I Am Defined By The People In My Life

Elizabeth - Albany, New York
Entered on December 5, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

As much as I try to deny it, my first boyfriend influenced and changed my life in unimaginable ways. The eleven months I spent with him during our sophomore year of high school were, if nothing else, extraordinary. Long, sundry conversations and serendipitous notes seemed imperative to our shared existence, and yes, part of me was convinced – naively so, but convinced nonetheless – that he was ‘the one’. The only thing harder than breaking-up after 11 months, was having to admit that the very boy who dumped me and who I had tried so hard to forget about, was also the boy who, somehow, in some way, had a phenomenal impact on my life.

I believe that we are defined by our relationships, and the people who we are lucky enough to share them with. For a long time, many people knew me only as ‘John’s girlfriend’ – I was defined by my relationship with him. It was only after we broke up, and I began to think about who, and what I would now be identified as, that I began to understand the tenacious and enduring impact people can have on one another. My character, my values, my priorities, ambitions and aspirations have all been shaped by the people in my life.

My parents have taught me everything from respect to humor to how the stock market works; my teachers have shown me the power of knowledge, as well as my not-so-infrequent lack of it, and I’ve learned from my friends that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating raw cookie dough, which is exceptionally delicious. I adore the jazzy saxophone and soulful lyrics of Dave Matthews because one day John had lent me his CD’s, and I would never have experienced the thrill and elation of four-wheeling through over-grown fields had it not been for that summer with him.

So many people have somehow made me who I am – even strangers have had an impact on my life. I’ll never forget the woman who smiled at me while I walked through an airport – even though I had never met her, her unexpected benevolence has taught me to always be kind, especially when there’s no reason to be callous.

As a child, I was taught that I am my own person, independent of others’ influence. Nevertheless, it is impossible to deny the fact that I am shaped by the myriad relationships I have had throughout my life.

Although I am a different person because of my first boyfriend and the eleven months that I spent with him, a decade from now, I don’t know who I’ll be, or what sort of relationships I’ll have. There is one thing, however, that I can say with conviction, and that is that, while we should overlook only those who have hurt us, we must never forget those who have changed us. And this, I believe.