I was born in Vicenza, a small town on the north-east side of Italy, about half an hour from Venice. After I finished high school I travelled around Europe and then on to the United States for a couple of years. I ended up in Sydney, Australia in 2003 where I found home and where I lived ever since.
I was raised with very traditional Italian values and beliefs. Italian culture is very family orientated, even today, and the separation of gender roles continues to be traditional on this front. Much more deserves to be said about gender roles and how they impact people’s relationships, self-identity and self-esteem. My parents were very traditional and religious. I was always taught that my primary role as a woman would involve becoming a good wife and a good mother. I was taught to believe that a woman needs to look after her family and, as part of her role, she must provide balance and care for the other family members.
I was encouraged to find a good man who would provide stability and financial safety in order for me to create the “happy traditional Italian family”. I was informed that all this should be ideally achieved by my middle twenties otherwise the extended family members, friends and neighbours would eventually start thinking and gossiping that there was something wrong with me or someone perhaps made a spell on me.
Nevertheless, despite my very Italian upbringing I do not reflect any of the roles that being a woman in my culture involves. I am now in my thirties, I am single, I don’t have children and I am very independent on all counts. The path to my current identity has been far from straight forward and it has involved numerous life changes along the way to make me who I am today.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my culture and my country and I carry both in my heart. I still identify myself as an Italian woman and my strong Italian accent when I speak in English is something that I am very proud of. However, discovering other cultures and, in particular, living in Australia has opened my eyes and made me realise that my identity was more important than the expectations of my family and culture.
In Australia, I found freedom in whom I really wanted to be. This country has provided me with amazing opportunities for everything I wanted to become. Let’s not forget to mention the amazing people who live here, who made me feel like I was at home from the very first day I arrived. I felt so happy because they demonstrated nothing but appreciation for my culture, many wanting to know more.
I define myself as a soul with two hearts: one Italian and one Australian. I carry both countries and cultures inside me, each equally as strong as the other. I am Italian by blood, Australian by choice.
Watch the video in the Brain Guru section to learn more about cultural bereavement and personal identity.