Sonia Hadj Said
Our relationship hasn’t been easy. You don’t understand why I keep making my life difficult, and I don’t understand why you can’t trust my decisions. So I hung up on you. This is my apology, an attempt at making us both understand.
I have been listening to the same complaint for over an hour.
It’s the tiny room I can barely afford. A part time job because I’m waiting for my big break. An unpaid internship since the break isn’t coming. But ‘how can you work for free?’ you ask. ‘How much longer before someone appreciates you?’
You want to see a man by my side, so the family can stop asking whether I’m gay. You start to think that maybe it’s better to say I’m gay rather than ‘I’m not wasting time on just any guy because he likes me.’ That just doesn’t sound right to you. Whenever I tell you this is my life, you say this is an excuse.
You think that your happiness isn’t the determinant of a good life
You are my hero. Coming from times when you had to wait in a line for food has made you think about different types of problems. You got pregnant at the age when I had only begun to start living my life. Even so, you stubbornly finished school and went into a job that was provided by the government. But once you got in, you made sure to climb up. You didn’t have time to think about yourself. You only wanted a better life for me.
And it worked. I have all the time in the world to think about my passions. You gave me the luxury of affording to be brave and adventurous. And I realize that by a ‘better life’ you meant me going to school and finding a good job. And that being an artist doesn’t exist in your world under the category ‘job’.
See, I don’t want a good job, a good husband, a good house. I believe that deep inside you understand.
I saw you struggle to provide for me all my life. I saw you stopped loving my dad. I also saw you just let it happen and stay that way, because you think that your happiness isn’t the determinant of a good life. You never wanted me to go down the same path, so this is the time for you to see that I’m not. I’m not lonely. I’m not sad. I’m not underemployed. I’m simply taking the time because I was raised to put my happiness first.
Raised by you.
I was raised to put my happiness first. Raised by you
I admit it. Asking for money, but sticking to a terribly paid job doesn’t make me look good. It might not make sense. Hell, it seems crazy!
But being a mother, you can only imagine how many women like you decided that their children would have it better. Would have the time. Would be whatever they wanted to be.
You gave us a gift and a curse at the same time. Generation Y was raised to be brave by Generation X. So in the same way I could never imagine the life you led and the choices you made without thinking about yourself, you must trust that I know what I’m doing as well. You say you can’t.
But do you remember that crazy idea of sending a box of shoes to a magazine? ‘This is madness,’ you said. ‘It shouldn’t be so difficult.’ But it was, and I felt lucky enough to get a reply. You couldn’t believe anyone would treat a creative idea like this seriously.
You saw me getting internships and publishing a book on my own. I know you were proud and terrified at the same time. Because this isn’t life. It’s not steady at all.
I’m sorry things didn’t turn out the way you wanted. That I’m 25 and don’t have a career, a house or a husband yet. I’m sorry my life isn’t steady. But if you listen for a minute, I want to thank you for giving me a free life. It doesn’t matter how poor I am, I wake up happy every day because I am the only person I’m responsible for. When I make a mistake it’s all on me. When I left your home, I was ready to do things on my own: I didn’t move from my parents’ house to my husband’s house. We might be from completely different generations, but I hold your advice in my heart every day.
Put yourself first. Don’t apologise. Go after what you really want. Never depend financially on a man. Be smart, educate yourself. Enjoy your life.
For me, you did a pretty good job, mum.
Banner image: Chiara Goia