The daily prompt asks the question “is it easy [for me] to ask for help?” Not in the least. I don’t know if that is born out of sheer stubbornness on my part or if it was the product of a conditioned training and response pattern beginning in early childhood or perhaps a combination of the two.
Looking back I have always been stubborn and I will be the first to admit to it. Legendary stubbornness in fact, always reminded by my father of the infamous “training potty” incident while camping in the Sierra’s when my brothers and I were all still in diapers. And yes, before you ask, there ARE pictures to prove it!
I have always been driven and determined as well. I take great personal pride in being able to accomplish the things to which I set my mind. This was always coupled with the undercurrent as a child of failure not being an option. Somehow, in my little mind, I grew to equate asking for help as being a failure. Something I really did not enjoy. Although you’d think I would have been as equally appalled at failing in school as I was in any other situation….but that is a story for another day.
When I turned 18 and had just graduated from high school (miraculously), I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed to get a job if I was not planning on going to college. Having been something of a lackluster student in high school, the college option, presented to me with little guidance or insight, did not seem like a viable option. And the fact that the home life left a great deal to be desired, seemed to naturally propel me in the direction of getting out as quickly and as far away as possible.
My original thought was to join the police force. I was pretty athletic in high school and mentally tough from my upbringing so it seemed like it would be a good fit. However, after getting a job and moving out, I found that I was still constantly tapped to babysit my siblings. I did not enjoy it leading up to my departure and I was less interested in doing it thereafter. Not that I did not love them, but when you are 18 and live on your own, it seemed like one foot was still in the nest.
So off I went and joined the army. I went from the processing center in Los Angeles on my first plan ride to South Carolina where I was truly on my own for the first time. When I left, I literally promised myself I was never going to go back (figuratively). With the exception of one month in between active duty and joining the reserves, I have made good on that promise to this day.
After active duty I settled in the Philadelphia area, the oppose end of the country from my entire family. I was very isolated and, more often than not, very lonely. I had no alternative but to lean on myself for everything. I was married, bought a house, gave birth to my daughter, divorced, two major knee surgeries, the death of my fiancé, the sale of my house and relocating to Illinois without the majority of my family being around. My baby brother was actually going to college in town at the time, and did help when he could, but as we all know college is demanding of one’s time and attention so he was otherwise indisposed.
Moving to Illinois was not really different than my experience in Philadelphia. However, my father, his wife and my baby sister and brother did make it out for my second wedding. Still I went through two more major surgeries, the purchase of a house and its destruction by fire without any family to lean on.
Through no alternative I just grew to learn that the only one I could truly rely on was me. I would not say it is a preference of mine. In my adulthood I have seen people who never move away from where they grew up and have extended family all around them offer support and assistance, even when not having been asked.
I am sometimes jealous of them, but in the same moment I feel grateful for having learned to be self-sufficient and for the knowledge and experience that has brought me. I feel well equipped to cope with just about anything that is thrown at me…and as you can see there has been a wide variety from which to draw upon!
I hope some of that independence has rubbed off on my daughter, but admittedly I like it when she needs and asks for my help. And maybe the lesson is really about the happiness others get from being able to help. So perhaps as I am getting on in years – okay, 48 probably does not really qualify for the “getting on in years statement” – I will feel more comfortable asking for and receiving help, knowing that I am not selfish for doing so and certainly not a failure, but that it makes those around me feel good as well.