Sunday, April 03, 2011

What if?

I grew up with a sheltered life; sometimes I think too sheltered. My parents meant good, but they shielded my eyes from many things that I now have to learn about the hard way. I'm never going to be a parent, so I can't imagine how difficult the decisions my parents had to make must have been in order to keep me and my sisters safe, to protect us from the evils of the world, and most importantly to raise us with the best set of morals they felt we could have. But none of those things take away from the fact that life is shitty and dealing with the shit as it happens is how people grow.

Please don't take this as a slam on my parents. I had great parents growing up. They chose to cover my ears from the worldly influence of music and movies that they felt sought to undermine decent Christian values. They chose to avert my eyes from what they saw as the growing sexual addiction of the nation and instead show me what true love between a man and woman was. And they chose to block all of my senses that would be affected by their version of financial ruin except to allow me to experience small blessings and the giving of others. For those things I am very thankful because they showed they loved me and wanted what they thought was best for me.

And yet I sit here in an empty house wondering what I missed. I went to a movie theatre twice before I graduated from high school. I never got to see Pearl Jam live at the House of Blues in front of only a hundred people or at the first Lollapalooza in front of only a thousand. And outside of material things, I never really learned how to save money; only to spend it fast when it shows up in case I don't make anymore. I also never learned how to argue without yelling or emotional sweeping of the legs. To this day my blood pressure goes up at the beginning of a disagreement for fear I won't be able to get in the first scathing remark or throw the first intellectual curveball before the other person and by missing those key moments lose all credibility or edge in the argument.

One of the things I cling to in reference to human behavior is that once we leave home, it's our responsibility to make our own way. If we don't like how we were raised or the teaching we grew up under or the bad habits we saw day to day, then it's on us to change those things. And yet I loom onto the age of 36 and I still can't get a real grasp on nurture versus nature or figure out how to maneuver the two into the life I want to live. Are any of those things in the last paragraph really all that important? To me they are. Those are things I missed out on and hold as true regrets. We're supposed to make our paths in life but I wasn't allowed out of the house to find where the paths even started.

Again, none of this is a slam on my parents in the way you think (or it might read) it is. I just sit here scared that when life's real hardships come my way I won't have the resources to deal with them.

But outside of where I see lacking on the part of my parents, I also see a distinct disadvantage in growing up in a small town surrounded by other small towns surrounded by the mentality of small town America. Be honest, how many of you reading this know more people stuck in the cycle of life than those chasing dreams? And of those people in the first category, how many do you know watch with an envious eye the second group? Be honest. I'm not saying that being in the cycle isn't fulfilling or enjoyable to some, but to the majority it certainly isn't adventurous and it certainly isn't the thing people mention on their deathbed when asked the deep questions. People want to feel like they can enjoy life, like it was worth living. No one ever wants to feel trapped. When the use of money and so-called life make slaves of its users, that's never enjoyable for those in it. And growing up thinking it's wrong to venture too far from the folds of your community, or at least outside of where the community mindset is, keeps way too many people from experiencing all the world has to offer.

Why the whining, Sam? What's your point? What are you searching for that you feel you've been slighted?

I don't know. Really. I just had the overwhelming sense of oppression today. I had the heaviness on my heart that I've wasted a lot of years not pursuing things I wanted because it wasn't rational or holy or common-sensical. Did I miss out on an interesting career by not going to drum school? Did I miss out on learning how to understand women by rushing into marriage along the suggestions of those pushing, "it's time you settled down." (Not even speaking of what I asked of the twenty year old girl who said yes to me.) And on a spiritual level, did I ignore God's calling(s) by succumbing to the pressure of the, "get a haircut and get a real job" crowd? I guess I'll never know the answers now.

I fully realize there's no greater place to point the finger of blame in all of this except at me. I didn't have to do any of those things if I didn't want to. I get that. And I guess that's what is most painful. As cliche as it is, we really truly only get one life to live. Just one. No do-overs. When it's done it's done. And I can't help thinking I wasted some of my best years.

Am I completely sad and down? Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely not. I have had some great adventures. I have some awesome stories to tell. And best of all, I've been blessed with some great friends. Please know I'm not sitting here tonight with a load of regrets. But I refuse to not ask the question, "what if?" about my life. I refuse to get comfortable with those things and not want more. I live in a country great enough to allow me to want and chase more. I refuse to get complacent and settled into the cycle. I can't or regrets will be my story. I'm tired of having my eyes and ears and every other sense covered. I'm tired of feeling rejection for the things I want out of life.

So what are you going to do about it, Sam? Are you still going to sit around and be bullied into a life you feel is sheltering and confining? Are you still going to blame everyone and everything around you for your shortcomings? Or are you going to get up and do something about it? I wish I knew. I wish I had the balls to ask, "What if?" Maybe I do. Maybe I do.


Blogger Faithful Mama said...

I feel as though in many ways I can relate to what you are saying. Though my parents were not great role models for marriage, in every other way (maybe because of their divorce) they kept me sheltered. As an adult now I think back to many of the things that I wish I would have been equipped to handle by my parents rather than sheltered from it. Like you I am not slamming my parents but wish that would have prepared me more rather than sheltered me.

And the whole small town mentality...boy do I feel torn on that. I love my small town. I love that I know a good majority of my community. BUT, having said that I wish I would have been encouraged to chase the dreams I had when I was younger. I think living in such a small community it's easy to just get stuck here and live out life as our parents did and so forth. I'm not sure if this makes any sense (I feel like I'm rambling). My point... I hear ya and totally get what you are saying my friend. :)

12:58 PM  
Blogger Mister Shirey said...

Do I know you, Beth. At first I thought you the Beth who is Mommy to two cute kids in Clumsy-banana, but she has her own blog. Second guess is my new lady-friend, Tabetha, but I don't think she reads Eleven. Third guess is Ell using her abbreviated middle name. Am I close? Send me an email and let me know.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Alright, that was weird. That was me but it posted as, The Dude. My gmail acct was pulled up and I must have that name associated with my email. So strange. Anyway... Beth, that was me asking that question.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

Sounds like Bethy to me! aka... one of my all time best friends! You know who I mean! Beth, tell me if I'm wrong!


8:14 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

I thought of that, but she uses Bethy as her signature. I also just (cyber) met a lady named Beth from Boston. It could be her too. Either way, it's got me curious.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

My money is on the "bethy".

I think this is an interesting conversation though...I was raised very much the same & contribute that to what I consider my success in life. Ironically, some of my siblings feel that those same things have caused them to 'rebel' at times...just later in life than your typical teenage rebellion.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

I'd love to have a long conversation about this with you sometime. Nothing I can post will be of benefit.

11:23 AM  

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