Through our life, we play different roles. We take our cues from those around us. I knew what was expected of me. I grew up in a gated community. My parents were blue collar workers. I remember thinking, how are we allowed to live here? We were not anyone important. In fact, we were nobodies. Rich people lived in gated communities. I grew up feeling someone was going to find out I wasn't the same as everyone else. I wasn't elite. I didn't fit in with the members of this gated community. True, my parents were hard working individuals as were many of the other parents. But these people played golf. They played tennis. They swam. The evidence was in the golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool and the tags needed to do these activities. I had these tags. Yes, I played golf. Yes, I played tennis. Yes, I swam. However, both my mom and dad had to work in order for us to live in the house we lived. Money was tight. The budget didn't have much wiggle room. When I needed dental work, and I needed a lot, I felt incredibly guilty. I felt I owed my hard working parents for all they sacrificed for me. There were fights over money spending. I don't recall there ever being a fight over money spent on my issues, but I was a sensitive kid. I took things personally. I'm a sensitive grown woman. I still take things personally. I knew growing up that rich people were popular. I was cute, and I was smart, but I was not popular. At school, time and again I'd watch boys go for the pretty girls. No one really wants a cute girl and when you add smart to the mix, they definitely don't want you. Cute and smart are not part of the popular group. So, I spent my growing up years feeling like I was going to be found out. Someone had let my family into this gated community and we really weren't supposed to be here. Rich people were the popular group and that wasn't me. I didn't feel that was my family either. I sighed an audible sigh when I was able to escape the social expectations of growing up, daughter of blue collar parents, carefully living to not be discovered in a gated community. I made it through high school and no one found out.
I went away to college. It was my way to repay my parents, and I was still looking for a way to not be found out. I wasn't that rich girl some thought. Maybe through my education I could prove that I was capable. I could take care of my parents, or at least not be a burden to them. I could take care of myself. Relief filled my soul when I met people who didn't know where I came from. I met boys from all over the state, country and world. They seemed to like cute, smart girls. Maybe they were just being boys away from home...no social norms to follow. They didn't know they weren't supposed to be looking at some imposter, non-rich, not popular girl. I was scared I still couldn't measure up. College was an interesting playground for me. I struck pay dirt when I was asked to marry a boy who had parents that were BOTH college graduates. My M.R.S.
Educated people were better than the people I belonged with, right? This thought constantly went through my brain. I know I felt I had finally been welcomed into the popular group of life. Yes! Success!!! I made it to the elite group. To the big kids table. I was finally worthy to live in the gated community. Academia leads to aristocracy...right?
It took me over 25 years to learn the lesson: just because someone appears smarter, doesn't make them so. Nor does smart make one better than another. See, my whole lifetime I've felt that even though I was smart, I really wasn't as smart as __blank__, some-undefined-one else. You can randomly fill in the space for that someone, it just depended on the situation or the circumstance. The truth I know today is that I am not like anyone else. I am still cute and smart. My smarts are not the same as yours, and that's a really good thing.
I once thought there was a perfect family; my fairytale. This family was educated, and I was allowed to join their "team". I thought they could do no wrong. It turns out their story wasn't what I thought. From the outside, one can only see a fraction of whatever someone else allows to be seen. That perfect family...turns out they were human. They are just as dysfunctional as the rest of us. Being educated just meant they learned their life lessons a different way. It didn't mean they were better.
Reflecting on my youth, I had grown up in the perfect family and I realized it much too late. My own parents had hearts bigger than anyone I may ever know in my lifetime. My parents may not have had degrees signed from an academic facility, but they were smarter, happier, more loving, more honest, more community minded, and more respected than anyone who has yet to cross my life path. Those are wonderfully big attributes to have and to live up too.
My mom passed away 10 years ago today from Glioblastoma Multiforme. I was blessed to be by her side for the seven months we knew about the cancer. When roles reverse and you need to take care of your parents in the ways you did your infant children and beyond, a part of your soul awakens that you didn't even know existed. You become a much stronger version of yourself. Version 2.1. You realize truths that may have always been around. Previously acceptable ways no longer become acceptable. Subconsciously you do change. You realize that life truly is short. You start living that thought: Life. Is. Short. That means that you start to speak up for what you want in the time you might have remaining on this wonderful Earth. You realize unfinished dreams, and you reach for them. You realize how precious the time you have left really is with those you love. If you are lucky, the person you married as young twenty-somethings is also changing in these ways and your lives will align so you may share the rest of the journey. Unfortunately for me, I had a different path of challenges yet to face. In addition to today being the anniversary of my mom's passing, it also would have been my 30th wedding anniversary. My divorce was official 17 months ago. Bittersweet day. Yet life moves forward.
No regrets. I do realize I am rich beyond my wildest dreams. I am thankful to no longer be confined, nor limited.
Love, my friends.
~Lisa Kroll, definitely eating, praying and loving these days
Feeling thankful for my family and especially for how I was raised.
Tonight's blogging music:
The Lumineers, Cleopatra
"Things I knew when I was young. Some were true and some were wrong." - the Gun Song, The Lumineers, Cleopatra Album
dedicated to Patricia T. Scubelek-O'Conner
written on 11/19/16 and edited and published on 11/22/16