Not being a psychoanalyst, I claim no deep understanding of the human mind. I do, however, possess a very thorough understanding of my own thought process. I do, at times, reflect on my actions in both the distant and recent past. Even now I find myself lacking; my life is fraught with denial of reality, a lack of honesty with myself, and rationalization of these behaviors. Can I alter these behaviors? Yes – if I wanted to do so, but I feel removing these barriers between myself and my true feelings would strip me of what keeps me happy; therefore I will continue to deny reality.
I have read numerous stories about how people are molded by events that happen early in their lives; often these events deal with a traumatic experience. We want to believe that through facing adversity we grow stronger, but especially when we are children, we do not always respond to adversity in this ideal manner.
My major trauma as a child was inflicted by a grade school teacher. Now a man grown, looking back, it seems so petty; however, from the perspective of a naive young boy, the event was devastating.
I was in the third grade at the time of the event; time has obscured some of the finer details from my memory. The most relevant moments remain vivid. That day, I recall struggling mightily with whatever lesson was being taught. Eventually a worksheet was distributed. With the class quietly laboring over the worksheet I took the opportunity to ask the teacher for help. The only part I recall from the exchange anymore are the last words she uttered, “You’re worthless.”
I had neither anticipated nor witnessed such a harsh response by a teacher. I had simply done what I was supposed to do. Stunned and confused I made my way back to my desk and sat quietly until school ended. Later that evening I cried to my mother about what had happened. She contacted the principal and the issue was resolved, but the damage had been done; in the end it was nearly two decades before I moved past it.
Looking back, I am quite sure the teacher did not mean to destroy my self worth; however, she had managed to do that. I would have a plethora of quality teachers afterward, yet, from this point onward, I was hesitant to ask questions. An incident with my father the following year compounded the problem; I felt I could no longer turn to my parents for help. I was a mediocre student, and I feel this was the tipping point for me both academically and socially.
I was never a particularly sociable person, but after the incident with the teacher I became far more reclusive and distrusting; that is not not to say that being distrusting is a poor trait. Just that I wish I had developed it at a later age.
Somehow I endured my way through school. I was eager to get a fresh start in the workforce; truthfully, because I was excited by the prospect of disposable income than anything else. Shortly thereafter I found myself working retail. I initially struggled. Having become so anti-social it was hard for me to express myself to strangers. Thanks to my co-workers, I eventually managed to break out of that shell. Eventually I worked my way into a middle management position. Things went south shortly after that and I was fired. That was devastating. My problems were compounded by the fact I now had a mortgage to deal with.
More than 6 years have passed since that time. I found a better job, paid off my mortgage, and discovered new friends. One day, the reality of my situation struck me; I, for the first time since my youth, was both happy and content with my situation.
What happened during the last several years to mend me? More than anything, I think having a mortgage helped. It gave me a goal of meaningful value to strive for. Suddenly my mind had a laser focus; all of the things that had impacted me seemed petty in comparison. The mortgage allowed me to break free from the seemingly endless cycle of unhappiness I had been stuck in, and upon paying it off, gave me a sense of accomplishment I had never before felt.
Nearly two years have passed since I made the final mortgage payment. There was a brief period where I felt as if I was stumbling aimlessly with no goal. I felt my attitude backsliding. I did not want to revert to the way I had been. During a moment of introspection I came to an important realization; I came to understand that having a goal to strive for is the thing that keeps me most happy. I set myself a new goal. I am not sure I can actually achieve it, but simply having a goal to strive for is enough to keep me happy. My goal is to become a published author. Is it a realistic goal? Probably not, but simply striving to achieve it is enough to keep me happy. Am I denying reality by having such an unrealistic goal? Probably, but as long as it keeps me happy I am glad to continue doing so.
I have come to realize that one is best served to not dwell on things for too long. Be it success, failure, or something bittersweet. Reflect on the past and learn from it; do not let oneself be consumed by it.