On Nurturance

As a child, I thought a lot about the meaning of my life. I thought a lot about the meaning of my life especially after my mother would yell at me for hours on end – why would anyone put me on this earth so this woman could scream at me and make me want to kill myself? I remember typing on my laptop at some point, during sixth grade or earlier, with tears running down my face: I was put on this earth to make a difference, to stop people like her from hurting others. While other kids thought about prom and popularity and potential first romances, I felt dedicated to escaping my home and then devoting my life to helping others help themselves.

Except escaping my home marked just the start of my healing. I laugh at how oblivious this seems to me now, but at a younger age, I thought that if I just left home, I would leave all the abuse and self-harm and horrible memories behind me. But it turns out, post-traumatic stress disorder exists unlike a Jeni’s ice cream fountain in my apartment and a man who’s both into social justice and has his internal world together who I could date at some point. In college, my PTSD struck me like a frisbee to the head flying at 100 mph, complete with panic attacks, emotion dysregulation and a great difficulty trusting people.

But I also met some of the best people in my life so far at college. I met my amazing, snarky therapist L who laughed at my weird, debauched humor, sat with me through terrible flashbacks, and watched Ariana Grande music videos alongside me. I met several academic mentors who role modeled compassionate teaching, self-awareness, and prioritizing kindness over creating products or outcomes. I met some of my closest friends, who I still talk with all the time about friendship and shared family trauma and social justice and more.

I write this all because as I get older, I feel some pressure to achieve “adult” milestones. I feel external pressure that I should strive to apply for big grants and become a leading scholar in my research field. I get the sense that people strive to date, get engaged and then married, that romantic coupledom somehow equates to maturity or success. But in all honesty, I care so little about any of those things – the awards, the prestige, the boyfriend and/or husband – because I care about providing to others the care that my therapist, mentors, friends, and grandmother provided for me. (But also, if you’re a faculty search committee member reading this blog post three years from now when I’m on the academic job market, I’ll still strive for the awards so that I can successfully mentor my students, lol).

As I get older, I recognize more and more deeply that I care the most about nurturance, about nurturing connections. I care about becoming the most kickass, red-haired, social justice-oriented therapist possible. I care about nurturing the next generation of therapists and psychologists through feminist mentorship practices and compassionate research collaborations, teaching, and guidance. I care about taking all the love those in my life have given to me and paying it forward, including to my friends and future kid(s). This Caroline Knapp quote from Appetites helps me re-center my values and pay no heed to what others may value:

“The struggle is not about food, [my therapist would] say; it’s not about the boyfriend, it’s not about the problem-of-the-week or the fantasy-of-the-week, which are no more than red herrings and false hopes, and the solution is not going to reveal itself in external form, in a new man or a new job or a bottle of Chardonnay. The real struggle is about you: you, a person who has to learn to live in the real world, to inhabit her own skin, to know her own heart, to stop waiting for her life to begin.” – Caroline Knapp, Appetites. 

I still have a lot of work to do on myself and a lot to figure out. But even though I am moving away from my undergrad years as a mentee and toward a more independent role as a mentor, I still have a great therapist, my iconic friends, and my own mentors who I can reach out to. As Ariana Grande once sang, I want to “get the hell away from those who block my vision,” and in my case, societal norms and pressures that distract me from my internal values and goals. By writing this post and sharing it online, I commit to stanning good pop music, developing my newfound crush on Simu Liu after just watching the first episode of Kim’s Convenience, and advocating for compassion and nurturance in all ways possible.

kickass single mom book lol

So I literally bought this book because I refuse to buy into the notion that I need a man by my side to raise a kid. Will I have my first kid around a decade or more from now? Probably. Will I ever settle for a mediocre man just to have one by my side when it happens? Never.

Feelings and reactions to this post? How do you discover and cultivate your internal values in a world that tries to tell us how we should think and feel? When will the world recognize that BlackPink’s “As If It’s Your Last” is truly the best K-Pop song of all time as dictated by my superior music taste which my therapist L made fun of all the time. Let me know in the comments.

7 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

7 responses to “On Nurturance

  1. As you get older I think it gets easier to reject what people think you should have as your aims. I had the devil’s own job resisting getting promoted into managing people because that was what you were meant to do. But I managed to segue into managing information not people at my London library supplier job, and to resist getting into managing at my library job here, even before I wanted to start my business. I managed to reject taking people on and kept my business small and personal and ethical and that’s been easier than the previous things. Yes, I got married, but way after people are supposed to, so that was OK. But the pressure in academia, which I saw when Matthew was working in a support role there (so not for him, but for the people in his office) is very high and hard to resist. I know that holding on to your ethics and values is very important to you, and I know you’ll find a way to do that. I’ve had to come away from one of my volunteering jobs because the values the people who do it hold clash with my own and I refuse to change (not something I can talk about more than that generally on someone else’s blog!) and I’m proud of doing that, even though it was crap and I’m nearly 50 and I could do without that, frankly! Oh yes, sometimes you have to get the self-fulfilment from something else than your job but that’s also fine and just makes you well-rounded, I think.

    • Thank you Liz, for role modeling for me what it looks like to stay true to one’s values even in a society that may pressure you to conform and to change! I always love hearing about how you’ve navigated similar struggles to what I write about on my blog throughout your life. Thank you again as always for your vulnerability and wisdom, as well as for sticking to your ethics and values, which gives me hope that I can do the same. ❤

  2. I admire and respect you for persevering through your childhood. I don’t think I could have done it. I was touched and moved on how you wrote “I was put on this earth to make a difference, to stop people like her from hurting others.” And I’m sure as a therapist, you’ll have additional insights and empathy to help others recover and move on to a healthier place in their lives.

    I’m sure being a single parent would be challenging. But given all the challenges you’ve had to overcome, I would put my money on you. I can kinda picture you singing an Ariana Grande song to your child.

    *hugs*

    • Awwww thank you so much for yet another compassionate and thoughtful comment. Means a lot for you to affirm my choice of career as a therapist. And yes, it may be challenging, and I still might not have a child, but I am thinking about it more deeply – and I appreciate you having the mental image of me seeing Ari to my kid. (: Hope you are well!

  3. catthatbarks

    ❤ yes!!

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