Vasilios Theodorakis – An Online Author is a digital repository of all my written work (in text and podcast formats)…

July 17, 2017

Time After Time…

Filed under: Culture And Society,General — Vasilios Theodorakis @ 2:12 pm

“If you fall, I will catch you, I will be waiting, time after time.”

In 1984, this line from Cindy Lauper’s song – “Time After Time” had a huge impact on me. So much so, that my life ran like a video loop of a dancing fool, who climbs onto life’s stage then throws himself backwards into a mosh pit, hoping the audience will catch and lower him safely to the ground. Instead, the crowd steps aside and let’s him fall, no matter how many times he makes that leap of faith. The fool, continues to do this most of his life, never learning that people rarely step forward to help in times of need. (Interestingly, I do have people who step forward these days and do help, but that’s another story, for another time. ;) )

For five years, from 1979 to 1983, I was fortunate/unfortunate enough to have teachers who nurtured the idea that people should encourage and support each other in fulfilling each other’s dreams. I did this for everyone around me, and genuinely thought everyone would do the same for me. What I didn’t understand, was how unique my situation was in my high school years. For that brief period of time, I had people who I looked up to, who did everything they could to help me reach my goals and who ensured I rose to their levels of expectation.

In my naivety, it never dawned on me that I lived with parents who had no interest in supporting and encouraging their own children to fulfil their own dreams. Like most of my species’ offspring, I was hardwired to believe that your parents would do you no harm, and I did not have the wherewithal to get out of that context or insight to understand that some parents, like mine, paid the notion of support lip service. They only supported their children publicly, if it made the parents look good. The reality of our situation, was that as soon as the house doors were closed the degradation, humiliation and abuse began. Such parents were never going to follow through and standby their children or do whatever it took to help them fulfil their dreams. Both parents were only interested in how their children could serve them. They had no idea, that one of the key duties of being a parent, is to do what ever it takes to ensure your children have a better life than you did. In their minds, the child was a means to ensure their self centred existence was the best it could be. In fact, I recall an extended session of verbal abuse, where my father repeatedly yelled “…Who do you think you are? Aiming to get a higher education and have a better life than me!”. At best, my life was to be like his life – menial, mundane and mindless. What he required in order to feel good about himself, was to appear “better than everyone else”, including his own children. Anything that allowed the children to look better than the parents had to be sabotaged, and so my sister’s future and my future was trashed before it ever began. Neither of us was aware of this at the time.

With this as my context, I didn’t realise that I had accomplished my academic excellence all by myself, having done so, in less than favourable conditions. With only the encouragement and support of my high school teachers, and working twice as hard as my fellow students (in order to counteract the daily assaults on self esteem), I “burnt out” long before the end of 1984 – my senior year of high school.

In spite of my school having one of the lowest ASAT test scores in Queensland, I managed to graduate in the top 1.5% of all students in that year. What happened next inevitably set me on the “road to nowhere”. Over the years, I’ve rerun my experience countless times, but no matter how often I replay the events, the outcome is always the same as the variables impacting on my life couldn’t be altered.

By 1985 a whole series of things were working against me. One – that I began my first year of uni, enrolled in one of the hardest courses on offer (a bachelor of science in the honours stream of the maths/physics faculty) while physically, emotionally and mentally burnt out. Two – that I had no support or encouragement from my tertiary academic environment. The high school teachers who saw my potential, and did everything in their power to encourage its development, weren’t there to prop me up any more. And three – I didn’t understand nor did I believe that the support and encouragement to fulfil my dreams, had never come from my home environment – i.e. my parents. It had only ever come from the good will of strangers – i.e. my high school teachers.

Back in the mid 1980s, lecturers and tutors at my university did not have the time or the inclination to personally encourage or support students to reach their goals. You were on your own and if you didn’t understand that, that was too bad. The only academic that tried to help, was an ageing German Pure Mathematics professor who encouraged me to “factor in life”, as “life’s unexpected events” could derail the best of students. This scholar, was an insightful man who realised I was struggling, and tried his best to warn me about the storms ahead. Sadly, I was too blinkered at the time and ignored his advice.

The naivety and stubbornness of my younger self, ensured, that I refused to accept how people didn’t wish for and didn’t do whatever it took to encourage the fulfilment of another human being’s potential. This social ignorance led to my undoing. What child ever imagines, that their parents will not only cease to support the fulfilment of their children’s dreams, but pro actively discourage those dreams from happening. Add to this cauldron, the extreme violence and abuse perpetrated by a father who had frontal lobe brain damage, and a mother with a narcissistic personality disorder, and you have a scenario that could only ever end the same way – the destruction of children trapped in such an environment.

But here I am today, still alive thanks to the many kindnesses of strangers whose paths I’ve crossed in the last 34 years. These personal traumas and tragedies were played out on life’s stage a very long time ago. Such a long time ago, that the only people who truly remember what happened are the abusers, who’ve gone on to lead quite comfortable lives, and the abused, whose lives were destroyed by a violent cognitively limited father and a psychiatrically self centred mother. Those who do remember and still have to deal with the fall out of 1985-1992 include myself, my sister and the people closest to us who’ve had to witness first hand, how no one ever recovers from trauma, they just learn how to manage it. Both of us suffer from shattered trust, caused by the very people who were supposed to fulfil a duty of care and follow through on an obligation to nurture. No one should have to carry such a burden around their whole lives, but many people do.

It is therefore a credit to both my sister and myself that we continue “to be there” for others, in spite of us not having healthy role models. It is also a small miracle, that we have not replicated the dysfunction of our parents in our own lives.

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