I’m sitting at O’Hare airport waiting for my flight home. After ten days on the road, I’m ready for home. What’s strange to me is that Chicago used to be home. I’ve been away a long time. It doesn’t feel that way any more. I came to visit my family and it was great to connect again. It’s odd though, how relatives living near each other here have no more direct contact with each other than I do, living thousands of miles away. The nice thing in coming is that I’m like “new news,” a traveler from abroad. People are happy to see me. I guess living near makes each other seem more mundane.
I was 18 when I left this place and moved to California. I have only been back a handful of times. On this trip, I talked with a lot of people. I find myself reorienting to family history with an adult perspective. It’s interesting to hear different family member’s accounts of common events. You connect dots and fill in gaps. Likewise, I was adding to their knowledge. Having a clear picture of where we came from seems to help make it easier to move forward.
As a kid, I was a precocious and bratty. I pushed everyone’s buttons and challenged all boundaries. Not that I ever got into serious trouble, mind you. I was just relentlessly curious, strong willed, and given to pursuing any thought that came into my head. To a certain degree my parents consciously allowed me that freedom to explore. They saw the good in it as outweighing the bad. Some of my behavior was a product of environmental factors. My older siblings were always putting the hammer down on me. We lived in a pretty rough area as well. That tension provoked me to develop a fighting spirit just to avoid being dominated. I think now everyone is somewhat surprised at how I turned out. (-: I’m pretty level headed and low key. I’ll tell you how that came to be.
I did most of my rebelling a few years earlier in life than most other people. This was influenced by my siblings who are 5 and 7 years older. By the time I got to my teen years I was developing in a new direction. I’d spent most of my life scrapping with other kids who wanted to tangle with me. That wasn’t working out any more as others got bigger and stronger than me. I went through convulsions trying to find a new way to tackle life. I didn’t know how to stop being intimidated without fighting the intimidators. It left me derailed and running off track for awhile.
What finally took hold was my deep commitment to God. Learning scriptural principles exposed what I was lacking and helped me develop a new level of wisdom and maturity. It took many years and I learned a great many things the hard way.
Learning things the hard way has the benefit of really helping you get lessons though. You have to sort through so many errors to get the nuggets, you learn a lot along the way. It’s helped me become pretty good at communicating scriptural truths, but insight is expensive! At least now, I’m actually learning things by listening and observing. The savage failures of my earlier ways make me a little less inclined to rush in where angels fear to tread.
After all these talks with my relatives about their lives and looking back on my own life, it makes me see something clearly. Whether a person is smart or not, experienced or not, or even able-bodied or not, what he or she becomes boils down to one simple thing: Our choices define us. The beauty of it is that it’s never too late to make better choices. Do the right thing when you know the difference, be wary when you don’t, and learn from each other to possibly save a few steps.