Growing Up: My Americanized Mediterranean View of Expression and Respect

Growing up in a family with Mediterranean heritage in America was not much different then most families….. mostly. Self expression was encouraged, but oftentimes family members would say things without thinking. This would often lead to confrontations that could have been avoided.  I learned early on that the expression of anger and frustration, was also allowed, and you would often find yourself overhearing “loud conversations” (as they would be so politely called) about many issues. Another difference was the level of physicality that was allowed. When your family came to visit, you would great them with a hug and/or a kiss. As a child you were always held, snuggled, kissed, and just for fun the occasional little “love tap” on the rear.

I grew up with a strong sense of morals and values, and like many cultures my mother was the caretaker of the home and the caretaker of my brother and I.  My father worked long days, like many men of his generation to support his family, and mostly watched over us at a distance.  Although, when we needed him to help with anything, he would gladly drop whenever he was doing to support us.  His top priority was also to see us be happy and well-adjusted individuals.

We were taught to respect our elders, but not because we were required to blindly follow them. Because my parents, aunts, uncles, and etc. respected us, we respected them. There was a nice balance, equality (as age appropriately as possible) between adults and children. As children or young adults, if we had logical suggestions then there was rarely a problem with authority issues.

My parent’s wanted nothing other than for me to be happy in whatever choices in life that I made, including career, spouse, and etc.  As a child, although school was often difficult for me my parents encouraged me to try my best, sought help for me when I needed it, but never pressured me to perform. Again, they wanted me to be happy, and that was what was most important to them. I applied my own pressure to do well in school, or other activities. As a child taught to think as an individual, I was deciding my own future with my parents watching over me for safety.

I didn’t realize although, how different my upbringing was until I was introduced to Asian cultures.  It never even crossed my mind that a culture would not support individual thinking, and self-expression. Nor did I think to appreciate all the good things that Eastern cultures have to offer like “self reserve” and  ” think before you act” mentality, which at times my family seemed NOT to have. So I won’t ever say one culture is better than another, or one way of thinking is preferred, but I will say that my experience growing up was the exact opposite of traditional Asian culture. So my attraction to Asian cultures and lifestyles was perhaps simply because it was different from my own. It filled a gap or replaced some of the things I disliked about my own, and ultimately I feel blending the two cultures, has made me a better person.

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