Misc //

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Summer Lea on realising that life is many different shades of grey.


I remember a time in my life when I perceived the world in black and white, with occasional, powerful flecks of red appearing, like I was watching Sin City day in, day out. The colour red – that of passion, anger, death and love. But there were no shades of grey.

The world seemed to be a simple place, there was right and wrong, love and hate. The emotions of my teenage temperament would flare at times with a brilliance that seemed to redefine the nature of the world in which I lived. I see the world now in a wide spectrum of complexity and I want to reflect on some of the stories and memories that have changed my perception.

Ali is a young Jordanian living in Australia. He is an intellectual who is always inquisitive about the science behind objects and the way things work around him. His parents are refugees from the Gulf War and ran away from one another across Arabia, then to New Zealand and Australia, dragging and separating their children with them.

He considered love to be non-existent in his life until he met a young girl who moved into the same youth refuge. He loved her like a sister. Their friendship blossomed instantly. He is not someone who is easily attached to people. He despised men; particularly dominant types who made him feel inferior and weak. But deep down inside, he just wanted a parent who genuinely loved him.

The change in over 20 foster families was agonising. The social pressures had led him to explore his homosexuality in secret, through sneaking out at night to see strange men. He enjoyed this, as way to explore the idiosyncrasies and vulnerabilities of other men through sex.

He plans to be a young girl’s date to a year 12 formal. Out of desperation to escape the feelings of despair and disconnect from the world, he calls her. She is undertaking her HSC. She rejects many of the calls, as she was busy studying and barely tolerating her own circumstances.

The day before the formal, she receives some letters. He leaves her a poem expressing his sadness and loneliness and how the lack of love led to his lack of will to live. It is a goodbye letter. The poem was about the heartbreak he felt when his love was not reciprocated and how he could not stand to live in this world anymore. During her formal she could not think about anything but him. She realises her sense of empathy and uncontrollable willingness to nurture.

Joanna is the kind of girl everyone speculated about. How could she afford to go on extravagant holidays all over the world? How did she finance her expensive designer clothes? Her parents were not rich, but she was a sex worker. She is exuberant, flamboyant, impulsive and hypersexual. She has a tendency to quit many commitments and a pattern of unstable relationships. She can never stay in one place. At the age of 15, she finds solace in having relationships with older men in order to rectify the void in herself and the imperfect relationship she has with her parents.

As she is older, she attempts to commit suicide and gets admitted into a psychiatric ward. She then escapes and calls her friends to reach out for help. The young girl picks up her call, but all the girl can do is call Joanna’s family.

The luxurious lifestyle had failed to provide the meaning in life that we all seek so desperately.

There is a funeral. A funeral for a much admired young woman. Lucy, to everyone, seems perfect. She has a loving family who devotes themselves to chaplaincy and community. She loves her family and her family absolutely love her.

She is a young aspiring actress. She is defined by her devotion to the Church but struggles with the conflict between her religious ethics and the demands of the theatre. She struggles as she repeatedly rejects roles that do not align with her values: explicit scenes that may contain nudity or even depict rape. She rejects many roles, but starts to lose herself she realises her dreams may not be within her reach.

Her suicide comes as a surprise to everyone. The bubbliest, happiest, kindest and most inspiring and selfless person kills herself. It is a mystery to all, but it is clear that Lucy had descended into a deep depression in the period before her death; a depression that she had successfully hidden from the world.

A young girl stands at her funeral, a year ago, looking around at the two thousand people in attendance. The world has become more black than white, in a sea of black suits and grief. Lucy used to makes cupcakes for the young girl.

Love is the longing for that part of ourselves that we have lost as the naivety of youth is left behind. When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object. There was a string of many young men, but the young girl never fell in love with any of them and never expects to in the future. They were there to rectify the emptiness inside family.

The young girl now questions whether the love that she yearns from a family is not important for one’s existence. She, Ali and Joanna had desperately wanted a relationship with their mother or father figure. However, Lucy was loved enormously by her family and ended up killing herself anyway. It is never as simple as it seems.

No one can truly understand this world, but what I do know is youthful idealisations and underage thinking can result in us getting lost in romantic perceptions that become a detriment to ourselves and are in no way aligned with life’s bitter realities that lie within the stories told, above.

Life’s not black and white; it is shades of grey and all the colours of the spectrum thrown in for added confusion. It is a multi-coloured outline that we cannot ever fill in, correct, complete or perfect. It is this uncertainty that scares us the most.