I believe in strength. When I was young, my mom shared an important lesson with me—always stay strong. Instead of constantly running to help me every time I got hurt or upset, she would keep her distance and feign disinterest until I calmed down. Then she would approach me, check that I was okay, and tell me, “Learn to be strong, Laura. Learn to be strong.”
I remember one particular instance when a stuffed animal of mine had ripped. My ratty, old teddy bear had just lost an arm and the socket had a gaping hole staring out at me. My lips began to quiver and I started to scream, “MOMMY!” I cried, waiting for my mom to arrive, to feel sorry for me, but she never did. When I realized that she wasn’t coming to my rescue, my screams became shrieks of anger. I stomped around the house and threw the teddy bear against a wall, trying to be as loud and obnoxious as possible. Finally exhaustion washed over me, and I quieted down.
A little while later my mom walked in, picked up the pieces of the teddy bear and came over to me. Softly, she spoke to me in her broken English, “Learn to be strong, Laura. Learn to be strong.”
As a child, I did not know why my mother would wait until my screaming was over to acknowledge me, but now I understand that it was not because she did not love me enough. Instead it was because she did love me that she was willing to suppress her mother’s instinct and stay away in order to teach me a lesson. It would prove to help me in many ways.
Throughout my figure skating career, I have had to struggle with my body. Spending most of my childhood at the rink, I constantly saw thin girls, and I grew up being insecure about my weight. I would think about starving myself or throwing up after every meal. Anorexia and bulimia were becoming popular trends, and some of my competitors were so dedicated to the sport that they were willing to risk their health to be successful. I needed to do the same.
One afternoon, my coach changed everything I thought about my figure. She told me that the easy thing to do is follow the crowd, but what takes strength is being comfortable with yourself. My mother’s words whispered through my mind, “Learn to be strong, Laura. Learn to be strong.”
Those words come to me often, and it has made a lasting impression in my mind. However, as my mom is growing older, I see that she has a harder time staying strong. After my parent’s recent divorce, my mother and I had to find a different way of life. So now, while my mom is starting out in her new life, I am right there beside her, helping her relearn a lesson that she taught me so many years ago.
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