There was a lot in our home growing up. My parents placed well-intended boundaries around us kids, and we liked to stretch them.
My mother wanted us to enjoy our childhoods as long as possible. As we grew older, I noticed my father didn’t like letting us out of his sight. In response, we hurt our parents’ feelings and tested their patience as we tried to extricate ourselves from their cloying, well-meant, protection.
Our parents raised us as vegetarians for our physical health and our moral wellbeing. When I was old enough to hang out with my friends, my parents’ stern words about the perils of meat dangled over me when I scanned mouth-watering menus in fast-food restaurants. Were the fries really cooked in chicken fat?
My father preferred to treat our ailments with natural alternative therapies. My mother wanted to allow our bodies to learn to heal themselves. They did not permit modern medicines in our house, not even paracetamol. Growing up, I endured the agony of frequent and debilitating headaches without painkillers. They chose to treat me with a glass of water, a dark room, and a cool cloth. These treatments were useless.
My parents’ influence strained us in other areas too. As a teenager, I wanted to rebel; dye my hair purple, pierce my nose and wear black clothes. I was ready to leave school, where cruel words shaped my unhappy days. My father emphasised the need to stay, work hard, be diligent, do my homework, pass my exams.
“Without a proper education and a decent appearance, you have limited choices. Employers won’t hire you if you’re not the best of the lot.”
His words terrified me; my future success was at stake. I knuckled down. I would worry about my identity and place in the world later. ‘Authentic’ was not a word on our radar back then.
My first weekend job was picking apples. Next, I worked as a cleaner at a hotel, and later as a shop assistant. My parents didn’t mind me enduring the hazards of getting up early, catching the bus alone, and working with strange people in odd places. I saved up all my earnings, every dollar. Yet I felt the burden of relying on my parents to cover out-of-reach university fees.
In my last year at college, I applied for a place on a three-month environmental expedition to Borneo. I accepted the offer when it came and informed my father.
“No. Too dangerous,” he said.
But I had done everything he and my mother asked. I had heeded their warnings, endured their choices for us, eaten their food, learned their life philosophies. They had raised me to be strong and unique.
Knowing I could fund the trip with the money I saved over all those years, I said:
“I’m going. I want to live an interesting life, not just settle for the ordinary. Let me go.”
In the end, it wasn’t the tension that I cut with a knife. It was the apron strings.
I’m Rananda, a Sydney-based writer and editor.
With 25-plus years in corporate life, a financial background, a science education, and a lifetime of writing, I know there is more to starting and growing a loyal following than just the words on your website or saving that draft manuscript in a folder.
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