Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reflections on my Past

I had a vivid dream last night about my first love. I was 17 years old and a new girl in high school with no real friends. So when he came into my life, not only were those feelings exceptionally strong, as teenage love is, but my entire life was wrapped up in him.

So much so that decades later I can still have dreams about him that have profoundly strong feelings. I dreamed he died in an accident and I was communicating with his mother, both of us deep in grief and I was despondent. An absolute wreck.

Why do I still have these feelings? I have no intentions with anybody but my husband and with my first love, well, we're friends on FaceBook and the last time I saw him was at his wedding 4 years ago or so. We chat occasionally on the phone.

But sometimes I have these incredibly emotional dreams about him and I think the significance is not necessarily with him but with the feelings.

So after waking this morning I meditated on the "why" of those feelings and thought about what else was going on in my life and how I can help Aidan become a better success than myself once he becomes a teenager. Looking back, I can see how these circumstances profoundly affected the direction my life took and why I am where I am today. I wrapped myself up in what felt good emotionally because I had no other focus or encouragement, except one little thing: something my dad said.

My dad told us to complete college. He was supportive but didn't otherwise get involved. He said to me and my sisters that we should complete college and he repeated that throughout our high school and college years. I had no direction - no idea what to do or what was interesting, but I knew I had to complete college.

High school became background noise to my boyfriend. I took after school jobs to earn my own spending money. I maintained average grades despite daydreaming, doodling and even cheating to get by.

Now this post is truly NOT a "blame the parents for my problems" screed, it's more a reflection on what happened. I've heard here and there that parents tend to back off their kids once they reach high school level because they look like adults and well, they must know what to do! My parents were pretty hands off with me and my sisters, as long as our grades weren't awful and we didn't get into trouble.

But because they were hands off, I never knew what to explore within school. They never questioned me, that I remember, about what interested me. Mom and dad never encouraged me to pursue a club or outside activity. So I wrapped myself up in my boyfriend and took a job so I could buy nice clothes and go out.

I went to community college and met Melanie while working at Taco Bell, who became my best friend and life from then on was about going out and having fun and boys. Fun and boys, fun and boys with a part time job and school on the side.

My parents had their own stuff to worry about and they never questioned or pressured me. Just stay in school, you'll eventually figure it out.

The fact that I vividly remember my dad encouraging me to finish college proves that teenagers do listen. And I know that if they encouraged me more to pursue a student foreign exchange program or join a debate team or make an appointment with the career counselor or start my OWN business instead of just getting a job, my life would be vastly different. I was a late bloomer and a job drifter, dissatisfied with my jobs (until now) because I lacked direction and put all the energy I had onto my first love and subsequent hedonistic parties well into my 20s.

I don't want that for Aidan. While I don't plan on being a tiger mom, I'm certainly going to be involved, be more nosy about how he chooses to spend his time once he becomes a teenager and encourage him to explore his options with help from me and others who can help him become aware of those options. Join clubs and have after school activities. And understand when he gets wrapped up in girls, especially once he finds HIS first love, but not let her become his entire existence.

And so this is how last night's dream evolved. Lots of introspection of the path my life has taken and how I can improve it for my son who's only still 6. There's no blame, only observation on how I can make my son's life better and understand where I am today and why. It's been an interesting ride.

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