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Shakti perspectives: John C 

Did anyone else wish they weren't an immigrant growing up? Or did anyone else wish they didn't have a surname no one could pronounce? Did anyone else wish their homes didn't smell like Fish Curry every weekend? Did anyone want to be White growing up? Growing up as an immigrant is always a mission.

I went from Public School in Dandenong to Catholic School in Beaconsfield. My life went from the United Nations to me being the only Brown kid in my year in a school where I knew nobody. So many experiences throughout my High School years caused me to be ashamed of who I am. My skin was too dark, my lips were too big or the fact that I was a brown boy who got shit grades & was bad at sports. I wasn't great at Maths or Science or Homework or Assignments.. I was good at all the creative shit & that's the last thing Working Class immigrant parents want their kids to persue lol.

As the eldest of 3 immigrant kids, I had to breakdown all the barriers for my brother & sister.. Fashion, music, sleepovers, clubbing, house parties, debs, formals & dating. All normal parts of Western Culture but so Taboo to my Fijian/Indian parents from the Village lol. My experience is very common amongst many young immigrant kids, it fucking sucks when your not book smart at school! It sucks that your teachers don't understand you or give up on you! Someone would be racist to me at school & the teachers wouldn't do anything about it. You go home & tell your parents & they just tell you to shit up & study. It sucks when all the elders just compare which cousin is better than the other, these things start to make us resent the country we live in & our own people. So where else can we feel accepted?

After High school, after the embarrassment of showing my parents my results, I turned to a life of selling/using drugs, partying & alcohol.. I made enough money to party for another week, played a few gigs here & there, worked & dashed from like 20 factory jobs & hospitality jobs, got arrested for possession & driving offenses. All of a sudden I'm 25, still at home, no career, no qualifications, no savings, no girl & no direction.

I was never kind to myself, I never gave myself time to deal with my demons & emotional scars. I just wanted to please everyone, I thought that's how you get successful. I never forgave my father for the misunderstandings we had growing up, I never forgave my friends for dumbshit we went through & I never forgave myself for trying to end my life so many times. After a bad break up of a relationship (that I ruined), I started focusing on myself. My mental health & my diet became a priority, wanting to become a better Son & Brother became priority. I learned to translate my emotions into words that could be understood better & I started listening to peoples advice. Nobody is gonna help you if their advice falls on deaf ears.

Cooking was never supposed to be a career, I just cooked for girls because I couldnt afford to take them out. My family is full of amazing cooks so I guess some of the magic rubbed off on me. I would cook Western Cuisine & my native Fijian/Indian Cuisine for my homies & everyone loved it.. I was finally proud of my ethnicity & culture. I decided to start taking the whole food thing seriously & I bullshitted my way into positions at some of the best & worst restaurants in the country. I started feeling like I was a part of something special, we were creating, the music was still loud, you earned respect by being good at your job, each service felt like a performance. Though it is a high pressure environment, I found peace in the chaos. The perfect mix of aggression, skill & grace. I still wanted to kill myself after some bad shifts but I couldn't, this new found passion had me believing I could do great things. I could finally make my mark in this world.

It took me 29 years to open my little restaurant, on opening day I had $30 to my name. The shop has been open for almost 2 years now. Everyday has it's own challenges, I can't run to my Mamma when things go wrong. I have no business partners or credit cards, I had to learn to stand on my own & realise if I want to be something amazing, I gotta put the work in. I have to face fears almost everyday & it has made me a better man. Sometimes we need to take a risk & put it all on the line to achieve great things.

I never saw myself as a Community Leader, especially during a time where youth crime is an epidemic but the Universe only gives it's hardest tasks to the strongest soldiers. Since day one, I've only hired unexperienced youth who need a little inspiration & direction. I vowed to created a work environment where they can feel at ease. I know what it's like to be an anxious kid at a new workplace.

Everyone's story & journey is different. The whole perfect life of studying, getting a dream job, finding the perfect partner, buying a house, having kids.. None of that shit happened for me. No one warned us about all the curveballs life throws at you. I failed school, I got lost in a world of bright lights & drugs, I couldn't hold down a job, I couldn't hold down a relationship etc etc. I don't really think there's a cure for all this mental stuff but I'm happy I found have healthy ways to deal with it because this world is too amazing to leave so soon. 

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