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We’re Not, Like, Endangered Animals: Generations 5

Illustration by Josie Moir

Talking to my mother and grandmothers about their lives has been such a gift. I am so privileged to have the willing and able participation of my family members in constructing a history that involves us all, and I have already read and reread the interview transcripts with so much fondness. The process has been doubly fulfilling, in that it’s made me feel closer to my family members, and also closer to myself.

As I referenced in each of the articles, there was something that feels genuinely enlightening about the way these conversations played out. The stories and snippets that were already familiar to me gained context; they became embellishments on a richer foundation of logical, chronological narrative. Of course, we cannot tell the tale of our lives objectively, detachedly, or completely accurately – but that was absolutely not the point. I am far less interested in historical precision than personal integrity. I wanted to understand events but, most crucially, in order to understand the emotions around these events. I wanted to study circumstances and come to see how a person – a woman who I love, who has been so integral to who I am – develops out of them. And, almost inadvertently, I have gained a much better understanding of the person I am, and how I have come to be her.

At one point I considered “interviewing myself” for this conclusive piece. However, I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. Not only because I cannot yet comment on motherhood or even really adulthood, which were crucial components of the questions, but also because I don’t think I am done growing up. I am not fully formed yet, and I definitely don’t have the necessary distance from my upbringing to assemble an intelligent, comprehensive commentary on it in the way that my mum and grandmothers did. I am not yet so much a story, as a collection of ideas. And that is ok, and maybe in however many years’ time, I will return to this with some more cohesive thoughts.

Something that this process has highlighted to me, though, is the beautiful way in which we all are simultaneously individuals and amalgamations. I am myself, but that person is no island and exists as she does because of the influence of everyone around her. I am a patchwork quilt made up of pieces of the women around me. I am plagiarised. I feel so much strength in seeing how I mimic the women before me, and how between us, we are carrying something – some feeling, some warmth, and solidarity – through the generations. 

I also feel safe. I feel security in the person I am becoming, comforted by the excellence of those whose templates I am using, and fortified by the certainty of the path I am following. I am really trying to approach myself in the same way that I approached my family for interviews: motivated by a desire to understand and to love, and not to judge. I know that the woman I one day will become is no finished product, but that she is trying, and that she is emerging, that she is shaped by so much love that she must be alright. When I grow up, I would like to be a lot like her.