I was raised in a community where most issues were swept under the rug and placed with a pretty bow on top. It was a very conservative, traditional Dutch community strong in patriarchy. I however was also taught by my parents to be independent, strong, and brave. I did not conform well to the community and became more of just a visitor when I wanted to see my extended family. I learned many things prior to leave at the age of eighteen. What I see now is when there’s no more room to hide things under the rug, everything comes out and it becomes ugly.
I have had my fair share of disagreements within the community; the largest was falling in love with a woman. Since then, most things have gone downhill. I find myself struggling to keep up appearances in a place I do not feel accepted, but I am expected to. But amidst the chaos, I have also influenced others. I see more of the community being open about the struggles they are fighting than ever before. It’s a far stretch to say it’s open, but it’s getting there.
When I return to the community, people gawk as I tell the tales of mountains climbed, animals spotted, and incredible experiences. This is because I was brave enough to leave in the first place. I did not do it to be a spectacle, I did not do it in rebellion of the traditional ways, I did it because I found my voice through traveling. Be brave with your voice. If you let others diminish you once, they will continue to do so. So be brave with your voice, stand tall, and never back down.