You know what I was interested in during High School?
I was involved in a few things: I worked at a movie theater, I was on the Mayor's Youth Council, I was an SCA officer, but none of these things held my interest. I just did them and looked forward to the completion of the task at hand. Well, unless there was a cute boy involved, then I was more enthusiastic.
I was looking for love. In school I didn't take specific interest in any of my classes, I only paid enough attention to get a decent grade, never to commit the content to long term memory. I was far more concerned about whether or not I'd get a love note from my latest pursuit.
I was driven, not to succeed, but to feel loved. It didn't matter so much how I felt about the person. As a matter of fact I don't think I spent a whole lot of time worrying about whether or not we meshed and why or why not. I would simply make a selection and hope that based on my determination that the young man was handsome and appealing, he would have an agreeable personality. Turns out far to often that was simply not the case.
Then pity the fool boy who liked me first. If you liked me first, then it was obvious to me you were either a loser or desperate. In my mind if you had worth I needed to somehow trick you into liking me, it certainly wasn't going to happen naturally.
I wondered through the years what made me think so poorly of myself, and why I was so desperate to be loved. Turns out it's not so hard to figure out: I didn't feel loved by my dad.
While intellectually I understand that he loved me, it wasn't expressed in a way that I felt. My father's general disposition surely didn't feel like love. Tempermental and at times physically abusive, his arrival at home from work made me hold my breath. What was his mood? Good or bad? How was the evening going to play out?
His anger would invoke terror within me, never knowing if this time it was just yelling or if it would get physical. I say 'just' yelling but whoo-eee, it was disturbing. Compared to my brothers I fared better on the physical . I can still see in my mind's eye my father jumping off the back porch onto my brother and pummeling him. I remember being hit with a belt myself. It took until writing this now to realize that the memory of my dad beating my brother did it's own damage, even though I wasn't the one being hit. My heart is suddenly thumping with that truth.
Sure my dad had a softer side, but he couldn't be trusted. His disposition could change quickly and what triggered the fury was ever-changing and unpredictable. He was the living example of "taking it out on someone."
It was a stressful life he lead, no question. I'm sure this contributed to his disposition. It was pre-credit card days and lots of corners were cut to make ends meet. I remember the winters with plastic sheeting hung between the upstairs and down so that only the downstairs was being heated. I remember when things broke there was no calling a repair man, it would often take time, but my father would sort out how to fix it himself. When the heating bill was too high we all spent the next Saturday under the house, adding fiberglass insulation. If frost was coming we'd be under there wrapping pipes to make sure they didn't freeze.
A friend recently made a comment about my making one of my three son's lunch for his summer job. I would have never thought I'd be making lunch for an 18 year old, but I do. He surely has the skill set, I didn't overlook teaching him that. I told my friend I think I do it as a response to feeling like my parents didn't do anything to try to make my life easier. In the case of my dad, I believe quite the contrary, he often made life very hard.
I make my son's lunch for the same reason I bring the other son a cold cup of sweet tea while he's at his computer. I want each child to know he's important and valued, and that he matters to me. I want him to feel loved and cared about.
Chances are if you don't feel like you matter or are loved at home, you'll try to find it elsewhere, I did. Like me, your qualifications for who loves you likely won't be very rigorous, what with your standing record of unlove-ability. Like me, you may not know yourself well enough to have any idea who you'd really enjoy spending time with.
In high school I wasn't learning to play an instrument or to bake or figuring out that I truly enjoyed writing essays for English. There was no self-exploration or discovery, there was little personal growth. I was too busy looking for love. What missed opportunities.
That's the mold I want to have broken with my sons. I want their inner hole to be filled, such they can then think, "I am loved, now what do I like? What brings me joy, makes me think, what excites me?"
Unlike me at that age, I want them to feel anchored in love. I want them to feel solidly grounded so they have the freedom to find joy, excitement, passion, and fun. I don't want them on a relentless search for love and acceptance. I hope the constant love they have gotten from both me and their father has provided a sense of worthiness and security. I hope they are open to accept love with another when the time comes, but aren't driven to find it because they feel incomplete.
While it's a bit embarrassing to reflect on my boy-crazy youth, I can't go back and change who I was. I can't tell that teenager to figure out who she is and what makes her tick before trying to find a match. I wish I knew then what I know now, but there was no way.
I can't fix my dad's mistakes, and I don't resent him for them. He did his best. I do work hard to not make the same ones. I will continue to double-down on all I do to show my kids that I love them, because I think that provides them the security to explore both themselves and their world.
As for me, I am good. While untethered, I am not in a panic state to find a mate. I am loveable. I am worthy. It will come if it should. Meanwhile, if you need me, I'll be right over here, loving on my boys.