How Island Vibe Taught Me To Embrace My Identity

Island Vibe was a festival to remember, and yes, it being my first festival to ever attend may have something to do with that, but that really is the least of my reasons. Though I don’t have anything to compare it to, I can’t imagine the experience I had being at Island Vibe 2019 being any better.

Island Vibe is an arts and cultural festival and the truth is, I didn’t know what to expect. But, taking those first few steps through the entrance, and taking the atmosphere in it felt like I was home.

The stallholders were selling beautiful jewellery, bags, clothes, sarongs and so much more, and the way they interacted with their customers was like they were friends who’d known each other for years. The Chai ‘n’ Vibes area was welcoming, with people sitting around watching intently at the performances as they sipped on their chai drinks. There was a lot of smiling, applauding, laughing and dancing, and the environment being so encouraging made it feel like an extended family day out.  

The music and the set up of the whole thing was amazing, and I couldn’t help but dance my little heart out. That wasn’t even the best part though. Just by walking around, it was easy to see that the people made this event what it was. People were so kind, and it was clear that the environment was one without judgement, and everyone was free to be their true selves. 

In the lead up to Island Vibe, I had been on quite a bit of a journey, and I honestly believe that me going to this festival was not by chance, because being there opened my eyes to things that I didn’t even realise I had forgotten.

Island Vibe reminded me to go back to my roots, and yes, to be proud of who I am as a person, but more specifically to learn more about myself by getting in touch with my culture. 

Growing up as a mixed PNG-Australian has always been something that I found challenging, because I never really knew what to call myself. I thought I had to call myself one or the other, and because I wasn’t born in PNG, Australian was usually the go-to, but it was still always a tension because I knew PNG to still be a huge part of me and my existence. I recently realised that I’ve been experiencing something of an identity crisis. What I discovered though, is the reason there was a tension for me to call myself one or the other, is because other people would tell me that I am not PNG, whilst others would make me feel as though I didn’t belong here in Australia because of the complexion of my skin. So if I wasn’t Australian, and if I wasn’t PNG, then what did that make me? I had already been on a journey to understand both my cultures better, but being at Island Vibes reminded me of how important that is because I witnessed first hand how people embraced who they are and their cultures too.

In that environment of freedom, I was reminded of the importance of being confident in yourself, learning more about who you are and loving that person, and not letting the opinions of others define you or your life. If you want to dance in public, don’t hesitate because you’re afraid people will think you’re weird. Let me let you in on a little secret, we’re all weird, because we are all unique, and besides, who gets to decide what normal is anyway?

I don’t generally like to take any experience at face value, I am always looking for something I can learn, something deeper than just what I see. And that’s the crazy thing, it’s happening all around us, but because we aren’t paying enough attention, missed opportunities abound. I am so grateful for being able to experience Island Vibe as I did, and I hope that from reading about what it taught me, that you try to look for the deeper meaning and lessons in your personal experiences too. 

If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to learn about yourself and how to love that person unconditionally, because at the end of the day- you are the only person who spends 24 hours a day with you, so you’d maybe want to get along hey? And I know it’s hard sometimes, I really do, but that’s why I said learn, because it’s an ongoing journey and something we have to remind ourselves of daily.

This article was written by Melinda Seipel, a young writer with boundless positivity and amazing dance moves.

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