A Life of My Own
Updated: Jul 9, 2020
| This is the 140th story of Our Life Logs |
Remember that episode of The Simpsons when Bart divorces his parents? He moves into a wicked loft-style apartment with what little possessions he owns and has the time of his life, or so it seems—until the over-exaggerated shadow of a deranged rat scares the living daylights out of him and he returns home.
That rat hasn’t come along to scare me yet, but to be honest, I don’t think it ever will.
I was born on July 20, 1972. My earliest memories come from the paddocks of my fence-less backyard. Abandoned horse shoes littered the field. We were living on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia. I was the fourth child in a succession of eight, although it would be five years until my next sibling was born. For a long time, it was us first four and my Greek parents who met and married in Australia.
Growing up was difficult with a father who needed to be in control. It was his way or the highway. Actually, let me rephrase: it was his way, or he’d beat you until you forgot why you were even disagreeing with him in the first place. If my mother or any of us kids tried to stand up to him, we would be beaten. I remember a night when my pregnant mother was brought down to the floor. My father was sprawled over her, exerting his dominance and proudly asserting his authority. His bulging fingers clutched her delicate throat, squeezing so tight that his knuckles were almost transparent. The years of abuse morphed my mother’s gentle being into one of bitterness and spiteful vengeance.
The physical abuse didn’t completely stop until I was roughly seven or eight. As my younger brothers and sisters were born, and as us other kids were old enough to defend ourselves, my father’s violent behavior receded. Although his verbal abuse continued as fiercely as ever. He remained a twisted and pessimistic human who was in constant competition with his wife, his sons, his peers, his acquaintances and himself.
Only on one occasion did my father ever express his gratitude, appreciation, or any fatherly affection for any of my accomplishments and achievements. Just one. The very memory of it is as faint as a fleeting mirage. He was walking me to school one day and somewhere along our walk, he decided to express his gratitude for my strong efforts in school. He even offered words of encouragement.
This incited a voracious appetite. I so desperately wanted to experience the overwhelming rush of pride and joy again. Call it my first hit, first puff, whatever you like. I had found my drug.
But as you’d expect, I never experienced anything like that first dose again.
I was still in primary school when I realized my sexual preference wasn’t for women. I had a petty little crush on my PE teacher in sixth grade, but I kept it quiet. I feared that I would close the door to any chance of my father’s affection if I spoke about my sexuality.
I decided that in tenth grade I would really buckle down and study hard. I wanted to prove to my father that I was a son he could be proud of. At the end of the year, my grades were amazing, and I was over the moon. I remember rushing home, pulling out my report card and handing it to him. His response destroyed me.
“What are you showing me this for? It’s crap!”
As a child, you’re supposed to learn mutual respect from your parents. However, if they themselves fail to exude any notion of respect, and continue barking derogatory comments every single day, self-respect becomes something unattainable.
My mother wanted me to become a priest. So, because I was ill-equipped to follow my own dreams and passions, after high school, I flew to Greece and studied for the priesthood for a year. I wasn’t truly interested in becoming a priest, but I couldn’t bear facing my mother’s disappointment. So instead, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Theology program at a university in Sydney.
Soon after graduation, I got my own place, got myself a boyfriend and started partying. I had a hell of a good time partying in my early 20s. I spent most of my time attending gay clubs in Melbourne. Going out helped me forget about all the terrible memories of my past, at least for a while. Then things took a turn one night when I spilled out onto the sidewalk of an esteemed venue, only to find my father looking at me while he was queued in his taxi, waiting to collect his next patron.
We never mentioned or spoke about that incident. Ever.
I didn’t exactly come out to my parents. But I do remember a specific conversation with my father after I had brought a guy I was seeing to a family gathering. I introduced him with the Greek word “filos” which can be translated to either friend, lover, or partner. I left it up to my family to infer whatever they wanted to. In the conversation with my father, he referred to the guy as something irrefutably disgusting, to which I replied, “So am I.” This hostility lasted all my life with my father.
As I got into my 30s, my father continued talking to my siblings and me like we were garbage. He ridiculed our behaviors and decisions. He’d say he could do our jobs better. Hell, he thought he could even live our lives better. To be honest, I’d love to watch a traditional, elderly, Greek cab driver try to live as a gay male. I crack myself up thinking of how absurd that scenario is.
For fear of failure and criticism, I never fully pursued my interests or talents. Photography, videography and music composition have always been my passions, but I never chased them. I’d always been afraid to take risks. My being was ruled by this cliché monotone we call the rhythm of life. I worked the same unfulfilling job for eighteen years, too afraid to pursue my dreams because I’d been led to believe that I wasn’t good enough.
Being a mess was all that I was good for. So, I continued trashing myself by partying on the weekends and partaking in activities that would probably cause those of a more innocent-minded nature to faint. This was the type of life I lived. Miserable and self-deprecating.
Fast forward to July 2018. My father became terminally ill with cancer. One of my sisters had called me with the news. I ignored it at first because I was about to embark on a weekend of shenanigans to commemorate turning 46. After I recovered from my misdemeanors, I visited my parents’ home.
My father asked, “Why haven’t you called me?”
It was now or never. I could continue holding onto all my anger and possibly grow to become just like my father or I could choose to better myself. I erupted like a volcano, letting all my true feelings out.
“Because, I blame you for the mess that is my life.”
I confronted him about my memories of violence and abuse. I bombarded him and allowed the anger to flow freely, until relief quickly entered my system, satiating my built-up rage that had encumbered me for years. But, he denied everything. He said that I was crazy, but I wasn’t going to fall for his tricks this time. I was not going to let him convince me I was the crazy one. There was no way in hell I was backing down from this. The cat was out of the bag.
This was a turning point in my life. I had been blocking myself from opportunities, living confined by the shackles my father had placed me in. This confrontation was necessary to improve the quality of my life. Though it might seem harsh that I told off my dying father, his sickness wasn’t the reason why I decided to finally tell him off. It was what I needed to do to finally live for myself.
He looked back at me, eyes filled with the fear he had been running from his entire life. He was speechless that I wasn’t retreating. Not this time.
“I’m your son, and you’re my father… but you’re not a man.”
I saw who he truly was then and there. He was a coward. I never should have searched for his approval.
I never would have forgiven myself if I had never spoken to him, and just let it all slide forever. I am not proud about my life, but that confrontation was the proudest I had ever felt about myself. I stood up for myself finally. I stood up for the constantly terrified child I once was. I stood up for my brothers and sisters. We had no one to go to as kids and that wasn’t fair. Though he became an old man as I grew up, he still had a lot of power over me. I desperately wanted his approval and love. I really was hoping that he would say that I meant something to him. That never happened, and I’m glad I told him how I truly felt, even if the timing was off. I did the thing that was right by me and by the four-year-old me.
Today, I’m open to whatever comes. I hope to pursue a career I can be proud of. No longer living for the approval of others, I’m going to live life to the happiest capacity, one that is my own. While I have enjoyed snippets of joy, peace and serenity so far, I am paving the way forward in anticipation for an abundance of it. To work toward that happiness, I started learning web development and getting into comedy. Perhaps I’ll find life’s hidden truths among the chaotic mess of HTML and jokes.
This is the story of Nektarios Christopoulos
Nektarios lives in Melbourne working as a freelance web developer. Growing up in a family of eight children, his upbringing lacked the typical conventional styles of a loving parent-son relationship. Nektarios passed through life craving affection from his father who failed to provide it. He continued living in pursuit of these affections, intentionally or unintentionally. It didn’t matter. His outlook on life remained the same until he decided to release the decades of pain and frustration, so he could live a happier life without the baggage of his past. Today, Nektarios is excited for what the future will bring. He plans to surround himself with sincere friends and maybe even find someone to be in a loving, nurturing relationship with. Nektarios enjoys sipping Kahlua and gin and socializing with his band of loving friends.
This story first touched our hearts on July 26, 2018.
| Writer: Ben Siljac | Editors: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker |
#Australia #relationships #father #neglect #brokenrelationship #LGBTQ #comingout #acceptance