This I Believe

Kathleen - Glendale, California
Entered on July 26, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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“I believe that life is inherently imperfect, often a series of random and sometimes difficult events. We should embrace these events knowing that often they are our greatest moments and our greatest opportunities for personal growth.”

My parents were both born with cerebral palsy, brain damage that usually occurs due to trauma at birth. At the time of their birth, neither was expected to live, but they persisted. I suppose that at the time of their birth society did not expect very much of them. But, through the support of their parents, they began to expect more for themselves. They went to school. They learned skills. They persisted. And then, at an event for handicapped people in Southern California, they met and much to the dismay of their parents, they fell in love. Their dreams for a normal and productive life focused on having a family of their own. Again, society’s expectations were low and their ability to care for such a family was in doubt. But they persisted. They were married. First came my two brothers and then finally myself. They bought a house, settled in a nice working class community and opened a thrift store selling the used, unwanted things of others. “Success” was achieved. Perhaps not by the standards of our society today, but certainly by their own standards. Unfortunately, three weeks after my birth, my father was killed in front of our house by a drag racing motorcyclist. My mother was left alone to raise my brothers ages seven and eight and myself. Things were tough growing up. Money was tight. And there was that ever present threat that my mother was just not going to be able to do this alone. But she persisted. Emotionally, life was tough too. We never spoke again as a family about my father, the pain simply too much to bare. It was almost as though this pain, this forbidden topic, stood between us all. Like magnets of opposite poles, we were prevented from coming together as a family because of this. But despite this, we persisted.

I have struggled with the meaning of my life since I have had the perspective to realize that my life and my family has not been a “normal” one. Marred by tragedy and bad circumstance, from the births of my parents to the death of my father, to the loneliness of our childhood together, I have tried to make some sense of it. I believe that these events, while negative in and of themselves have had a positive impact on my life, made me who I am, you might say. They have given me unique strengths such as empathy and perseverance that have served me well in my career as a physician and in other difficult times in my life.

I believe that we as a society spend too much time trying to make our lives perfect so that we can avoid the pain of difficult situations. What we don’t realize, is that these difficult situations offer us the greatest opportunities for growth. It is during these times that we are truly our best and our most perfect.