We live to tell our tales

Posted: September 3, 2013 in Philosophy

This year marks the 10th year after my graduation from High School, and I’ve had the imminent reunion on my mind.  I’ve been thinking about how the last 10 years have been, for me, extremely formative.  You hear all the time, “the first X years of a person’s life are the most formative,” but I want to turn that upside down a little bit.

I was talking with my brother last week about the 5, or 6, or 7 people who have had the greatest impact on who I have become as a person.  And as I developed my list, I noticed that regardless of whether or not they were involved in my early childhood, that my rationale for adding them to the list was NOT because of those first few years, rather, for the last 7-10.

Fact is, we start becoming very different people in the mid-to-late teenage years, and our college years (and the few years thereafter, in most cases) seem to have a huge impact on who we become as fully functioning adults.  Because of that, my list of folks–my wife, my brother, my best friend Richie, one of my former bosses, just to name some–had more meaningful impact to who I am right now than even my own Mom and Dad (or step mom, or step dad…).  Of course, my parents and step parents had a huge impact on my development, but the person who I am proud to be–an extremely blessed husband, a father of two beautiful children, an intense movie critic, a food fanatic, a music lover, and the list goes on….that person came to be more in the last 10 years of my life as opposed to the first 10.

Obviously, we learn a great deal in the first few years of life.  I am amazed all the time at the things my kids pick up and can just do, without any real direction or instruction.  Year after year, kids seem to be getting more intelligent (and more stupid, which may be a topic for another day–although I’m sure you already know where I’m headed…), and in turn are more challenged in their early years to learn things that I was never expected to pick up at such an early age.  All that said, so much of our adult lives are driven by the people we become in college and shortly thereafter.

So, back to the main point.  As people, we are largely formed by two things–events (small, large, doesn’t matter) and other people.  I’m sure you can pick out two or three events from the last 10 years that have had a significant impact on who you’ve become.  For example, in the last 5 years (my first 5 years of home ownership), I’ve explored and learned a great deal about many things through different DIY projects, some on my house, and some at my Dad’s.  The single event of buying a house has led me down a path of being at least slightly more qualified than a toddler with a hammer trying to fix your plumbing–and I love that about myself.  I love that tackling a project of even large magnitude isn’t all that scary.

We are also formed at least in part by other people.  In my homeowner example above, my dad had a significant impact on developing that part of my identity since I’ve learned a lot from him directly.  People is the easy part, though–figuring out who have been the biggest players in your life is more about taking an inventory and seeing who is closest to you–chances are decent a majority of those folks are in your top 7.

Let’s jump back to events, though, because what interests me is NOT the positive events–buying a house, getting married, having kids, etc., but rather, the negative.  Maybe it was a bad car accident, or the loss of a parent, or financial hardship, or struggling to finish college (all things that I’ve been through)…but I’m sure you’ve got a pretty good list of negative events that have helped shape your identify, maybe in even more ways that your positive event list of your people list (and maybe there should be a negative people list as well).

My most recent musical discovery is I Heart Radio, which gets me away from my usual playlists to something a little different–and that discovery has introduced me to many new songs and even a few artists who I’ve never really paid attention to before, but am finding more and more entertaining.  I heard a song by Train called Bruises, which tied together my thoughts on this topic pretty well: “These bruises make for better conversation…everybody loses, we all got bruises.”

This puts a lot into perspective–my story, which is rife with disappointment, pain, and a slurry of things unfortunate, is a really interesting one.  That’s not to say there isn’t good too–we all have at least a little bit of both.  But just for the sake of an interesting thought experiment–let’s say you get 10 events and 10 people (whether negative or positive, doesn’t matter)–think of those events and people, and think about when they had the biggest impact on the development of your current self.  And as my brother pointed out, try to avoid the people who give you momentum–the friend you met just after college who had the same interests and as a result didn’t really have much impact on your development.

And, if appropriate, start loving who you are (if you don’t already).  Maybe things aren’t great right now, they for sure won’t always be–but I bet you’ve got a great story to tell.  I think we all do; maybe that’s why I like to blog.

Have a great week.  Thanks as always for keeping in touch.  Be well and stay tuned!


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