Lessons from Antiheroes
We are social beings. Inevitably, during our life, we interact with other members of our community. These interactions are normally first with our parents, caretakers, and siblings, then with our teachers and classmates, and eventually with a wider range of people like neighbors, friends, tutors, coaches, librarians, bosses, co-workers, and significant others.
The more we interact with people, the more experience we gain. Every experience affects our next. Every single interaction teaches us a lesson. Repeatedly interacting with another creates a relationship.
Every relationship influences us in imperceptible ways, and the longer that relationship lasts, the more changes it generates in our thoughts and actions, subtly and gradually.
When we’re young, we are like sponges; we absorb everything. The younger and more impressionable we are, the more deeply the relationship impacts us, even shapes us.
As infants, our very first relationships are with our parents and caretakers. They are supposed to protect us from all the ugliness and the dangers of the world until we can fend for ourselves.
If we’re lucky, our parents will nurture us, provide for us, and raise us with love and care. If we’re lucky, they will want the best for us.
For most parents, this translates into wanting everything they themselves didn’t or couldn’t have in life and making sure we don’t suffer like they did. To that end, they impose their desires and dreams on us and try to help us avoid the mistakes they made in their own lives. They make choices and decisions for us based on their personal experience in life.
They do all this with the best intentions, of course, but in doing so, they restrict our freedom and transfer their fears to us.
Each choice and each decision they make affects us in ways we cannot imagine, and most of us don’t realize how our upbringing creates our unique perspective on life and on the world and how limited our perceptions have become due to the way we were raised.
Philip Larkin said it best in This Be the Verse.
That’s if we’re lucky enough to have parents who care enough to be there and raise us, parents we look up to and consider our personal heroes.
Not everyone grows up with parents who are role models. Some children live with irresponsible adults and end up having to be the grown up in the family. Often these children are neglected, abused, unloved.
Most of these children, sadly, become delinquents, addicts, and/or criminals. They often repeat the same mistakes, and if they make a family, they behave as badly as their parents did, creating a cycle.
Some of these children, however, learn how not to be. They actively choose to become different people. They vow to never treat others the way they were treated. They learn to live life in a way to never be in situations they’d repeatedly been in. They make an effort to establish meaningful relationships.
I’m one of those children. To my mother and father, parenting meant verbally, emotionally, and physically abusing me, both before and after their divorce, and during both my childhood and my adulthood. I was to blame for everything that didn’t go the way they wanted.
Since I didn’t have any siblings, I had no one to share the blame with, and therefore, was solely responsible for everything that went wrong… like for being a girl instead of a boy, for my father’s colleague being a jackass, for my mother forgetting her purse at work, for our neighbor’s dog being too big, … and for existing.
Their abuse was just that, abuse. It was name calling, beating, shouting, and wishing I didn’t exist. It wasn’t teaching, constructive criticism, or parenting. They never even talked to me; they always talked at me.
What they taught me, or rather what I learned from my parents, was to take everything they did to me, analyze it, study each part of it, remember how I felt when I received it, and make sure I didn’t do it to another.
By the time I left that unstable parental nest, I had become an expert on how not to live. All I ever wanted was the one thing I never had growing up: peace.
It took me decades to undo the damage I had suffered and to learn how to live a peaceful life and be happy.
My childhood, my journey, and my transformation taught me three important lessons in life:
First, in whatever we do, it’s much more efficient to try very had and get it right the first time.
Second, most of our suffering in life is caused by those closest to us.
Third, no matter how dark the clouds get, there is always a silver lining.