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I overshared family information about my heritage with a professor and am now feeling very anxious

Tagged as: Family, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (11 October 2017) 4 Answers - (Newest, 13 October 2017)
A female Australia age 30-35, *upiddear writes:

I overshared information a week ago with my university tutor and have had severe anxiety since! I was showing my tutor some of my work for the class which included a reference to Aboriginal Australians. I then blurted out that my father is Aboriginal (which he is- but only a quarter). My tutor asked me if I identify as Aboriginal and I told him that I don’t because my father didn’t tell me about his indigenous heritage until I was about 16 or 17 years old. So I was raised not knowing about it. I also went to a private Protestant school with mostly white students from the age of 5-18 so Aboriginal culture had no part in my upbringing at all. I had no contact with my father’s side of the family whatsoever.

I myself am white, blue eyes with blonde hair.

I told my tutor that I don’t idenitify as Aboriginal but also went on to tell him that when I have told people that I have a little bit of indigenous blood that I have recieved racism. I told him some of the things that people have said to me. I went on to tell him that my brother and sister do identify as aboriginal, though because they are a lot younger than me (they were born in my teen years) and they grew up knowing about it. Which I don’t agree with- if you are only 1/8th Aboriginal and have no aboriginal culture- but that’s their choice.

I walked away from this conversation feeling very hollow inside. I knew right away that I had overshared. There was absolutely no need for me to share any of this information at all and now I don’t know how to manage this.

I don’t want my tutor to have the wrong idea about me! Although I did tell him that I do not identify- including on government documents. I have never claimed any benefits from the government.

The reason that this has upset me so much and I am so angry at myself is because I have worked very hard in my industry to get where I am and my reputation is spotless. I am a mature age student but have actually been working in my field for years now. I am in my final year of university. My tutor is working in the field, also.

In a couple of months I will be exhibiting a photograph of an indigenous figure to the public in an exhibition. The reason I photographed him has nothing to do with my heritage- it’s because this figure is very well known. This indigenous person doesn’t even know about me being 1/8th aboriginal. I am worried that when my tutor sees it they will think that I have jumped on the bandwagon to get some recognition which is 100% not true.

I am not sure what the confidentiality rules are within university but I don’t want this to spread. Not because I am ashamed but because it’s really not who I am! I was just rambling (out of anxiety)about a very small part of my life and have made a mountain out of a molehill. I have given the impression that I am remotely part of a racial/cultural group that I have absolutely no affiliation with whatsoever.

This probably reads as though I have totally blown this situation out of proportion but I have been waking up every morning with so much anxiety. I have worked so hard and feel like I shared too much with this person.

Should I send my tutor an email explaining that I overshared? Does anyone have any advice on how I can deal with this situation? What can I do?

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A male reader, Billy Bathgate United States + , writes (13 October 2017):

I understand that racism is endemic in Australia in fact you seem to have picked some of it up. What a pity. But I think you may be blowing this out of proportion.

Do you have any reason to believe that your tutor goes around discussing the ethnic heritage of his students? However as it bothers you so much go to your tutor and ask him to please keep what you told him in confidence. That is your best option.

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (11 October 2017):

Honeypie agony auntGiven the history and the treatment of Aboriginals in Australia, I don't blame you for feeling ambiguous. Your father didn't tell you for a reason as well. Probably to make like "easier" for you as a kid.

However, WHO you are, have roots in your lineage. You happen to have some (in my opinion) rather AMAZING "mix" of ancestors. Genetically, THIS is your heritage. If it wasn't for these European AND Aboriginal people you wouldn't be here today. I come from a long line of European mutts - we call our family tree "Eurotrash".

I have people in MY tree that left their country and moved halfway across the world, only to marry someone else a couple of generations later and move back. I wouldn't BE here if those moves hadn't been made. My 6th-time great grandmother was Jewish but married a Christian man, probably to avoid prosecution. I can find no traces of her family, but again - I'm here because of HER and that marriage.

It SHOWS just how precious and fragile we humans are. YOU are ONLY here on Earth because of your ancestors. While you don't get to choose who they are, THEY are the reason you and your family is here. Think about it. Whenever a person dies, a potential branch on a family tree ceases to exist.

But I seriously digress....

You could e-mail your profession and explain BEFORE the exhibition WHY you chose this man as your subject and that is has nothing to do with your own heritage. You can also tell him that you PREFER to keep your conversation confidential. I just don't see why you should "defend" your piece of art OR your heritage.

Instead of this shame or fear or indifference, you have - why not TALK to your dad about that side of his family? It doesn't mean you all of a sudden have to feel at home with that side of your heritage but I think knowing a little of where you are from, is only ADDING to YOU and your history. Not feeling part of the Aboriginal culture is not really that strange in your case. Most of what you know comes from what you were taught in School and media. Not exactly the most positive reflection of that, is it?

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A female reader, 02DuszJ United Kingdom + , writes (11 October 2017):

02DuszJ agony auntSeriously? I'm sure your professor sees how hard you work and views you as an individual- not a STEREOTYPE. Because you're not a stereotype.

He's probably more wary of what a nervous wreck you appear to be- this is something you need give NO thought to, why you're in this state is ridiculous, seriously.

I'm a 1/4 Ukrainian, i don't worry that I'm weak because they haven't got a great army etc.

I think you're a bit judgmental as a person at the moment- you do realize that the media play on stereotypes, blow things out of proportion to get the biggest response- the biggest stories.

You will become wiser with age, I'm sure.

You will not be deported. Unless your president finds a way to expel any individual with any foreign trace in them.. slim to none chance. Seriously you're panicking over nothing. You don't even identify on your documents!

I really highly doubt a lecturer is going to see past all your academia as just an "immigrant"

Can i just say that Americans are not exactly native to their land.. they kicked natives out in a horrible way. Read about it

Just NO. Don't LABEL yourself by your race. You're an individual and the not the same as anyone else on this planet.

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A male reader, Denizen United Kingdom + , writes (11 October 2017):

Denizen agony auntIs it so bad being aboriginal, or even part aboriginal? I would have thought it was something to be proud of. You can call on deep roots. It embraces spirituality, environment, art, culture. You have a right to be there. You are not just an immigrant of a few generations.

If I were you I would embrace this as a gift. It doesn't change who you are. In many quarters it would give you extra validity.

I think as time goes on you will learn to be proud of this part of yourself. Draw on it for extra strength.

As for your tutor, I don't think he will ever use it to intentionally embarrass you. And you must not be embarrassed by your heritage. No-one can help who their forefathers were.

If any of your acquaintances regard it as a social stigma then they are snobs and you need to drop them.

There is even a TV programme in UK, 'Who do you think you are?' Celebrities are often surprised to find their ancestors were crooks, and conmen. The past isn't all rosy for them even though they are now famous.

I think there must be many Australians who have dubious connections in light of their forefathers being deported. What can they do? Things are what they are.

If you find this all to much then just tell your tutor that you don't generally reveal your mixed ancestry to others and ask him to maintain confidentiality.

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