My posts recently have made my parents wonder if they have to feel guilty or happy. I guess I have some “ ”splaining to do,” as Ricky Ricardo used to order Lucy.
I was raised to think. Since I was a little girl leafing through Reader’s Digest and dreaming of being able to read, my mother would talk to me as if she were dealing with a grown-up. And I, grateful for the respect, would open my mind to discuss the topic-at-hand with the intellect I was able to access at the time. So my recent life-changing philosophies were easy to write about – I didn’t have the same experiences as others, I was sheltered from the pain some of my friends had to live with. I didn’t have “an average childhood,” or maybe I did. I’m learning now that I don’t have the same general belief system I was raised under. But I’m still loved by my family. I never once doubted their support system. I have no issues with the way I was raised.
You see, I was raised to think for myself, and that one lesson is worth gold in this human reality of ours. It means I was given the rope with which to swing at play or to hang myself. (Sorry for that metaphor, Mom!) It’s a priceless lesson.
I’ve seen this in my classrooms and with my friends. People have expectations for their children. We want them to grow up to be responsible, tax-paying citizens with a house, a spouse, and 2.5 kids, as the old belief system went. Given with a smile, the mantra used for my sister and I was that we weren’t allowed to get married until we had our Phd. That graduate degree never happened for us, but that’s not the point. We understood that we needed to live our own lives before we could share it with another. And we would always be loved by our family, despite out choices.
As a teacher, I have met many young people who are burdened by the expectations of their parents to such an extent that they are afraid of following their own dreams. They’ve beaten themselves up realizing they will never be the person their parent wants from them because they either do not understand the information being fed to them by a teacher or because their hearts scream to be allowed to follow their own truth. Other students are okay with their parents’ expectations; they hit the books and follow the prescribed path to become the doctor or lawyer their parents expect. I see what happens once they realize they are not the person their parents expect. Some lose the connection to family love and acceptance, and are more likely to fall to peer pressure.
With my own children, I have done my best to raise them to be men of honor, men who think for themselves and do not fall to peer pressure. So far, that tactic seems to be working, but I’ll never really know until my sons tell me. I’ll wait, and I’ll love them regardless of their choices.
The truth is we have been given this life to experience the duality of our own existence. What good would it be if this existence were a cookie-cutter version of everyone else’s life?
If we are to believe that we are all parts of God experiencing this human existence, wouldn’t He get bored if all of the lives were the same? Wouldn’t God be upset that we end up following a prescribed existence and not following our hearts?
Sometimes we make mistakes when we’re following our hearts. That is an undeniable truth. In the mistakes, though, the beauty lies in wait.
Bret Michaels sang truth in Every Rose Has Its Thorn. We can focus on the mistakes and mourn a life that could have been. We can cry and scream about the injustices of this world. We can burrow deep into our own cave and live waiting to die.
Or we can suck the blood from the finger that got pricked by the thorn and bring the rose to our senses, letting its aroma coat the pain experienced just moments before.
When we follow our hearts, the rose is the love that we experience; the thorns are our obstacles. I’m not talking about romantic love, although that’s often the goal. The love that gives us life and broadens our experience here on Earth is the love nurtured in many by our family and friends. It’s the love that allows us to finally accept it as well-deserved.
Without that basis of love, even the most well-cared-for rose cannot grow.
You see, the one thing my family gave me that lifts me beyond the experiences of others is the unconditional love of imperfect parents to whom I was (and continue to be) an honest, thoughtful being capable of my own imperfection. Maybe my petals are a little different, but I will still grow to own a powerfully beautiful essence because I am living true to my heart.
That’s the lesson I learned while growing up in the love of a Cuban-American family in Miami, FLA. And I am so grateful.
Much love and light to you, my friends.
The Dragonfly’s Student