Words by Joseph (he/him), 30 QLD
The piece ‘The Space Between’ contains themes about mental health, anxiety and depression which may be difficult to read or triggering to some readers. Readers in need can seek support from the following services.
1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Being unheard is a reality I have dealt with every day. As a millennial from a multicultural background, mental health was something that went unnoticed – a personal struggle, not a societal issue. Yet the ripple effect of recognising the difference between an individual problem and a community challenge is the only thing that has made change possible.
For the better part of the past two decades, my voice was marginalised and misrepresented, until now. The great leveller, being the COVID-19 pandemic, was a major change in the lives of young people that shifted the conversation. It gave young people the power to speak up and speak out because of the past absence of our voices, our experiences.
For youth everywhere, our unique stories have been the connection which has brought us together, despite social distance and individual isolation. We have found a commonality which has grown stronger across the fabric of time and space, and it has formed our collective story. Despite the plethora of social challenges young people face daily, we have been able to find community through lived experience, finding ways to engage through safe spaces and uncommon conversations.
I often find myself in the in-between; not knowing what to say but knowing I must say something. From being shunned because of my cultural upbringing, to embracing my uniqueness. For every feeling left undescribed, to every emotion being poured out on paper through the power of my experience.
Fortunately, my mental health struggles are no longer what define me. I have found a community through the challenges and setbacks that I have faced, and I no longer face these alone. Being brown has become my identity, and something that connects me, rather than separates me from the rest of society. Our story is not what separates us from others, rather it unites us. As seekers of a deeper understanding of what makes us stronger through the weaknesses we endure, we press forward. Knowing that what makes us unique is only the beginning, giving us strength for the journey.
I realised through the pandemic, my life panned out differently to what I originally imagined. I became stronger in my belief, identifying more with my culture, understanding that the anxiety, stress, and depression I had endured was something I no longer have to endure alone.
Allowing for the space in-between; the space between my doubts and fears, between my confidence and strengths, the space between my present situation, and my ability to move forward – to let my past stay in the past. I no longer remain defined by it but have learned to learn from it.
Growing into my new reality I have embraced my sense of belonging to a community that is ever changing. To live unfettered by the chains of others’ opinions or accusations, to live as an embodiment of my emotions and an extension of my faith in a greater purpose – a higher calling.
I now know that it is the difference between remaining caught in the moment or rising past the life I was once defined by, and into the place I know I must strive towards.
For a future generation, that is being formed in the here and now, it is clear that I have reached a state of mind that is still undefined; beyond the labels and the cliches, beyond the boxes people have created, above the life others want me to aspire towards, I have climbed above.
Though to some I may be unknown, I now know that I am known.
As young people, I challenge us all to remain confident in our ability to learn from experience, but not to be defined by it; to understand our past, but not to dwell on the pain; to be empowered, but never silenced.
Illustration by Aileen. You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenngstudio