These days, I'm learning more and more about who I am. And, what's most interesting to me is that even as a married mother of two children, I believe who I am directly ties to who I was. Who I was when I first started making memories (maybe age 5 or 6?), who I was as an unsure 12 year old, who I was throughout high school and college, and who I was throughout my early twenties before I met my husband and was blessed with my babies.
I often wonder who I would have become had things been different and why I am the person I am today because of the way things were. Would I be who I am today had my parents stayed married? Would I be the wife I am if my own father would have been involved? Would I mother the way I do had my stepfather not walked in and taken over? What kind of friend, church member, spiritual being could I have turned out to be had I focused on becoming those things? Where we were, what we were taught, how the adults in our lives treated us and responded to us surely mold us into who we become. Traditions are passed down, attitudes and priorities are mirrored, and our self worth is guided by the past. However, when we are able to, we also get the chance to decide who we want to be despite these past influences. At some point, we all have to let go of who we were and start deciding who we're going to be. You must take all of the potential, and disappointments, and unfulfilled wishes, as well as the need for care and comfort, traditions, and love you received and decide what you're going to do with it all. You're going to need to take all of the best parts and merge them all the heartbreaking ones, and you're going to rebuild. You will take shelter in the choice to decide how you will proceed.
I think the best, most astounding case of "who we were" versus "who be are" took place my very first year of teaching middle school. I had a student who had it rough. Home was no fun. It was hard and this kid spent most of his days disappointed in others and protecting himself. One day, we were going about our lesson and enjoying the hustle of middle school life. He raised his hand, so I went over to his desk thinking he had a question on the project we were working on. As I arrived at his desk, he look straight in my eyes , stopped everything, and said, "Your class is the best part of my day." I responded in whatever way I could as to show appreciation but not embarrass this tough guy. But then, his eyes filled up with tears and he proceeded to say that no other adult ever cared. He poured his heart out to me in a way that made me ache. He told me he woke up and got himself ready for school, fed himself breakfast, got himself on the bus, and then came home to an empty home until late. His Dad was gone and his Mom was disconnected and rarely engaged. He told me I was the best hour because I had expectations for him, cared where he was and that he was in class, and encouraged him. That was more than he was used to. At that point we went in the hall, and I swear to you he said, "You know what though? Instead of being like my parents, I'm going to be different." He had learned how not to behave, how not to parent, and how not to disappoint instead of continuing the cycle. He could have easily given up considering no one was really there to care if he did so. He chose at 13 years old to trade in who he was and all of the excuses of what he didn't learn at home, the attention and care he missed out on, and the time he missed creating real, meaningful relationships for a life of new found independence and the courage to create his own truth. He knew he was worth it, I knew he was worth it, and all it took was the courage to proceed with the decison to be better.
Now, as I journey through ways to create the story of "who we were" so that "who we become" and "who we are" turns out fairly well, I focus on traditions, togehterness, and a sense of magic. Never do I want my children to look back at who they were and feel disappointed. Never do I want them to feel like the "what ifs" would make a better story than the truth. Because the truth is, I do everything I can to make fact better than fiction. I want them to rememeber their stories with a smile. I want them to pass it along with excitement in their voices and to say, "Remember when!?" Sure, there will be some sadness they will look back on. Life will also bring some disappointments. But, when my babies turn into people who are no longer babies, I want them to remember the parts that their mama could control and know I did my very best to help create a beautiful story full of whimsy, adventure, and a sense of fierce loyalty.