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Does Your Past Define You?

Does your past define you? That is a question I have pondered for some time. As a teacher, I saw many children who were not living their best lives due to circumstances beyond their control. I grew up in a broken home with numerous issues myself. There was no violence, but divorces, remarriages, and money issues were prevalent.   

Why is it that some can overcome those situations and others can’t, not only can’t but follow in their parent’s footsteps? As a society, we see it happening all the time. What is the difference between those that change and those that don’t?

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I think it depends on a variety of reasons, as everyone’s life experiences are different. No one’s brain contains the same thoughts or works in exactly the same way. I’m sure that plays a part in how life experiences are handled and remembered. Is it possible for those that struggle to turn it around with counseling? Probably for some. I haven’t researched this; I am just spouting off some thoughts on the topic.

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Although I consider myself someone who was able to move on and live life differently, I still have issues that I believe come from my childhood. I lack confidence and will do anything to avoid conflict. I often wonder what I would be like if I hadn’t lived the life I did. There is no way to know and it is probably pointless to even wonder, as there is no way to know what could have been. 

While teaching, I saw many cases where the excuse of a bad home kept kids from certain consequences. My first thought was always, I didn’t have a wonderful childhood, and I didn’t act that way. Then I questioned myself. Was that a fair assessment? Their lives weren’t the same as mine. Their genes aren’t the same as mine. Their minds don’t work the same way mine does. Their experiences may have been so much worse and their method of handling it, different. 

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Knowing all this, I still feel that consequences are necessary. How else do these kids learn what is acceptable behavior? Having a little chit-chat session about it rarely helped, but was the required method of handling conflicts. Again, kids know what to say but don’t follow through and do those things.

How can society help with this serious issue? It seems that so much more is done for some of these kids now, than in the past. Yet, it continues. Not only do some of these children get services to help them, but the schools are now teaching social skills. The school I taught at invested in a program called Second Steps. We were required to teach a lesson from it each week. The kids could answer all the questions, but rarely, if ever, carried the skills into real life. 

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Is there a way to stop the cycle? Many methods are used, but do they work? I know there is research out there about this. There is research about everything down to the ridiculously mundane. “Research-Based,” are two words that get my goat. Education loves programs that are research-based. Guess what, that doesn’t mean they will work for everyone. I feel you can find research to support both sides of a variety of topics. 

I think one thing is overlooked. Do the people on this path of repeating their parent’s mistakes want to change? Do they even know that they are not living their best lives? And is it up to society to make that decision for them? 

So, does your past define you? I think it is different for everyone and always will be. The uniqueness of each individual tells the tale of how they chose to live their lives. I still fully believe that people can make better choices though.

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