Reflections on Uni Life from a Coasty Kid

Image: Trinity Thompson-Browne

Image: Trinity Thompson-Browne

Hopefully, this will put into perspective my CRAZY whakaaro.

Let me say this:  firstly, I was brought up in a little dot of a place called Tikitiki in Te Tai Rawhiti. This place is my home, it is my ahikaa, it is me and I am it. I love this place, and it is from this place that I want to begin to understand what has happened to me. This whole transition through uni life, basically reflecting on who I was (still am? Under all these layers?), a young, confident, aspiring actress, to a young mother, wife, and a wahine māori who is about to embark on the hardest journey of her life- the first year of clinical psychology. (Yes, I think this will be harder than pushing out, and raising a 2 year old!) I was brought up in a maori setting, isolated as isolated gets. I knew everyone, and they knew our family. Even when I moved to Gisborne, that place is so small that people call it the trap because no one leaves. Anyway, I am writing this piece in the hopes that someone else may feel this way, or ‘get it’,  but also, so I can understand who I am today.

I have noticed a lot lately that I have this immense feeling that I want to be heard. I want to say something. What stops me, always, always, always, is the fear of standing out. The fear of calling unwanted attention to myself. That I care too much about what other people think of me, for caring too much about what other people say. Maybe it’s because alot of the time I feel like ‘Facebook’ isn't the appropriate place for me to talk. I don’t want people to look at me, and judge me, and I’m not able to articulate my thought properly. That scares me the most actually! Is not being able to stick up for myself, not being able to rebuke whatever is thrown at me. Why do I feel like this? I shouldn’t be of that mind set, that, whatever I’m going to say is rubbish. I think I have ALWAYS been like this, but university has actually brought it out of me more than it should. Is it because I feel like I have to protect my identity, my maoritanga from the prying, and somewhat judgmental eyes of pakeha people?

At times it is. When I started university, I really loved cultural anthropology as a major. It allowed me to be, and it allowed me to have a safe haven away from psychology, which is a really pakeha environment that I don’t really enjoy as much if I’m honest. Although I felt safe in anthropology, it was actually within an ANTH tutorial that I found myself being singled out. I felt dumb, I felt belittled when an Indian girl disagreed with what I said. And the reason I felt, feel, like this is because she was right. I hadn’t taken the time to really think about my opinion, and so, just to be one of those students who actually answered  tutors questions, I blurted out my opinion without thinking it through. Why did I do that? Examples like this are the reason why I have become who I am today. Afraid to offend, afraid to be wrong, afraid of failure, plain afraid. It gives me anxiety all the time! How do people expect our people to walk confidently in two worlds when our eyes are always looking at the ground. My mum would say, hold your head up high lahluuu. She knew what I was capable of, she knew me through and through, she knew me better than I know myself.

So it’s at this point in my life, I am about to enter in to one of the whitest WASPy cultures ever, Psychology. More specifically, Clinical Psychology. You may ask, what is this? It’s the discipline where we, as a clinical psychologist, talk with a patient, identify what’s ‘wrong’ with them, and then we do some therapy, or something like it, with patients. Crazy enough, māori people actually  present with more psychological disorders than any other ethnicity in New Zealand. I say crazy, because man, look at my story. Look how dysfunctional I am, and I didn’t actually have a hard upbringing. But if I, someone who has a degree, a family, a turangawaewae, feel this way, then how does oppression, colonisation, racism, historical abuse and trauma, manifest in others who are way worse off? I’m going off on tangents, but the main thing I wanted to say about clinical psychology, being at university in general, is that we as a people carry huge burdens on our shoulders. We are told we are not maori enough, or being maori is a bad thing, even from some of our own, so we desperately try to fit in, we don’t fit in with the ones who speak maori, we don’t fit in with the ones who are harry hard outs, we don’t fit in with the pakeha, and so, we end up isolated, thinking ‘what do I do’? ‘What should I do?’

The answer that I am trying to come to grips with, and need to fully understand, is be you........ no one can take that away from you, it may give you anxiety, like it does for me, but once you are comfortable in your own shoes, your journey will begin, and the wairua, the universe will manifest everything else for you. All you need to do is hold on to who you are, and move forward with that knowledge that you are the future that your tupuna fought for, you are worth their fight, you descend from a long line of awesomeness, of love, of mana, of hope. So get off your ass, never mind what other people think, AND JUST BE YOU. Transform that space, define it in your own maori way. It needed a make over anyway. And once you start accepting who you are, where you’ve come from, and that you deserve to have the best, behold te ao marama. The world of enlightenment.