Your life history is a finely woven tapestry that communicates the person you are today. Pulling and unraveling even just one thread leaves a hole and the masterpiece is no longer a work of art, but a tattered rag. No matter what path we traveled, it has made us who we are and deserves our honor.
Perhaps you grew up in the standard American household with two parents, money for Disney World, 1.5 pets, and 3.5 back-to-school shopping trips per year. Maybe you enjoyed a comfortable upbringing with the latest toys, fancy parties, lessons for any talent you wished to pursue, and your tuition for college was already in the bank by the time you were 10. Maybe you worked your way through college, easily landed a career job and went on to live a life of average luxury. Or, maybe your past hasn't always been easy.
If you're like me you exist because two kids fell in love and believed that was all they needed to live. After high school my parents married. A year later I was born. My dad joined the Army. We lived near Ft. Campbell, Ky., in a house that had once been a slave shack. My dad was later stationed in Germany. After a few months, my mom missed him too much and packed up a single suitcase. She held me, just a baby, on the plane ride over the ocean.
When my dad's service was up they moved back to Alpena and we lived in a trailer that belonged to my mom's aunt and uncle. They generously let us live there for free. I remember chipmunks getting in under the sink in the kitchen every once in a while. It was the recession of the early 1980s and my dad did odd jobs until he found steady work as a mechanic.
When I was about 5 we moved into an old farmhouse. It was outdated and had no insulation. They could only afford to redo one room at first. They chose my bedroom. I remember not always having milk for cereal. I remember going to bed with extra blankets and a kerosene heater running in the hallway because the last of the furnace oil ran out. By all financial standards we were poor, a fact most people would be embarrassed to share.
But I never would have known this had I not later learned the definition of poor. By all other standards we were wealthy. My brother and I had two parents who sacrificed everything they had for their children. They always made time to attend our school programs and take care of us when we were sick. They played baseball with us in the yard until the sun set. They worked their butts off and later found time and money to go to college. They got better jobs. They remodeled and restored the rest of their home which is now beautiful. They helped both my brother and I get through university. They led by example and never let us believe for even a moment that we weren't capable of more just because we started out with less.
How many of us can acknowledge this today? How many of us can say "This is where I came from," or, "This is how I used to be and here's why I'm different today." How many of us hide a less than perfect history, a poor decision, a broken addiction, or an event that was beyond personal control. How many of us are comfortable talking about our past in relationship to our present. I think most people have details about their lives that they don't want to share for fear of what people will think. When we realize that we all have something, it doesn't seem like such a big deal. Accept it. What other people think doesn't always matter. "This is me. Without these experiences I wouldn't be ME."
Don't forget, or try to hide your roots because they are just that - roots. They hold you in a solid foundation that has allowed you to withstand the journey of the life. I will always remember what my parents taught me: I will never believe I'm not capable of more just because I started out with less. Being genuine about who we are brings us closer together as a community and encourages others who may be wondering how they will ever turn their life around. Start talking. You never know who you will inspire.
Mary Beth Stutzman's Inspiring A-Town appears bi-weekly on Turesdays.