I remember sitting at my dining room table as a kid as my parents asked my brothers what they wanted to do with their lives. My mom and dad would listen to their answers and offer advice. I listened too. I was interested in the conversation, as it was exciting to me to think about the future. I was the youngest in the family, so I thought that one day when I was older they were going to ask me what I wanted to do with my life. I would think about the question and prepare answers in my head of what I might say. The next year would come and go and my parents would once again ask my brothers about their future plans, as I silently waited for my turn. When I moved out in my 20s they had still not asked me.
I graduated college and moved out on my own, and never really asked myself that question either. What did I want? I never really thought about what I wanted in life. For most of my twenties I was checking the boxes of what I thought was expected of me. But who was expecting it? Society? My friends? I am not sure, but I did feel like I was fulfilling those expectations by working at a good job, paying my bills, renting my own apartment, and having friends. But there was always a nagging dissatisfaction in me. I thought it was that I wasn’t having enough ‘fun’ or that I didn’t have a good enough boyfriend, or that I needed to move to a new city.
I went out to bars, nightclubs, and concerts in search of fun. I changed my boyfriends quite frequently in search of one that was going to get rid of my dissatisfaction. I moved from city to city in search of answers for myself. But, none of these things satisfied me. These were all temporary things that didn’t answer the bigger question of, ‘What did I want to do with my life?’
I was still waiting for someone else to ask me this question. I used to think that my husband should ask me this question. I thought that maybe one day he would, so I waited. I waited patiently for my turn to start taking action on the possibilities of my own life. What made me excited? What did I want to use my energy to create? What did I want for my future? I thought that at some point, someone would have the time to ask me these questions. I realize now that I was waiting for someone to give me permission to talk about myself.
My parents left this earth never asking me what I wanted. They never asked me if I was living a life that made me happy or fulfilled me. My brothers got married and started their own families. They lived a few miles from my parents and they all saw each other frequently. I moved to Portland when my daughter was born and rarely went home. On occasion my mom would come and visit me and she would tell me all about my brother’s children. They were smart, adventurous, and they were destined to do great things.
I moved on from being overlooked at as child, as a young adult, and even as a mother. I never understood why they didn’t seem interested in me, it hurt but I returned the sentiment and stopped being interested in them after a while. I slowly lost touch with my brothers, and rarely talked to my mom.
When my mom died about 4 years ago, all these questions came back with a vengeance. I realized that any chance I had of my mom being interested in me was now over. It was never going to happen. I was never going to have my turn at the family dining room table. I didn’t even realize how badly I still wanted that, until I knew that I was never going to get it.
My mom’s death sent my life into a tailspin. That small part of me that was still looking for her approval and attention was left alone, hopeless and scared. That small scared part of me was at the core of my motivation for most of what I did in my life. I hadn’t realized that when I accomplished something I would have a picture in my mind of my mother one day being happy for me. It was still a hope in me, even though it was almost completely subconscious.
I had to go back to the house I grew up in after my mom passed away in order to help settle her Estate. My brothers were the executors, and they were in charge of distributing her personal belongings, jewelry, furniture, and selling her house. I walked through my old bedroom, walked down the hallway to the kitchen, and then to the dining room. I stared at the long wooden dining room table with the 6 high back chairs with black seat covers. It was quiet. This is where it started, and now it was over. Did my brothers win? I forget what we were competing for now. Our parents attention? If that was the competition then they definitely won. They won that battle, but they lost a sister and a family. Our family, my family. I did too.
The one thing that kept going through my head when my mom died was, ‘I forgot to tell her that I am ok’. But now I realize that I didn’t forget, I realize that she never asked. My mom is gone. Life moves fast and is ultimately too short. So, I have stopped waiting for someone to give me permission to talk about myself. I have stopped waiting patiently for my turn to speak.
I already have the answers about what I want for my own life, I have been preparing for someone to ask me my whole life. So, I finally just asked myself.