by Raymond Karam, Goonellabah
It seems for so long now I have been an actor in the world. I have filled many roles and have been improving each performance with a more measured and perfect one.
A few months ago I sat down with a few mates and we started talking about how we were feeling. This was a different kind of sit-down for me. It was informal – no alcohol, no sport – just men sharing how they were feeling and what they had been doing.
From these now regular, informal catch-ups I have been looking more at who and how I am. I realise I have been many things so far in my life. I have gone into many roles and done them well, but mostly the roles I chose were for reasons that didn’t actually come from what I really wanted to do. I have realised that from a young age I could feel what people wanted and needed from me, and I eventually just chose to be whatever they wanted: I was an actor.
I am now a married family man and in our house I would be considered to be the ‘perfect’ husband and father. Go to work, work hard, come home, say hello to everyone, clean up the house, get the children to bed, sit down and have dinner, etc. I ticked a lot of boxes for the ‘perfect’ man. But I now realise I was just playing roles for my family in the house.
In the men’s discussions I have been going to, I have been able to share and see that most men have been playing similar roles to me. Most, like me, start playing roles from when they are young. For me, my mother needed a good boy that loved her, so I was that for her. My father needed a quiet boy that followed him and did what he was told, so I did that. When I grew up the roles didn’t change. My wife needed to be loved and looked after, so I did that for her, etc.
If my wife had trouble with the children, I would come in and sort it out. I kept hearing the words, “Fill the need”. It was like I was trying to fix everything, so it looked good, but it actually would just keep going and it was never ‘fixed’. It just repeated itself over and over. The same problems and issues were there again and again. I was never actually fixing anything, I was just playing the same game. It was like there was something being presented to me to look at, but instead of looking at it, I was jumping into it and repeating the same behaviour. For me, once I had done or played a role once, there would be a pressure for me to be that again and again and again.
It’s not that I don’t do things for people anymore – the difference now is that I am learning to check in with myself first. In the past, I would just go and be whatever anyone wanted.
I have found out that I can still do all these things, but there is a massive difference. I stop and do my best to make sure that it is me choosing to do something – instead of just jumping in and “filling the need”.
I now feel as though I am free. I don’t feel a pressure or a weight on my shoulders to ‘be’ so many things for so many people. It seems when I choose this ‘new way’ that it is so easy because it is actually not so new… it has always been there for me but I pushed it aside to ‘be’ something else.