Personal Narrative: How Past Influences Future
The human lifespan is rich in experiences, change, and an evolving sense of self. The course of one's life is plotted with interactions that offer learning opportunities to mold "who you are" and "who you want to become." Life challenges, social encounters, and varying circumstances affect how we view communities, cultures, people, and ourselves. We are constantly absorbing new information and incorporating these experiences into our identity and understanding of self. My past experiences influence who I am today, and my life's current trajectory. Over and over again, occurrences within my own life impact how I view relationships with others, my work ethic, my personal and professional values, and how I respect life. I have experienced the effect of my parents' divorce, health problems in the family, playing sports, working, and moving to college. Each of these instances range in their degree of influence on my life, and contribute to my value systems regarding commitment, loyalty, goal-setting, perseverance, respect, and initiative. I accept that my identity and values will continue to evolve as I endure life experiences. I recognize that my life is not about solving a set of problems, whether they are related to family, work, or relationships; life is instead a constant cycle of change and adaptation to experiences that must be absorbed and endured.
No individual assimilates with one singular identity; one's identity alters through the lifespan as a consequence of human experience. From the time of childhood, we are constantly learning and developing perceptions about our world. For example, scenarios involving growing up with several siblings in a single parent home, being home-schooled, living in poverty, or living in luxury, all begin to influence an individual at an early age, and affects how the individual views their world. Every friendship, struggle, job, "bad grade," etc. has the power to impact one's life. One of the changes in my life that occurred at a young age and influenced my identity and values was my parents' divorce. Although climbing divorce rates have made parental separation almost commonplace, it affects every child and family in different ways. For me, having divorced parents has impacted how I view commitment and shaped my values on committed relationships. Navigating the meaning of a divorce for a child can be confusing. For me, I had to adapt to a single parent home and accept that I was no longer going to have my mother and father in the same home. Schedules were set for visiting times and I was shuffled between my mother and father. The family was literally broken, and everything I knew about my family structure vanished. After the new routine was established, I began to identify with my new family structure. I had to accept that holidays would be shared and I would have some experiences with my mother and other experiences with my father.
My family identity and how I perceived "what a family is" changed. These realizations were the immediate repercussions -- I knew that my family structure was changing, and I was expected to be compliant. Initially I was angry about the divorce. I was upset that our family was not going to be the same. It was not until I was older that I did not feel resentment and developed an understanding that my parents needed the divorce for the sake of themselves. It took even more time for me to appreciate how the divorce specifically influenced my personal identity and values. The divorce most profoundly influenced my sense of commitment. In the context of romantic relationships, I value commitment above all else, and will not get married unless I am confident my spouse offers me happiness, fulfillment, and willingness to work for the betterment of our marriage, even when it is tested. The divorced raised my standards regarding marriage and choosing a spouse. I am not naive; I know that marriages are tested and take work. I want a spouse who is willing to work for our marriage, and will consider divorce the last possible outcome after exercising all other options. The divorce also impacted my view on commitment outside of the relationship context. My parents' separation instilled the mentality, "Don't quit what you start" into my personality. I am committed to relationships, work, school, and all other endeavors I pursue.
Closely related to commitment, my life experiences with my family have also shaped my values regarding loyalty. There have been health issues within my family that have strengthened my loyalty value system. When family members were in poor health, they relied on me and other family members to care for them. Having family members live in such a vulnerable state also helped me appreciate my personal health, as well as the bond we share as a family. It also helped me realize how precious life is, and how it must never be taken for granted. Witnessing family members struggle has impacted how I cherish family for the unique bond we create, the loyalty born between those related to me, and the commitment we share to support each other. I identify with my family and value our relationship; and this is a character trait that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
My value system regarding goal-setting and perseverance was first nurtured when I began playing sports. On the surface, many may overlook the value of playing sports as a source for life experiences. For me, however, I learned my first lessons in working towards a goal and having the persistence to realize it. When I played basketball, I was expected to show up on time, which further strengthened my sense of commitment. I was expected to play with teammates that I did not always agree with; but I would not discount them, which reinforced my loyalty. I made my own goal to improve my skills by working my hardest in practice, and giving my strongest effort during games. I persevered through intense work-outs, losing games, and tough coaches. Playing basketball also instilled an initial sense of teamwork, and knowing what it means to rely on someone else to show up and do their work.
Successfully working as a team is undoubtedly one of the most significant characteristics I identify with that will be reflected in my professional life. My goal to improve my basketball skills and determination to persevere was realized when I was put on the starting line-up for my team. Knowing the importance of having a goal, working honestly towards that goal, and achieving the goal has helped me to identify as a goal-oriented person. I set standards for myself and expect them to be met. Experiences with team sports can be underrated in terms of life lessons, but in my experience, it gave me the opportunity to test my will, drive, and determination. My positive experience playing basketball has transcended into my identity and enhanced my goal-setting nature.
In addition to team sports, past employment positions - working as a waitress and at a home health facility - have nurtured my sense of teamwork and perseverance, and has also embellished my values for respect. Working with any job presents ample opportunity to learn about oneself. When employed, one is expected to perform the required task and services in exchange for payment; there is an expectation to provide what the employer demands. Working also requires one to successfully complete their job duties while simultaneously working with others. My experiences in the work environment encouraged me to respect employers, co-workers, and customers alike. While working at the home health facility I was performing clerical work and writing patient notes. I developed a sense of responsibility and thoroughness. My boss expected me to perform my tasks as required and in a timely manner. I had to work with people, engage with patients, and manage my workload. While working as a waitress I depended on customers for my direct income. Even when I had a bad personal day, I was still expected to wait my tables with a smile and provide good customer service. In these instances, my identity and understanding of perseverance shined, as I had to work past my personal "bad days" in order to secure my income, and to execute my job as my employer expected me to. I began to understand accountability, being responsible enough to complete a task that is expected, and to be present in every aspect of life.
The fundamental understanding of respect influences every aspect of my life; I respect family, professors, friends, and people I encounter in day-to-day living. Respect is not simply a matter of being kind to the person who signs your paycheck; respect is an offering given from one person to another, whether they are the attendant at the gas station or the CEO of a corporation. Working with patients and restaurant customers increased my value of respect as I had to interact directly with customers, and not my employer. I…