For a class assignment, my younger sister was asked to create a “microhistory” of someone in her life. For this writing project, she picked me. I told her that although I was flattered, I didn’t think I had anything remarkable to say. She told me, “Everyone has a story to tell.” She’s got a point.
Here’s my adorable sis (that I threatened to lock in the basement on more than one occasion):
I decided to take this as an opportunity to reconnect with my sister. We are worlds apart on age and live in different states. Yet, we still call each other “sissy” and crack secret jokes about our family. To the dismay of our mother, “your mom” gets thrown around quite a bit. But we don’t know much about each other’s experiences. So each week when I answer some of the questions for her assignment, I asked her to do the same. And I will share those experiences here in a series of posts.
Do you have a philosophy of life? What’s your best piece of advice for living? If a young person came to you asking what’s the most important thing for living a good life, what would you say?
A Philosophy on life? That is a hard one… but if I had to pin it down, I would say “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And I mean the truest kind, not the kind of self-righteous finger-pointing that is lobbed in defense of self.
I think that sometimes it takes more will to shut your mouth when you are feeling under attack than it does to point out error. This is something I struggle with still today. I can still hear my grams saying, “Missy you do not have to have a response to everything.” To this day, I play this over in my head when confronted with difficulty in my own relationships. As my grandpa would say “breath through your nose.”
There is truth in all criticism, no matter how sharply wielded. If you have enough self-awareness, you can recognize a weakness in yourself or a way in which you have hurt someone. You can also begin to see that we are truly among the walking wounded. It is impossible to know what kind of emotional scars people live with that cause them to act the way they do.
If someone asked me for advice, I would say, learn to listen. When you shut your mouth and listen to someone’s story, you learn so much. You can pick up the subtle nuances of their message and the body language that clues emotion. I think that it also creates a sense of connection that can get lost by formulating a response while the other person is still talking.
I would also say be thankful for what you have every single day. It sounds so cliché, but you never know when you could lose what you have or who you love.
Here’s what my sis had to say, in her own words:
I have three things that I live by:
1. Every day I remind myself to take the risk, take the chance, and to accept the change. I never in my life want to look back and wonder “what could have happened” or “what could have been.” Living in Southern Indiana my entire life, I’ve grown up and gone to school and seen the same people (or types of people) always. More often than not, people that have lived here for a while say how much they despise the town, how there’s nothing to do and how they cannot wait to get out. Those that do end up eventually coming back.
It’s been described to me that our town is a black hole. And to some extent, I agree. I’ve ventured to just about every hidden gem this town has to offer. There’s little to no music scene or downtown life. And there isn’t much for young people to do but go to bars or go to the river. But to me, it’s not about where you are, it’s who you are with that makes time worth spending.
One of my favorite quotes actually comes from my favorite tv show, Grey’s Anatomy: “That knowing is better than wondering, that waking is better than sleeping, and even the biggest failure, even the worst, beat the hell out of never trying.” -Merideth Grey
2. I would rather give my all, fall on my ass, and make myself look like a fool, and TRY than to never have given myself a chance. Having said that, I also don’t believe in regrets. Obviously, we make mistakes and poor judgments all of the time. But if we take our past experiences and look at them as mistakes or regrets, then we’re really forever criticizing ourselves and living in the past. Everything is a learning experience. Something can be taken from anything.
3. About a year or so ago, I can remember driving west on the expressway on a sunny day and listening to Stone Temple Pilots. My mind was wandering. I was thinking about the man our mother married later in life – a man I call my father. And then about my sister’s father. And then about the list of people I know that have unconventional fathers and parental relationships in their lives.
I don’t know how, but something in me just clicked: sometimes people in our lives don’t live up to the roles they were given and holding them to something that they don’t have in themselves is only hurting ME. This applies to everything; family, friends, classmates, coworkers, etc. Quite often roles change too. Instead of questioning why my best friend and I have drifted apart, instead of wondering why my father won’t ever be what I needed him to be, instead of trying to mend and glue things that weren’t meant to be, accept that people’s roles in our lives change. It sounds so simple, but once I kept reminding myself this, life became so much easier.
Wow. Some powerful words from a young lady. My sister’s words brought me to tears. It’s hard to watch those you love struggle with pain and rejection. Having been there myself, I know she will look back on those times and feel thankful. But sometimes the getting there is the hardest part.
More to come on this writing assignment! Until then, please feel free to chime in with your answer.