They used to be the most important thing in my world.
They used to have all the answers.
They used to give me everything I needed.
Sure, they were scary or mean sometimes, but whenever the real monsters, the ones that hide in the dark, started calling out, I knew where to run. I can recall laying in bed, terrified, comforting myself by thinking "daddy's here. . .daddy's here. . ."
What changed? Why are my parents somehow different now? Why are they often on my nerves, criticizing the littlest things that I do, and unwilling to accept that life has changed since they were my age? Why am I left feeling that the four walls I grew up in are no longer my home?
These are questions that stare me in the face when the noise around me dims, even though I'm over a thousand miles away from my family and with no prospect of seeing them for months. Many times, my parents will not reach out to me unless I first reach out to them. Many times, I've dismissed them as being an unimportant part in my current life and my future. Many times, I've caught myself uncomfortably avoiding the simple phrase "back home. . ."
I had, by most people's standards, a wonderful relationship with my parents. My dad taught me how to garden and use a telescope, and my mom taught me how to cook and do algebra. It was my mom's greatest dream in life to see my sisters and me be friends -- and that dream was realized. Although we've had our ups and downs, I wouldn't trade those two girls for the world.
Still, something changed within the last couple years. I'll admit that it had been brewing for the past seven or eight, but it really erupted more recently. They didn't understand. She closed herself off to me, as I saw it. He spoke in platitudes or sweeping generalizations. She seemed to dominate. I learned to submit rather than fight, to bottle it in rather than learn to talk it out.
Recently, this sentiment grew to the point that, as I alluded to, I could not even view my house as my home. I would catch myself hating work and yet dreading to clock out. If "home is where the heart is," then the closest thing I had to a home was in Guatemala, where I volunteered for a week.
I can't tell you precisely why this is for everyone. Why is it that there's a time in our lives where our parents become a burden? For me, I can mention several personal incidents where either of them, or myself, were to blame. It was definitely a group effort, if you want to put it sarcastically. We all played our parts. Perhaps some of it was nature or biology, but I'm also willing to say that a lot of it was intentional or at least intentionally preventable.
"You'll never change the world if you never change your mind." This quote has been floating through my head lately. And now I realize that it applies in a special way to my family life and, by extension, I believe to everyone's. It might not be entirely our fault. It might not even be mostly our fault. And sometimes, there are extraordinary circumstances that are totally beyond our control. You can't help the decisions your parents made before you were born, for instance.
Maybe you can't change the world -- but you can change yourself. This is a big thing for me, and I believe it's an important realization for everyone to make. This "world" or "society" that we want to change is us. The world is made up of people, and every person has a mind. Is it more logical to change our own outlook or expect all other people to change theirs?
Now, true, there are some times when a societal mindset needs to be changed. I won't deny that. But this can best start with us changing our own attitudes. In my own life, I know that I need to see my parents as human beings. Sure, that sounds simple. But when I think about it, I'm very likely to only see one aspect of them -- the harshness, the narrow-mindedness, whatever it may be -- and to extrapolate that to be them. People are always more than one emotion. We're a beautifully complex network of experiences, emotions, perceptions, biases, loves, and free-will choices, all infused with a deep longing for truth and beauty. If I can recognize that in myself, I must recognize it in others.
So why do we change? I can't say that for everyone. But I can say pretty confidently that at some point, our parents aren't always going to have all the answers. They won't be able to give us all we want and more. And there will be times that they can't scare off the monsters in the dark.
And I can also say with certainty that if we want to improve the spot we find ourselves in with our parents, then we have to improve the way we look at that spot. See what you can change instead of focusing on what you can't. Instead of remembering nine times they hurt you, just remember one time you felt loved by them. At first, the only state that will change is your state of mind. But, little by little, you'd be surprised how first your actions change, and then those of the people around you.
It's a struggle for me, too. I've fallen more than a lot of people. But I'm going to keep getting back up, keep fighting for peace.
I'm going to change the world for my little family.
I'm going to change my mind --
I want to come home.