This I Believe

Cassandra - Brooklyn, New York
Entered on February 26, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family
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Like most people in their twenties, I have struggled to create an identity that is uniquely my own. As a child, my mother’s influence defined my life in a way I have only recently come to understand. Later, I tried to mold an identity out of the void left by her absence. Only recently do I find myself revisiting my mother’s beliefs and seeing her through the eyes of an adult. Today, I witness her unyielding earnestness and creativity in both awe and disbelief. Throughout my teens, I attempted to deviate from her path and find my own, I feigned cynicism and indifference in the hopes I could convince others and myself that I remained invulnerable to the changing world around me. Today as I attempt to stake my claim in a new city, I am struck by how much I have come to rely on my Mother’s values to guide me.

Growing up, my mother not only encouraged originality but she fostered an environment where I was free to express it. She always cultivated a haven where her children’s thoughts would be spared from the oppressive conservatism of her youth. Every year, well before October, I would brainstorm on potential Halloween costumes. Fearing judgment from my friends, I was always moderate in pitching my ideas to my Mom. Her intuition knew exactly how to pry into my fear and crack open a flurry of ideas. I cannot recall what fellow Trick-or-Treaters ever thought of my costumes, but I cherish those moments constructing crowns, capes and wings with my Mother.

By the age of 13, the rift of my Mom’s past widened. Long-held secrets and half-truths eroded away my parents’ marriage. She slipped into a deep depression and left home to recover away from her children. I moved in with my father and never lived with my Mother again. From that point on, I became determined to cast an image of myself that was resilient and independent of my Mom and all that she had taught me. However, I never successfully stepped into the mold I cast for myself, and, in fact, consistently failed to step into any identity at all. Rather than face the hurt caused by her absence, I attempted to buoy myself atop the people and places in my life, constantly in fear of potential heartache or disappointment from both my past and present.

In college, I pathologically strayed from the creativity of my childhood and with false-enthusiasm pitched to friends and family my intention to attend law school. Only recently did I connect that ostensibly practical career choice as a defiant gesture and a cry for help made towards my mother. I never wanted to be a lawyer, but I was waiting for someone to fetch the truth from behind the fear as my mom did every Halloween.

As I sprint through my twenties, I face decisions about my career and relationships that will affect the rest of my adult life. For the first time, I address questions of my future with a fresh perspective, free from the distortion of my past. I have embraced my new relationship with my Mother and have rediscovered our similarities. I believe that I am shedding the defiance of my adolescence to reveal the lessons she instilled in me as a child. In deciding not to attend to law school and follow my proclivity for the arts, I have emerged from behind the fear on my own. This time I did not need my Mom to extract the truth, because I believe I have learned from her to reveal the truth myself.