I believe we are shaped by our experiences, for good or ill. As a child, my family moved often. I don’t even mean to imply we moved from one house to another in even the traditional sense; if we were in a house, as opposed to homeless, we considered ourselves fortunate. My step-father was a large-man, whose many hours of work as a construction worker had honed his body into one that it was easy to fear for a small child. Fear shouldn’t be a child’s reaction to a parent or care-giver, yet that is what he instilled in us. A frequent cocaine user, his answer to every one of life’s challenges was to run away, and along we would go, myself, my two younger siblings, and our mother in tow as if the drugs and the hate wouldn’t be waiting for us, were only because of where we were yesterday, not something we would take with us into tomorrow.
Despite the challenges of my childhood, I survived to become a man who strongly believes that his children won’t know fear, hunger, or poverty. I believe that I am more giving and caring than I would have been otherwise, for to not know suffering, to not have experienced it, I feel that I would care less for the suffering of others, to include the children I one day hope to father. My decision to become a teacher was founded on this belief. I won’t be as well paid or seen as successful by a society that often views wealth as the primary and sometimes only indicator of achievement, yet I believe that my experiences have led me to this decision, and make me more capable to teach and empathize than an easier life might have.
My childhood was worse than many, but better than others, so I can never understand every trauma a child might suffer. But I hope that instead of becoming bitter and hateful because of a bad childhood, we can decide to turn away from such wrongs, learn from them, and decide that in our lives, we will not allow the wrongs we have experienced to be repeated. There are a great number of us who can recall at least one incident from childhood we might prefer to forget, an incident that continues to trouble us in some way. I know that some of us allow it to dictate their lives as it once did mine, yet, I believe that such experiences make us uniquely qualified to help others, to make the world just a little brighter in whatever corner we might occupy. All we have to do is make the decision to turn our bad experiences into the decision to be a better person than those that wronged us, to rise above regret and remorse, and to be happy with who we are now, baggage and all, because without that baggage, we give up who we are and who we can yet be.