On Painting Houses, Growing Into ‘Adulthood’ and Bursting the Bubble


The voices of women, girls and non-binary folk have often been silenced when it comes to history, politics, science, art… well, you name it. But multigenerational storytelling night, Generation Women, is speaking truth to power, offering a warm and inclusive space where people of all ages can come together to share, celebrate and learn.

Held in Sydney and Melbourne, the monthly event aims to amplify a selection of female and non-binary voices – representing those in their twenties through to their seventies (and beyond) – each sharing their own stories on a specific theme. ⁠


Peppermint is proud to partner with the Generation Women team to bring you a monthly series sharing the words and wisdom from some of the storytellers. November’s theme was ‘Plot Twist: Stories You Never Saw Coming’, with performers like engineer Katha Villanueva reflecting on life’s only constant – change.

For more information about Generation Women, including forthcoming events, head to their website here



A couple of days before I moved out of my parents’ house, I found my old high school blazer while sorting through my clothes. As I pulled it out of the closet, a puff of dust came with it. Once the blazer had been a deep black with bright green accent stitching running across the lapel, and a stiffness that only comes with new fabrics. It looked proud, then. Now, it just looked tired. The cloth had worn thin, the black fabric had greyed and moths had eaten holes through the back. The blazer had deflated, as if it had let out one long sigh and never breathed in again.

It was smaller than I remember, too. Still big – it never did fit properly, despite what the lady at the shop promised. “You’ll grow right into it, darl,” she said. “You’ve still got some growing to do.” 

Looking back, I don’t have particularly fond memories of high school, but neither were they particularly bad. In fact, there is one thing I miss: the bubble. By the bubble, I mean the one that only bursts when you enter the ‘real world’. It’s a bubble that lives at the tip of a needle, precariously close to imploding and letting the world in. But it never does because the bubble is safe, protective, and yes, of course, your whole world. What else could there be? Everything outside the bubble is distant and distorted. The biggest problems of my bubble were ensuring I didn’t fail my classes or piss off the wrong girls. 

Adulthood is a little like that blazer too. It’s heavy on the shoulders, long around the sleeves and I’m not growing fast enough to properly wear it.

A few years pass and I find myself at uni. I’m an ‘adult’ on paper, but I’m not sure why. Adulthood is a little like that blazer too. It’s heavy on the shoulders, long around the sleeves and I’m not growing fast enough to properly wear it. But hey I’ve got alcohol now… 

University is a bubble too, but there’s something new here. There are more people, with more stories, but why does it feel different? 

I decide to go volunteering with the other students and help build a house out in rural Victoria. I don’t know any of the other volunteers. The trip there is long, and we cramp together in a small rental hatchback. Bodies press against bodies as the car meanders around a bumpy road. I can smell someone’s morning breath and another person’s cologne. 

The conversation is stiff and requires much effort. Once we get there and get to work, it’s easier. I’m paired with another girl to paint the inside of this half-finished house. She’s quiet but gives a polite smile when I talk to her. 

“So, where are you from?” I ask. 

She tells me she’s from Myanmar.

“Ah I see, did you come here with family?”

“I’ve got a brother here,” she says. “He’s studying here too.”

“Oh, so your parents are still in Myanmar?”


“Must be hard to be far from family?”

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She pauses. I think I’ve said something wrong. Later, I wonder if maybe she was waiting for someone to ask. She tells me she had been forced to leave them behind. There was a coup in Myanmar. Her parents urged her to leave their country for any reason. Study, travel, anything as soon as possible. 

“Oh god,” I say, which is stupid, but so would anything else I could’ve said.

They had to stay back, she says, they had to take care of their family, of her grandparents. She tells me she’s scared for them, and she wants to go back to them.

Now, it’s my turn for silence.

I know what a coup is, in theory. I know it likely meant the military or some force had overthrown their government, and the country is probably in disarray. I was reminded of my bubble. 

Anything past the clinical definition of a coup had been blurry and distant for me. It was just a word I’d read in a school book. Until now, until this girl. She was within arm’s reach, sharing the same air, painting the same wall. Now the coup was in the room, it was in her. It was in the thickness of the paint she pushed around the wall, in the spaces between her words.

This, I thought, is adulthood. It’s gravity. The weight of everything shifted, and suddenly everything meant something. 

Now I’m 23 and I can see the ripple of adulthood among my friends – how the conversations can change from boys to war in one breath. The other day a friend tells me over dinner that she has to be careful about what she posts online because of her new job. She posts a lot of social justice and humanitarian content.

The weight of everything shifted, and suddenly everything meant something. 

“The boss has been known to fire people who disagree with him.”

“No way,” I say. “Surely, they can’t do that. You’ve got rights!” (Maybe this too is a remnant of the bubble.)

My friend nods. “They can claim it as a breach of social media policy,” she says.

To hold and voice an opinion is to hold and shoot a gun. Not because it’s violent, but because of its impact. The recoil. You can’t take back a bullet, and you can’t un-speak your words. 

But if you don’t speak, people ask anyway, and the questions have changed since I was younger. In high school, they asked me to find the value of ‘x’. Now they ask me for the value of a human life. How much should you care about other countries? What do you consider genocide?

I ask my friend what she’s going to do about her social media posts. She says, “If they silence me, then do I really want to work for them?” She shoots these words, point blank, into my heart.

She’s got me thinking of that girl from Myanmar, painting that house. The house we built was an emergency shelter for those fleeing from domestic violence. I can’t tell if it’s beautifully poetic or just tragic. That she might build this shelter for others fleeing violence, and think of her parents back home. Or does she see herself in them?

I think if only I could be like any of these powerful women around me, then perhaps I could call myself grown. If I could throw the weight of my voice, and understand its impact, that would be something. I’m not certain how to do that yet, but I’m standing here on this stage now talking to you all, aren’t I?

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