Something which I’m realising more and more as I grow up and enter into the ‘adult world’ is how much of your world view is shaped by your parents, and more broadly your family. From your early insights into relationships, through to examples of appropriate behaviour, and seeing what a career looks like, kids are influenced a lot in their perceptions of the world through what they see growing up. When you grow up in a poor, single parent household, and then have a number of men entering into the family life over time, it can skew your view of relationships, love, and family. If you have to become the caregiver in your family, and grow up far quicker than your friends, you learn a lot of different life lessons, but sometimes you miss out on the important ones. As I am now embarking on the beginning of a career in the charity and youth sector, I’ve had some realisations about how that sort of upbringing affected me in ways I didn’t realise until too late.It’s not that I wasn’t taught right from wrong, I was. It’s not that I didn’t feel love, and warmth growing up, I did. But having a large lack of stability, structure, or discipline in my formative years has paved the way for a certain attraction to self destruction, a contradictory desire for and repulsion of structure, and an immense struggle to hold myself accountable and follow through on things no matter how good my intentions. I know that now I’m all grown up these are my own problems, and I’m working on them. But step one of that is acknowledgement, and unpicking the layers of abandonment issues, mild resentment, and feelings of overwhelmed-ness they have created.
If you’d told me aged ten that I would become an orphan just after my 21st birthday, I wouldn’t have believed you. My Dad had died a year or so earlier, but having not been a large part of my life I soon learnt to recite that fact as if I was telling people he had gone to the shop. However my Mum was an ever present, rock-star, hilarious, and seemingly immortal presence. As her only daughter amidst technically 5 sons (four of which live in Australia) I was doted upon to the bounds of her abilities, both financially and physically. She brought me treats, took me for days out, and we shared our love of ‘The Gilmore Girls’ sat on the sofa each week. But as I grew up, she grew ill, and before long I was doing the grocery shopping, checking the gas and electricity meters, cooking, and helping her get out of bed to watch Gilmore Girls if she felt up to it. As I juggled homework with housework, I slowly learnt to keep going by doing simply that. If I just kept moving forward, and didn’t let myself dwell too much on the situation, and what I might have been missing out on, I was able to survive.
That attitude is what got me through those times, and pulled me out to the place I am now. When things were really, really difficult, and I was having to fight off my own depression to keep going, being able to function on my own without any guidance was vital. Now that I’m old enough to make my own life, the skills I learnt from growing up so fast are incredibly helpful. The problem is that in learning them I missed out on a whole host of other things which would be beneficial to have.
Am I worse off this way? I honestly don’t know, and I don’t think there’s any way of finding out. If I could go back, and somehow stop things from turning out how they did I probably would, but then I wouldn’t be who I am. It’s a cycle which I can’t change, so the best thing to do is move forward and focus on the present and the future. Now I’m aware of what I need to work on, I can start to cultivate the qualities I want to possess. That’s something which is important, but not enough people seem to realise. You have the power to be who you want to be. Of couse if you’re five feet tall you’ll never be a ‘leggy’ person (but you could wear heels to give the effect!) Personality is more mouldable; if you practice listening you can become a good listener, if you volunteer you can become generous. So I am vowing to become more focused, more disciplined, and better at following through on the things I say I’ll do.
Do you have any advice for me on my journey? Or anything you want to improve on? Comment below, and remember to smile!