!  Being the black sheep, or pink sheep as I prefer, is not so bad. I want you to think of the example you’re setting for others and the ways you’re challenging your family to think differently.  You are here to be a creative and expansive being and if you feel like you need to break out of your shell and experience more than what has been presented to you, then you should!

So, how to deal with this desire and all the accompanying guilt, confusion and awkwardness that comes along with it when you’re well into your life and you realize that you took a wrong turn?  This isn’t the life you wanted and you need to make a change quick before it’s too late?  Don’t panic.  Here are a few short tips to get you started.

  1. First of all, BREATH!  Change doesn’t happen over night.  Taking baby steps toward your desires is better than standing in the quicksand you’re currently in.

  2. Give your self permission to dream – Literally! Tell yourself it’s okay for you to dream.  If there were no consequences and money was no object; what would your life look like?

  3. Get clear with these desires – sit down in a quite place and write down everything in your life that is not working for you right now.  Everything that is making you feel small, limited, suffocated or stuck.  Then on a separate sheet of paper take all those things and flip them around.  Meaning, what would make you FEEL expansive, free and fulfilled. Maybe you can transform some of those things on the paper and maybe you’re writing down totally different things. Everything you write down should be a deep desire.  Something that speaks to your soul and lights you up, makes your heart sing just thinking about it!

  4. Feeling into it –  Take this other list of desire and really feel into them.  Read each one and feel as though you are there experiencing it.

  5. Look, Feel, Read, and Repeat – Take out this sheet of paper and read and feel it every day

  6. Find Support – Lastly, the key is to find someone or a group of people who have broken through these cultural barriers and charted their own course and are living their life UNAPOLOGETICALLY!

This is your life to live, so live it for you and you alone.  Your family and friends will understand and for those that don’t it’s okay, sometimes along the path to your truest and greatest potential you’ll lose a few people along the way, you outgrow things, places and people.  Let them go gracefully and keep moving, you’re destined for a new normal!  In the end Frank Sinatra said best I think…  “I did it my way!”

For a limited time only I’m offering a FREE Discovery Session. Find out if Empowerment Coaching is right for you. You’ve already taken the first step by completing your list of desires. Sign up online here!

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