A friend who has two young children asked me to write about some positive things my parents did when I was a child that have shaped who I am today. So many things contribute to why we are the way we are, from genetics to early friendships to traumatic experiences in our youth, but there’s no denying that our parents’ choices, behaviors, and attitudes have a significant impact on the people we become. Reflecting on our childhoods is valuable for all of us, and it holds particular value for me at this moment, as I prepare to become a parent. Read more
“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”
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I believe in the therapeutic and transformative value of writing, and I’m a big proponent of telling your story. Today, I’m happy to share an essay that was submitted by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous. I hope you enjoy it. If you have a story you’d like to share, feel free to send it to me using the “Contact” link in the menu bar.
When my twin brother got married, I made him a big scrapbook. Full of pictures of us growing up together, it took me a lot of time and money to make. I put in pictures of him playing sports, us playing soccer and wiffle ball in the backyard, us opening presents on Christmas morning. I put in pictures of our childhood dog, pictures of us graduating high school together, and pictures of us holding hands as babies.
When I was a kid, my dad was what today we might call my lead parent. My mom was involved in my life too, but she often worked 60 hours a week and sometimes had to travel for work. My dad’s work day ended at 3:00, and he had a little more flexibility in terms of taking time off, so he was the one who picked me up from day care, took me to my first day of kindergarten, and attended school events. I spent a good bit of time with him when I was young, and he taught me many of life’s essential early lessons.
I sometimes took my dad for granted in my adolescent years, as teens often do. He went through some hard times and battled some demons, and I didn’t always understand or appreciate him. When I was in 11th grade, and again during my first year of college, he was hospitalized with serious health issues. These brushes with death transformed my dad and my relationship with him, and I’m especially grateful for the person he became and the times we spent together over the past 15 years.
The writing I do falls into three broad categories: (1) blog posts; (2) pieces that might someday be published (personal essays, poems, fiction); and (3) things I write only for myself (and I suppose the writing I do for work is a fourth category, but that’s a whole different animal). Today, I’d like to talk about the third category. What’s the point of writing things that no one else will ever read?
Congratulations on making it through high school! I know there was never any real doubt that you would graduate, but you should celebrate anyway. No, you aren’t as emotional as many of the other girls, who are crying about leaving their best friends, singing Vitamin C’s graduation song, and talking about how life will never be the same again. You’re ready to move on to bigger and better things. But someday, even though you’d never want to relive it, you’ll be a little nostalgic about your high school experience. So you should go to the graduation parties, have fun at senior beach week, and try to appreciate this moment — because it’s true, your life never will be the same again.
One of my earliest childhood memories is of an Easter egg hunt that my dad’s company hosted when I was about three. On a sunny Saturday morning, the employees’ young children gathered in front of a building facing a big lawn where plastic eggs had been scattered. Someone said go, and a mob of older children sprinted onto the grass, grabbing eggs and shoving them into plastic bags. I was younger than most of the kids and wasn’t entirely sure what was happening. The eggs hadn’t been hidden well; it wasn’t a hunt so much as a race. My little legs couldn’t run very fast, and it seemed like every time my searching eyes spotted a brightly colored piece of plastic, someone else got to it before I did. Within a few minutes, all of the eggs had been captured. I had one lonely egg in my clear plastic bag.
I remember when my mom drove home from work in tears from the pain, vomiting in the car. I don’t remember exactly what happened next. She may have gone to the emergency room — maybe our neighbor watched me that evening — or she may have toughed it out and went to the doctor the next day. My mom was tough like that.
I wasn’t privy to all the conversations. I knew she was sick. I didn’t have a name for it at first. I don’t remember the treatments, only the hospital. My best friend and I went to visit her after her surgery. We had drawn pictures for her. I think mine had a rainbow, and some hearts. She must have been gone from our house for a few days — I remember missing her.
If you’re like me, you’ve wondered from time to time whether you’re on the right path. You may be contemplating a career move or relocation, or maybe you’ve already hopped around a bit but still don’t feel like you’ve found a perfect fit. Some people have a passion or a dream that keeps them striving in one direction their whole lives, but for the rest of us, our life trajectory isn’t necessarily so clear. Sometimes you’re restless or discontented in your current situation, but you don’t know what to change to get yourself unstuck. When I’ve felt that way, I’ve found it helpful to think about my childhood self.