Living in an affluent part of Sydney that can be aptly described as a “bubble” – an insular community of the wealthy, the ambitious, the connected, the upper class, I can only explain myself as feeling stuck in a grey space. I feel trapped.
There is a never-ending internal conflict between the values that surround me – the ones I’ve internalised from 17 years of exposure, infiltration. The values of my parents – which, until recent years, I have accepted as my own without question. And my own – values I derive from faith, from my own observations and experiences with the world, from witnessing Western society and humanity in its state of depression and self-destruction.
Where I live, appearances matter. Authenticity and integrity seem less and less important every day, and although I hate it, I want to succeed. And it’s something that has been ingrained in me from a young age. Success. High status in a particular field. Accolades. Achievments. Academic prizes, high marks, ambition, drive, study ethic (note I don’t mean interest in learning or work ethic), competition, recognition. Being the one to speak up and share, the one to start service initiatives and make woke progressive political statements that, really, are regurgitated, disingenuous, and cliched.
Deep down, I have no interest in “playing the game”. In climbing the social ladder to some vague position of influence that people are impressed by. Impressiveness. That is the number one ambition I feel I am being taught at my school and in my community. It is important to be impressive.
And I am a high achiever. I always have been. But I am not the top. I am not always the object of awe. I am rarely the one to speak first in class, unless I push myself to. I wonder if it’s natural or imposed? People say I’m smart and will be successful no matter what I do. And what does it matter? A part of me cares, but another part wonders what the hell it’s all for. What value does it hold. Impressiveness. Does it equal greatness, or measure impact? Social change. Can I achieve that, make real ideological, long term change without being impressive?
I want a peaceful life. I want to live on a farm with the person I love, isolated from a world that infuriates and depresses me, I want to write books and articles and I want to help people. I want to meet others, connect with them, experience true pain, loss, love, hope, joy. I want to inspire and make change in whatever way is needed. Social change, political change, medical change, ideological change. I want to be a voice of hope and of reason in a world that seems to rile itself up with anger and hatred and division. A world that is politically, socially, racially polarised and treats its own disorders with more anger and hatred and division. I want to help the Western world from itself. But doesn’t everyone?
And then I want to help the developing world. I want to reduce health inequality, promote democracy, give opportunities to education. Support people fleeing conflict, terror, violent governments, seeking freedom of expression. Freedom. But doesn’t everyone? I’m terrified of my motivations. Of having internalised a “white saviour complex” and confusing my desire to help with my desire to feel good and satifsied with my life.
I’m at a crucial point where I’m being confronted with these conflicts. And I’m having to sift through them and allow them to confront me. I’ve wanted to be a Medecins Sans Frontiers doctor. A ruralist doctor. An astronaut. A sociologist. An author. A politician. A psychologist. A philosophy major. A writer. A neurologist.
How do I reconcile my true values with a career? How to I discern those true values to begin with? And how can I be sure they are correct and good? How do I choose a uni, a course, a life? How do I sacrifie one avenue of life for another? How do I make that weighting, that judgement, alone? How do I find something I will enjoy and be good at? Something that gives me insight into humanity and emotions and allows me to give something of myself to the world, create positive change.
I’m trying to be both. A rich girl who wants it big. To be great. Extraordinary. Remembered. Impressive. And to be an authentic person, living through Jesus, who is kind, genuine, humble and passionate – truly enjoying her life and making an important difference, not a false one.
Legacy or invisibility? I suppose it’s fame or humility. Does influence demand fame?
And you might be reading this rolling your eyes, shaking your head at what appears to be a privileged teenger complaining about her privilege. And for that, I deeply apologise. But I promise, there’s nothing that irks me more than a person who ignorantly resents their privilege for the sake of “being woke”. There are so many questions. This country club of rich people, unknowingly shallow and self-obsessed, that I’ve been surrounded with for my whole life seems so incongruent with the rest of the world, or at worst, with the true human plight, and yet it’s all I know.
I live in a privileged part of the world. And I am a Christian who wants to serve and make the world better. Are the two mutually exclusive? If I say they aren’t, is that me acclimatising to the hypocrisy I’m surrounded with?
This was an incredibly honest post – probably a bit too honest. I’m cushioned by the anonymity of the internet, so take it with a grain of salt!
Also, your opinions are endlessly valuable to me if you have any thoughts or advice!
For background, my parents aren’t typical parents in my area. My dad was a doctor after escaping to Australia as a refugee from a communist country. Shaped by his unique childhood and formative experiences, he has strong opinions about freedom, society, and democracy. He drives a 20 year old beat up car, always compares price per kilo before he buys anything at the supermarket, and he refuses to throw out things that are broken without trying his best to fix it first (hence the 20 year old car). He’s never worried about labels, or status, or having the popular opinion, but is unapologetically himself, and an unapologetic advocate for his beliefs and values. And my mother was a lawyer – albeit one who grew up in the next suburb and loves her Chanel bags. So I’ve had a somewhat different upbringing that my peers, and have felt this conflict of values in my own home, conflict of political opinions forever. Oh, and my sibling is attending the best university in the world. So, yes, I often feel conflicted about the need to be impressive and inadequate about my achievements.