Recently I attended my high school reunion. I almost didn’t go. I, like many of you, had a love-hate relationship with high school. I haven’t kept in touch with many people from school. By the time my senior year rolled around, I was ready to get out and “get on with my life.” I am really happy that I made the choice to attend. I had a great time and connected with people that I have known since I was five years old. As I was leaving, one thought permeated me: “These people created who I am today.”
For all of us, our first 18ish years are not within our control. We are surrounded by people who are chosen for us and not by us. We are grown where we are planted, for good or for bad. We can’t choose our family, our schools, our classmates, our surroundings. As Garrison Keilor states, “Life is what you make it. Make the best of it.” And we try…sort of.
I counsel kids. The majority of my time in therapy with kids is relating to their years of not being in charge of their lives. I recognize their sense of powerlessness with parents and peers. I recall those feelings of worry and dread surrounding making new friends, losing friends, sensing change happening with the loss of grandparents, divorce, or moving houses. I love working with kids, because they are vulnerable and need an outside person to “get it” when they struggle. And man, I get it. Sometimes we just don’t want to make the best of it. Sometimes we want to stomp up and down and throw a fit because we don’t like it!
What’s great as an adult is that now we get to choose who continues to create us. Yes, we are responsible for ourselves for sure. At the same time, the people around us create a bit of a template for how we think, feel, react, and in which trajectory we are heading. A lot of time in therapy is spent trying to heal from those who created us in our youth. When you see your kids struggling, try to remember what it was like to feel powerless. Try to empathize with their need to belong, to matter, to be heard and recognized. Be present for them. My guess is that by doing that – you’ll find a bit of yourself in there that also needs some love and attention. That’s okay. Surround these emotions with tenderness, patience, and care. Healing is waiting.