Upon crossing the border into Wales, the first thing I noticed was the strong noticeability that we were in another country, albeit just 3 hours from home. The landscape changed, the atmosphere changed, and so did the weather (unfortunately, not in the desirable way). Within what felt like a few minutes, not even enough to get to the local superstore back home, we were in Cardiff. A city in its own right, it felt more like a town to this Londoner. Not that this was as a negative thing, it’s refreshing if nothing else, it was just far away from expectations – you could say it was…different.
The contrast from England’s flat suburbia to the unspoiled, raw nature we found in Wales kept springing the term ‘nature vs. nurture’ into my thoughts. It got me thinking about how much our socialisation, community, culture, religion, family, friends etc. can impact our actual being? Who wins out, nature or nurture? We are all born into expectations and placed subconsciously into tiny boxes (no, not literal ones). It’s entirely natural and there’s ultimately not much we can do to change this, we’ll also most likely be implicit to carrying on this concept if/when we ourselves have children. Even without knowing it overtly, we grow up mostly following conforms that society, religion, culture, whichever is most prominent for us, dictate as necessary. For me, I never experienced a strict religious household or shunning society, thankfully. But I did start to notice subconscious behavioural changes I was making when I reached an age to feel like I knew who I was.
Thinking about this I wondered at which point I became consciously aware of the unconscious grid lines keeping me in the ‘normal’ lane. Growing up in a relatively small town in Essex, a suburban county on the outskirts of London, I knew I was different. Here everybody looks the same, dresses the same, acts the same. It’s exhaustingly boring. They mock difference by giving it an obnoxious label (gay, weird, nerd) in hopes to ultimately deter it. As I got older, I developed a deeper understanding and connection to fashion, art and queer culture. I’d started to consciously change the way I acted and dressed to fit into the metaphorical tiny box that was given to me, and this infuriated me, still does actually. Why should I have to change the way I am to appease the small-minded? It’s probably the oldest line in the book for me and my community, but one that still rings very true.
Do we subconsciously curate our own being, like the culture we associate with? For example, queer culture was not at all something I knew of or was introduced to growing up. My parents are and have always been the most supportive and open-minded duo, but it just wasn’t something they themselves were aware of. I find it interesting how far individuals can deviate from the society, culture, religion etc. that they have been brought up with, do we do so because we eventually realise it isn’t an authentic part of ourselves or do we do so because we begin to feel claustrophobic – also, once we have strayed from the ‘norm’, whatever that be for us, how much remains?
Although times are slowly but surely edging to a point of acceptance, there’s still a long way to go. Even once we finally reach the other end of the spectrum and are deliberately not putting expectations onto our younger generation; that in itself is an expectation. We are expecting ourselves to expect nothing. Life and society are enthralled in so much prejudice I find it empowering to see youths using the things we/they were tore down for to build them up. It shows endless strength and admirable ability to use difference as a building block to success, a way to carve your own path through ‘normalville’. Embracing difference and giving expectation the finger.