Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Do Our Relationships to Others Determine Who We Are?

Initially, our lives are composed of all the little snippets of everyone who influences us when we are very young—parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, neighbors. From a very young age, we are comforted and overprotected, badgered and scolded into compliance. The dinner table milieu encourages us to be ourselves and promptly slaps us on the wrist when we take too many individual liberties, displaying the idiosyncrasies of our personalities that stray too far from family expectations. When adolescence descends on us with its chokehold of unleashed adrenaline, we envision a life beyond our little circle of family perfection. Our night time dreams are visited by shadowy imaginings of a soul mate who can help us attain an altered reality beyond our humble beginnings.

By the time I finished college and took that step into adulthood, leaving the confines and comforts of my parents’ nest, I had encountered numerous ho-hummers, cretins, and cads. It was 1980 when the magic dust finally settled and I married “mr. right,” but it didn’t take long for the cracks in the armor to start rippling. Years of imperfection, delusion, and false hopes painted a gray hue over the see-sawing moments of intoxicating pleasure. We always seemed to be just out of reach of that almost but not quite attainable sea of calm where most troubles are laid to rest and tropical breezes lull you to contentment. By the early 1990’s, there were three children who had needs to attend to. So, I put my nose to the grindstone, worked harder, and put ambition into overdrive. Our children grew up and I started teaching. Teaching credential in English. Two years teaching middle school. Nine years teaching high school. Master’s degree. Children graduated from high school. Six years teaching night school and summer school classes at the community college. Both daughters graduated from college. Administrative credential. Divorce. Bought a condo. Two years as an Assistant Principal. Two years as a principal and counting. Am I still defined by others or do I help define them? I look at my children and see little snippets of me in each of them. Nose, facial features, attitudes. Who we are is determined as much by our environment and relationships as by our DNA. So, who are the people with whom I have relationships and to whom I am related?