I asked Elaine about the places she’s lived and who she was then; her answers are inspirational…
I haven’t traveled a great deal or lived in a great number of places even though I’ve moved house a lot. Every place I’ve lived has helped shape who I am now.
I grew up in a small country Queensland town that was a confusing mixture of gentle protectiveness, willful ignorance, and judgmentalism. Men and women had very clearly expected roles and places in society. There was a stark difference in surface-life and sub-culture. Women were expected to accept that men were head of the households and had the ultimate say in daily life. If something bad happened, it was hidden. There was a subversive rape culture that I believe continues today. One of my friends from school committed suicide after his father told him he’d rather have a dead son than a gay one. I left there as soon as I finished school and, while I’ve gone back occasionally to visit family that still live there, have never wanted to reconnect with the town.
I lived in an Aboriginal community for a couple of years, as a teacher, and in turns thoroughly enjoyed it and despaired for the Aboriginal people and their fight for identity and autonomy. Until I lived there, my knowledge of the way Aboriginal people were treated, particularly within the law, was academic and sketchy. My friendships with some of the women there gave me the personal story of the stolen generation and the impacts of the government’s long-term refusal to recognize the Aboriginal people as human beings (until 1966 management of the Aboriginal people came under the auspices of the Department of Fauna and Flora).
While on the Darling Downs, I was a small crops farmer. I worked my day job five days a week and, after work and weekends, worked on the farm growing vegetables. My life went through some dramatic changes during that time. In turns I was a happy new mother, a battered wife, a divorcee dealing with a stalking ex-husband and leering, jeering small-town men (another aspect of rape culture), and a dutiful daughter living with a critical mother after my father’s death. Sometimes I think the only reason I’m still alive (apart from the quick police response time), is my daughter. She is my joy.
I’m now living in the state’s capital city. It’s taken some time, but I’ve steadily removed myself from all the toxic people I’ve known and found a place where I like who I am and what I’m doing with my life. I’ve studied a bit, earning another couple of degrees, evolved my careers in new and exciting directions, and allowed myself to explore things that interest me, regardless of whether or not family or friends would approve. Unfortunately, that has led to a number of friends and family distancing themselves from me. Now that my day-to-day existence isn’t such a struggle, I can spend the time doing things that bring me joy, allowing me to express who I am, and, in some small way, show others that anything is possible as long as you don’t give up.
Here’s the blurb from “Ordinary People” :