Most people would agree that their childhood was one of the most critical times in their lives. It’s when you learn what’s right and wrong, when you are exposed to a plethora of different emotions and experiences over short and long periods of time. It’s when you learn that your mom loves your dad, and your dad loves your mom. You lack major responsibility, and are only expected to go to school, play, and wash up before bed and after dinner. I wasn’t lucky enough to experience such a time because, unlike a lot of kids, my mom didn’t love my dad, my dad didn’t love my mom, and I was faced with an unsettling problem that only I was going to be able to solve.
My parents got divorced when I was around 11 years old. My dad was the one to leave, and after he did, I started to become increasingly aware of my existence. I was then thrust into a new reality, a reality in which I was alone. My mom has been diagnosed with bipolar depression, meaning that she was emotionally and physically unavailable for a large portion of my life. She’d go to work before my younger brother and I had woken up, then return later that day and immediately go to her room with the door shut, only coming out occasionally to get food or a drink. With her completely removed from her surroundings, I was left to do everything that needed to be done. I involuntarily became the home-maker, the mother, and gained all responsibility that came along with the role. Instead of playing, exploring, discovering parts of life, I was cleaning, cooking, and taking care of a kid when I was still a kid myself.
Finding yourself is really hard when you’re constantly being faced with one letdown after another. So many times I had to come up with reasons why the power was off, why the faucet wouldn’t work, why the TV wouldn’t turn on. My life was one huge lie, one big joke. A person can only take so much before they can’t pick themselves up anymore, and I was more than convinced that I had reached that point. Waking up everyday was agonizing because sleep was my only escape from it all. I began to think that my only option was to give up, to run-away and hide from everything that rattled around my head day in and day out.
It’s easy for people to hold grudges against their skeletons with a childhood like mine, to constantly live in the past and resort to the wrong things to dull their pain. Instead of succumbing to the reality of my situation, I began to find strength in what I thought was weakness. I decided that I wasn’t going to let my past discourage me and keep me from the goals that I have for myself. I truthfully don’t resent my experiences: I’m thankful for them because if it wasn’t for what I’ve been through, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
Today, I am someone that knows life is a process, and that you may have to stumble and fall a few times before you really can get back up again. I have realized that there are people out there who have it much worse than I do, so I have to embrace the life I have been given.
It’s true that your past doesn’t define you. The thing that defines you is your ability to use your experiences, good and bad, as power for your future. Personally, my past serves as fuel for my desire to learn everything and anything, to succeed, to prove that I’m ready for the next chapter of my life and that I won’t settle for anything less than what I am destined to have.