In the first installment of our take on the Throwback Thursday theme, “Because It’s Fun“, I focused on the simple, borderline giddy childhood notion of doing things simply because we enjoy them. It is, unfortunately, all to easy for us to lose sight of that simple, fulfilling motivation as we grow older. This week, we’ll go in another direction, and a little less cuddly (LOL). This week is about those childhood experiences that seemed “life or death terrible” then, but have prove to be minor, if not outright beneficial to our development as we’ve grown.
Do you remember, particularly during your teen years, being embarrassed about aspects of your life that, today, are either insignificant or, better yet, sources of learning, or even great personal pride? Most of us have gone through this. The example on my mind today stems from feelings of dread that I had about what I perceived, at the time, as being “poor”.
Wait! Before you judge me :-), understand that I now see things completely differently. My point is that those of us with the benefit of life context may be able help those who are younger or less experienced by helping them to see the bigger picture to which I’m about to allude and, ultimately, to understand that most of life’s experiences serve to make us better versions of ourselves.
When I was in high school, I loathed Monday mornings, when some of my friends and I had to stop in the office and get our free lunch tickets for the week. On a daily basis, I dreaded using those tickets during the lunch period… Like many of the boys who grew up in Western Pennsylvania, I played high school football. At the time, I thought one of the worst days of my life was when, during my senior year, the cheerleading squad came to my house to hang spirit banners for homecoming week. As proud as I was to be a Jeannette Jayhawk, I was mortified to have the cheerleaders see my house up close… One summer, I participated in a government-funded program that incented local businesses to hire “underprivileged” youths. Instead of seeing it as an opportunity to learn or contribute to my (nonexistent..lol) resume, I hated every minute of it. I thought the people with and for whom I worked saw me as a charity case.
Much of the aforementioned was in my head and, quite possibly (if not likely), in no one else’s. It was very real to me, though. Somewhere along the way, as I grew, moved from my hometown and began to meet people in different contexts, I began to see things differently. As I experienced college, basic training (U.S. Army), working as a software engineer and more, I found myself frequently volunteering information on this aspect of my background. This and other facets of my life, which, at one time, seemed like subjects to shy away from, became sources of great pride.
What triggered this evolution in how I saw myself and initiated such drastic changes in my point-of-view? Maturity? Experience? Perspective? Appreciation? Sanity (relatively speaking 🙂 )? … Yes, yes, yes, yes, and maybe (LOL, because I’m a little “off” and have grown comfortable with that, as well 😉 ).
As I matured and gained perspective I began to understand that this, as well as most aspects of my life circumstances to that point were what made me, well, “me”. I also began to see that virtually every experience of my life was something from which I learned and grew.
Continuing with this example, it became clear that:
For one thing, I was never really poor 🙂 … Does anyone remember Kamikaze sweatshirts?? They came with zippers strategically placed so that, with just a few zips, you could transform your sweatshirt into a short-sleeved shirt, a muscle shirt 🙂 , or even a muscle shirt half-shirt (i.e. with an open midriff) 🙂 … I sported the muscle shirt variation with parachute pants on more occasions than my sane brain will allow me to remember! … No one who was not having his basic needs met wore a Kamikaze shirt..LOL … But seriously, I never needed anything that my parents didn’t provide. I, of course, wanted plenty for which I had to wait; but that, my friends, isn’t what “poor” is.
This particular aspect of my experience was nowhere close to unique. This is painfully simple for me to see now; but, hey, I was a teenager. I assumed that I was the first person to experience every difficulty that I ever experienced..LOL
If I was poor (I was not), nobody who meant anything to me gave a damn about that. More accurately, they probably thought I was just “weird as hell” for doing things like hiding in my house until the cheerleaders were done hanging banners and went away… I mean, HEL-LO, there was a squad of teenagers at my house! … and I chose to hide!!!… Sigh 🙂
Having what I needed, and not always whatever I wanted, gave me the ability to:
- appreciate that for which I needed to work and/or wait
- realize that, just because you want something does not, by any means, mean you need it
- learn that what makes us unique provides us with raw material that enables us to bring unique points of view that we can share with others
- discover that, with each day, life affords us additional perspective that turns the biggest, scariest, most mortifying experiences into manageable, educational (if not pleasant 🙂 ) memories.
The takeaway for Our Great Pursuit (OGP) is that, as we gain knowledge and perspective through living, we have opportunities to help others who, because of age, inexperience or temporary tunnel vision, have trouble managing what, today, seems unmanageable. In addition to telling a person that “[their problem] isn’t really a big deal”, try sharing experiences from your life that have taught you that, as we grow, even the worst experiences can serve as learning tools, or even sources of great pride.