The other day, my very good friend and I were discussing environment. Specifically, how environment shapes a child into the adult they will become. She’d said that environment totally shapes them, that it dictates exactly what path they will choose as adults: the dark, dangerous path of drugs, violence, etc, or the golden, rosy path of “normal” day-to-day adulthood ~ the career, spouse, 2.5 kids and a pet. She believed that a child who overcame adversity was an anomaly.
Initially, I completely disagreed with her. Basing my opinion solely on my own childhood environments, and the adult I’ve become, I strongly opposed the idea that environment completely shapes a child. I’d experienced every form of abuse psychologists are taught to heal. I’d lived daily, consciously, in fear for my physical safety for over seven years. Subconsciously, I was fearful mentally and emotionally.
I’d learned to hide behind smiles. It took decades for me to be able to show true emotion without smiling.
My belief was that each of us is an individual, and there are many variables that shape us, that our environments had little to do with how we’d turn out. Today, I am “normal.” Though I literally lived through hell, though the horrors I experienced as a child should have me numbing my pain with various narcotics or alcohol on a daily basis, or have me on a therapists couch several times a week – that is not my reality. Contrary to my very good friend’s belief, I did not end up on the dark and dangerous path.
Am I an anomaly?
These thoughts have been swirling through my mind almost constantly since our conversation. The more I thought of it, the more I remembered my childhood, the more I could see how those events indeed shaped me. Would I truly be the person I am today had I not experienced those traumas? Would I be as compassionate? Would I be as perceptive? Would I be able to connect with my own children on the level I’m able to without those experiences?
Would I be as forgiving?
And so, this Thanksgiving, I have much to be thankful for. I’m thankful for my very good friend, who not only understands my experiences with a unique perspective of her own, but who opened my eyes to a new way of looking at my past. Our conversation helped both of us to see different viewpoints. We both walked away with clearer outlooks.
I’m thankful for those experiences in my childhood that taught me valuable lessons in life, love, and humanity.
Most of all, I’m thankful for each and every person who has touched my life ~ good and not-so-good. I am so very grateful for my life and the people in it. Without them, I wouldn’t be me. I wouldn’t have learned and grown as much as I have without them. To everyone in my life, both past and present: THANK YOU.
So talk to me ~ after you’ve gotten your gobble on, napped, and had that yummy pie. What are you thankful for? Do you believe that environment shapes us totally? Do you think that there are other factors to consider?