When I find myself looking back on my childhood, feelings of nostalgia wash over me. My family was not perfect or idyllic at the time. Feelings of belonging, safety, family pride and even gratitude to my parents for their devotion to family are, however, conjured up and very often tears will fall.
Why, then, was I always looking for opportunities to go away from the familiarity of home, family and school? From the time I was ten, I was looking forward to a life of independence: a job, an apartment, new friends and traveling to far off places. No parents or siblings were woven into these dreams of my future. I was a single character on the stage of my life, surrounded only by new people in new situations. I was in search of adventure. I believe these dreams were in part born of my own feelings of inferiority. My older brothers were not only smarter, but more driven to succeed in their studies than I was. I was preoccupied with my insecurity in school social groups from elementary school. As an example, on the days that I walked to school with neighbor kids, I was comfortable and felt a part of a group. My entrance alone, though, to a classroom or schoolyard was accompanied by some level of anxiety. Would anyone talk to me or would I be ignored?
My confidence was routinely fed by my teachers who praised me for my progress in the classroom. I was bright, brighter than most, but I did not feel in anyway superior to others. I was still an unwanted tag-along to my older brothers and their friends in the neighborhood.
By the time I was eighteen, I was yearning for a new life for myself. I was surrounded by classmates who were driven, like my brothers had been, to graduate at the top of the class and then to go on to college. I nurtured a different vision: to get out of school and go to work somewhere, anywhere. The summer after my graduation, when a friend was determined to go off and live with extended family in Utah, I was packed and ready to get on a train with her. No job promises, no great plan, just go! Today, I am shocked by my lack of impulse control. Fortunately for me, her parents talked her out of leaving and I would remain at home for awhile.
When I married at the tender age of 19, I was thrilled to be in an apartment of my own, working at a real job. I didn’t mind scrimping to live within my means. It was a new adventure. When my husband was deployed for seven months on a West-Pac cruise, he asked me to go live with his parents in Texas until he came back. I jumped at the chance to live somewhere new. My family and friends couldn’t comprehend why I didn’t want to remain in my hometown close to all of them while I awaited the return of my young husband. Again, it was an adventure to me and the reason for my first airplane ride.
So, why after all these years, do I so enjoy wallowing in the nostalgia of my yesteryears? All those things I was anxious to leave behind now seem so dear to me. Through the creation of my memoir pages, I am able to revisit who I was and how I have changed. The old feelings of belonging and family pride have a new place in my history.