Not just mine

Rodan - New York, New York
Entered on August 24, 2011

I imagine that most people’s relationship with their parents follow a somewhat similar cycle. You begin in a state of adoration where it seems like your parents are God, or something close to God. Then as you grow up, and lose a bit of yourself through the challenges of adolescence, you lose a bit of that adoration as well. But finally, likely through a combination of growth, maturity, and equal effort to meet in the proverbial middle, the relationship usually springs back into one of love, respect, and mutual understanding.

For my parents and me, that period of discord lasted from the latter years of elementary school through the early years of college. While much of what we argued about (curfew, boys, and school work) seemed too typical – our misunderstandings towards each other were not only brought on by a generation gap, but by a cultural one as well.

During many of these heated exchanges, I was very fond of saying, “This is my life!” These four simple words didn’t seem so special, nor did they seem particularly spiteful – we can all think of more colorful phrases in the English language. In fact, these harmless words were probably uttered by many teens before me and will be uttered by many after me, but those four always angered my father greatly. It wasn’t until my later years, when I became more observant towards the nuances of human emotion, that I would realize how it would also shatter him a little as well. My father didn’t understand the separation of “my life” and “his life.” To him, we were a family, and therefore, my life was his life, and his, mine. To him, the four words weren’t harmless; rather, they signified a desire to see my life and their life as separate.

In fact, my father had lived his life for his family. Whatever burdened my mom and me, burdened him. Whatever we rejoiced in, he rejoiced in. He had never lived his life for himself, but always thought of us as an inseparable whole. When we had little to spend, he would skip lunch so our family could eat nicer dinners. When I was going through the critical years of high school when what you wore defined where you stood on the social totem pole, he would buy clothes at a discount so I could buy something new off the rack. And even now, as a 25-year-old woman, my family has decided to help me carry the heavy burden of my graduate school loans because to them, we will always be a team.

There is a lot about my parents that I do not understand, but if there were one thing I could hope to emulate from them, it would be to live with the mentality that my life is never just mine.