A couple of weeks ago, I came across a tweet from SBS Voices inviting budding writers to submit their stories about growing up in a diverse Australia. There is a prize pool of $10,000 by writing a first person memoir of 1000-2000 words. Seeing that most of my blog posts are first person and memoir-ish in nature AND I grew up in Australia, I thought I’d give it a crack.
My first attempt turned into a scene from my childhood that had no real point to the story. I tossed that in the “Use as blog post if desperate” folder.
My second attempt also ended up as a scene from my childhood and it was just sad to read. I tossed that in the “Woe is me” folder. Otherwise known as the bin.
A seed of an idea crossed my mind, and I decided to call my parents to get clarity on some of the information.
“SBS? No. No. No. I don’t want anyone knowing about our past!” My mum didn’t want me to enter the competition. To be fair, she is afraid of her own shadow so her reaction wasn’t surprising.
“Why? Your childhood isn’t anything special!” My dad must have poor memory if he thinks our life was normal. It may not have been special or even unique but to me, it was worth writing about.
Anyway, with no help from my parents, I went back to the drawing board. I discovered that writing memoirs are not easy. I didn’t want to write a “This is my life” spiel, and I didn’t want to overwhelm the reader with negativity and sadness. I wanted to write a story about my life in a way that was raw, honest and uplifting.
I ended up twiddling my thumbs and staring at a blank screen for some time. I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t know what I wanted to say. My mind was a jumbled mess of ideas that I struggled to organise in a coherent way. There were many events, factors and people who influenced my childhood and the person that I have become.
In the end, I decided to focus on my parent’s refugee experience and how their trauma of displacement and lack of social connection shaped who they became and how that influenced their parenting style. I wrote my experiences living with an angry dad and a broken mum. I wrote about moving from home and finding my sense of cultural identity and belonging. Interspersed among the heavy revelations were humorous glimpses of my past. It was a cathartic writing experience.
I submitted the memoir today. I don’t expect to win but if I did, I hope my parents will be proud.
If you want to check out the competition, here is the link. You still have a few days to get your writing in.
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