For me, my job as a parent is to allow my children to be who they are. I know that won’t make sense to a lot of people. How can they be anybody but who they are? I believe every person has an authentic self within him or her. That they are born this person, and over time that person is buried beneath programming, from society, the media, and most influentially from their parents.
It wasn’t until I was 32 that I came to the realisation that I was portraying a character that my soul was tired of playing. I was miserable. Throughout my life I’d been made to feel like my dreams were unrealistic and unsafe, that I wasn’t good enough. That the decisions I wanted to make were unwise. Throughout my schooling I was bullied constantly from primary school right through until I was around 16.
I remember being really young, probably 7 or 8. I remember feeling like I was intelligent, that I was charismatic, and could bring happiness to people through communication. I’d watch the TV and study all the comedy I could find. Breaking it down to understand how it worked. I’d do the same with books, trying to figure out what made the best books entertaining. If you’d asked me at 8 years old what I was going to be when I grew up, I would have told you that I wanted to be a writer. If you asked me at 14, I would have told you that I wanted to be normal.
I never fit in. Not at school, not with family, not anywhere. In primary school I was sensitive, open, and weird. I wasn’t like the other boys. I didn’t like or play sport. I wasn’t confident – I was fragile. I’d do my best at lunch-time to put on little shows for the other kids to make them laugh, and then I’d do my best in class to impress the teachers. I was always trying to make people like me by trying to be the character I thought they wanted me to be, but it never worked.
As I moved on to college it was clear that people just didn’t like me. I tried my best to be nice, but I was quiet. My spirit had been drained. I was afraid of everybody. I had a quick tongue but when pushed I would buckle. I wore my weakness like a cloak that all the other kids could see. My one saving grace was that I could make people laugh. It was the only time I felt like people liked me. So my life became consumed with being the funny one. I didn’t care about school anymore. The other kids hated that I’d get the top marks in class, so I stopped trying. I’d do everything I could to get the other kids to like me, so I could fit in. All I wanted was to FIT IN.
Around about the age of 16 I started drinking. If I was funny when I was sober, I was hilarious when I was drunk. All my fears and anxiety would go away. I felt so free. So I got drunk as often as I could afford. Weekend, weekday, I didn’t give a shit. That feeling of being around people and not only fitting in but also being the centre of attention was euphoric to me. When I was at school I’d go back to my normal, quiet, scared self. Eventually I made a good group of friends. I don’t regret drinking through high-school, I probably wouldn’t have made it out without it.
I do regret the decade of binge drinking that followed high school though.
I wanted to be an actor, a writer, or a comedian, but in order to follow those kind of dreams you have to have self-belief, and mine was completely gone. I went to University – to drink. I didn’t have the confidence to get a job. The thought of a job interview was terrifying to me. I had no encouragement or direction, anywhere. I had always hoped there’d be one amazing teacher who would understand me and be able to give me some guidance, but that never happened.
Nobody ever told me to chase my dreams. Nobody ever picked up that I was not ok. Nobody ever noticed that I had no love for myself, nor did they ask.
When I finished University I was scared. I was not prepared for the world. My goal had been to just make it through my days without people realising that I was worthless. I was so afraid of being a part of the real world that I would stay in bed until 4pm most days. Kath was working and I was either sleeping, or drinking. Eventually I applied for jobs. I had a degree but had no idea what to do with it. I managed to get a job working at a petrol station and I stayed there 7 years. I was grateful for that job because I was a good workmate. People enjoyed working with me. Customers liked me. My boss liked me. I received so much love working there that I never wanted to leave. I still felt worthless though. As much as I loved that job: it was embarrassing, especially as the people I’d gone through school and University with were leaving me behind.
What does all this have to do with me wanting my kids to be who they are? I was too scared to be the person that I wanted to be. Scared of what other people would think. Scared of failing and embarrassment. I hated myself and didn’t think I deserved it. If I could go back and talk to my younger self, I’d tell him that: not trying – is failing. That it doesn’t matter if you don’t make it, the pursuit of your dream is the reward. Going after exactly what you want, without a care in the world for what other people think. I’d tell that kid that his light shines bright and it will only get brighter.
So with my kids, I don’t want to influence them too much. I don’t want to mould them in to who I think they should be. I don’t want to influence them to take the safe options, because of my worry. I want to encourage my kids to figure out exactly what it is they want to do, and only do that. No compromising. I want them to find a purpose that serves themselves, and humanity. I want my kids to be their authentic selves, because I truly believe that in being who we were destined to be, we find our greatest happiness.
Would I love to have written books that help people grow – yes! Would I have loved being on a stage or screen making people smile and lifting their spirits? YES! I don’t know what is in store for my future, but I know I’m going to do the best I can to ensure these kids get the best shot at theirs.