Tsia Labadze, 23, Zestaponi

„I have been like a fish who swims against the flow since my childhood. My mother often told me that I would find difficult to live if I did not change. I have been always different from the environment in which I have had to live. I cannot judge people based on their ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation or religious background like most of the people do. Unfortunately, in today’s reality you cannot make any judgements about people from the clothes they wear, their work and behavior, it is really difficult to identify their sincere emotions and attitude. Due to faultless skills of plagiarism and other’s influence people are so different from their own selves, they have disguised themselves under the masks so skillfully that they cannot recognize themselves. As my friend put it, “this looks like living other people’s lives”.

I was born in Zestafoni. This is the place where you can be deprived of your right to express yourself and become subject of ridicule even today because you wear clothes of sharp color. Yes, this happens so… Some children already have grounds (for example, the place where they live) prepared for discovering themselves gradually and freely, while other have to overcome obstacles for their whole life. This does not happen only in Zestafoni. This happens in many villages and cities…

I studied in a private school, where my mother was a teacher. However, this was no privilege for me. My teachers, who thought that defending someone’s own positions and expressing a different opinion was not polite (on any specific issue), used to reproach my mother every day. It took my mother quite a while to develop a defense mechanism, understand me and learn to talk to me rather than blame me for every detail (,,It was probably your fault” ,,Why do you embarrass me?” ,,You should not argue with elders”).
When I enrolled at a university in Tbilisi, I realized that I appeared in an absolutely different environment. I got a bit confused, I found it difficult to adapt to the university system, but the university gave me more freedom to express myself.

I fell in love when I was 17. This is probably a real love because it has overcome a number of challenges. At the age of 21 I married a person, whom I loved. Of course, I had realized right from the beginning possible problems associated with early marriage but since “wedding”, “spouse”, “husband”, “wife” and other family-associated words, statuses and dogmas are strange to us we have healthy rather than traditional relationships with each other. We never make functional distributions like this should be done by a woman and this should be done by a man. It is impossible otherwise, this always adds new colors to our relationships.

Currently we are working on several art songs and joint projects.

The most remarkable day for me was the one when accompanied by several persons my future husband and I tied the knot in a modest civil marriage ceremony without much ado and traditional nonsense. We planned to live together directly, but our families organized later a traditional wedding. For them this was the expression of love and respect and performing their duty towards relatives and neighbors. But I did not attach a great importance to that day. Why should this day be so attractive for the “bride” who has to sit for the whole day somewhere on the top table, has to listen to “trash” songs, smile at everyone, should not eat, look at drunk people’s faces and odd behavior and drag her long dress to and fro?. Leo and I did everything other way round. We considered the wedding as a theatrical performance, where we had our audience… We considered all these rules that turned into dogmas funny and enjoyed greatly the process. Everything looked like ,,modern art”, which was accompanied by performances. I did not want to upset my parents so I “followed” this tradition either. Parent’s generation may understand many things but you cannot radically change their views, so…

It turned out that we had to have the second more traditional and a bit frightening wedding. Leo’s family wanted this. It was frightening because I was not familiar with the traditions of this region (Samegrelo). Later I realized that this was not a big tragedy either because I considered the wedding as an event, where the people who love each other get together. This was just 1 day (in this particular case – two days). It did not diminish my personality and was needed to make other people happy. I had rather odd views about the Megrelians, but after I got to know Leo’s family closer, I learnt that they were rather different from others. Leo’s father is a painter and teacher in the Anaklia School. His mother is an IDP from Otobaia. She often tells me sad stories about how her family had to leave their home after the war broke out in Abkhazia. Even though I am not going to speak the Megrelian language, I like Megrelian songs very much. It is impossible to translate some words in the Georgian language.

I had to give up my studies at the university because of pregnancy as we did not have an apartment in Tbilisi. Moreover, Leo was studying at this time. I stayed with my mother for some time, while at other times I was in Anaklia in Leo’s childhood house. I could stay there and wait for Leo like a sailor’s wife, but instead I decided to live together with him in a rented apartment, which was a rather challenging experience.

When my child was born, I stayed with my mother. At some moment, I could give up, move to Leo’s childhood house, become a typical daughter-in-law, wife and mother, but I thought that I had made enough concessions (even if they were the slightest ones) and this was the time when my future fate was decided. Leo’s parents helped us buy an apartment in Tbilisi and I decided to resume my studies. Leo’s mother offered her help. She left her home, husband, Leo’s younger brother and came to Tbilisi together with us. I have never been satisfied by the knowledge given by the university and educational environment. Although I experienced some period of apathy and depressions (when you do not look yourself) during pregnancy, I never stopped working on self-development and I am very proud of that. I have diverse interests apart from the profession selected by me. I am interested in other fields as well and I am not going to devote all my life to doing one thing. I would like to turn the emotions that have accumulated in me to date into pieces of art, I will get back to doing my favorite things which I have forgotten for some reason.

Sometimes I am confused by the public approach to pregnant and laboring mothers, whose rights are restricted and who are considered as incapable people. Pregnant women face this attitude not only from employers but also from their lecturers and new acquaintances. As if their attitude changed when I said that I was mother. How do you think what violence is? Many people still think that violence is physical abuse, rape and other violent acts, which result in physical harm of injury of a person. I would like to tell them once again that they may commit an act of violence by their glance and other acts that do not necessarily imply physical abuse… they have dogmas like: ,,Why on earth a pregnant woman should work?” ,,people should study first and get married afterwards,” ,,University is not a proper place for a married woman,” ,,You should take care of your child and give up studying!” ,,Forget studying!” ,,Look, it turns out that she has a child.” I would like to tell these people that unless their feelings as a human being are degraded and they do not think mechanically, they should realize that people cannot plan everything, things that were supposed to happen, just happened; it is impossible otherwise, and one more thing… despite my marital status, age and negative public attitude, I am going to study all my life something new. I know quite clearly that I am going to live only once, in any case, in this physical condition, and I am going to take as many emotional sensations from my life as possible.

I would like to apply to all girls and women: Marriage does not end your personal life, nor does the childbirth end your life, do not turn into moving dummies, go ahead moving towards your goals, discovering your own self and wishes, if happiness has disappeared and you clung to your husband, family and are worried about what people will say, you should change your condition, otherwise, you will have to live behind a fitted smiling disguise. I am happy now, my family is everything to me, I do not know what the future holds for me, and I just enjoy my present life.

I would advise those parents who have distorted views and attach more value to public opinion than to the views of their own children, not to perceive their children as a major investment project, in which they invest to reap the benefits later. They should not make their children feel that… actually they should absolutely forget about this. Listen and talk to them. Give them freedom to dream, study, experience feelings of failure and disappointment. Give them an unrestricted chance to think and talk, do not put physical and psychological pressure on them because you think that ,,s/he is my child and I will do to her/him whatever I want.” Break free from mob mentality and take your children as they are. It is pretty weird when the public, in this particular case, parents do not accept an individual character of their child and wish to change him/her, ,,We should bring him to a priest, maybe he will teach him a thing or two”, I have heard from mothers, who cannot put up with the fact that their child is different from other children. They should realize that they are more precious than the society which puts some boundaries on and sets standards for them. I am proud of the mothers who are not ashamed of their children.

I do not have any statuses, I am just a dreamer girl. I know very well that life is hard for dreamers but I am ready for every offer the life makes, I am ready for active involvement in destroying stigmas, clichés and ugly traditions. I plan to protect people’s rights non-officially. I have never had negative feelings because of being a ,,parent”, on the contrary, it has filled me with benevolence and love and made me stronger. I wish and I am sure many pregnant women wish that the public perceived them as capable people and did not create a restrictive environment for them.“