A few weeks ago when I was in my home state my father was kind enough to drive me to a friend’s birthday party dinner about an hour away. As he drove me to this party (which, by the way, was a dinner at a respectable venue, not that it should have mattered) he, with much paranoia, told me to stay safe and shunned my plan to be driven to the airport after the party was over so I could sleep there for my 6am flight.
I didn’t realize how paranoid my father is about any sort of risk until I grew up. I always thought he was just logical – that it made sense to be worried about all of the horrible things that can happen to you if you test the waters a bit, even if those waters mean arriving at the airport early and spending the night uncomfortably sleeping on a chair.
When I look at the success stories of my peers in the tech industry I look at a bunch of people who thrive on risk well beyond an early arrival to the airport. These are school dropouts, people who believe in themselves so much that they make shit happen whatever it takes. They don’t second guess themselves. They don’t worry that despite their instinct that getting to the airport early will be more convenient than sleeping four hours, catching a cab for 30 minutes and getting to the airport equally exhausted and probably late.
I wonder for these types of risk takers if they grew up in families that supported this type of risk or if they were rebellious and went off and did their own thing anyway. I also wonder if my parents – my dad especially – would have been different with his kids if they were male. Would he tell a 31 year old son to be careful? Maybe. It probably wouldn’t be the same.
Before you say that it’s sweet that he cares so much about me, it really isn’t like that. What he really should be worried about is my killing myself for all of the mental health issues his abuse of my mother and emotional abuse of me over the years has caused. Not that I’m going to kill myself, just saying – on the days I think about it, I picture his reaction, of course not thinking it has anything to do with his behavior and how I’m a mental wreck largely thanks to it.
I’m an adult now and I can make my own future. But I’m still so scared of so much. I want to be someone I’m not but I’m tired of trying to be that person, whoever she is. I’m a scared, timid, shy and weak person in a lot of respects. I’m not a risk taker. I hate risk. I like stability, I like routine – to some extent. But maybe that’s not a bad thing. I just want to be that person who can be bold and confident and amazing. I hope if I ever have children I can raise them to not be afraid – to not feel criticized for every little thing they do. To be able to have opinions and to learn that there is no such thing as a “right” opinion (that’s why they are called opinions.) To always allow a reasonable amount of forgiveness before making someone feel like shit for making a mistake.
I’m having a difficult time with growing up. Being grown up. I’m turning 31 this month… in less than 15 days. I’m a real adult now and here I am still kvetching about my parents. That’s what therapy is for, right? I didn’t have a terrible childhood in the sense that I wasn’t neglected or beaten to the point where I was unable to walk the next day. But I’m still mentally shot over the barrage of paranoia and criticism from both my mom and my dad – to this day they continually judge me for everything I do or wear or think to do. That’s why they’re fairly removed from my life right now, though I wish they didn’t have to be, because I know they won’t be around forever and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to spend time with them, even though it can be quite painful.
The other day watching Shark Tank with my mom she made the comment “why don’t you come up with a brilliant idea?” I’ve never been encouraged to take risks, that’s why. Entrepreneurs are some of the world’s most productive risk takers. But my mother doesn’t get that in order to get to the point where you have a successful pitch on Shark Tank or to any VC you needed to take a ton of risks. You need to not be afraid and to trust yourself and your ideas. You need to not be afraid.
I wonder who I’d be today if I didn’t grow up in that environment of neurotic paranoid fear and hyper criticism. Would I be a very different person? Would I be able to stand up in front of a room and speak without stuttering, without the ums and the likes? Would I have the respect of my colleagues because my presence garnered respect just by walking into a room vs having to build it slowly and painfully through hard-earned results (and sometimes it being too late to get those results with all the lost respect?) I just wish I was someone else. I wish I was a confident, well adjusted woman. I’ll have to make due with the actual woman I am because that’s just the way it is.