Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Taking Responsibility

"The reason why I tell you these things and ask you these questions is because I'm a planner," says my mom last week during our phone conversation.

"I don't want to see you lose your house. You have to eat. These are different times. You don't just have a child and at eighteen say you're done and stop worrying."

"But as far as you quitting that f'n job, I support you."

My mom is no stranger to foul language and she's not afraid to use it either. A cussing Christian, kind of an anomaly. But then again, this is the woman who marched down our street in the middle of a hot summer night in her pj's, armed with a baseball bat to tell our not so courteous neighbors to be quiet. It must be that Irish DNA.

During that conversation I let her talk. I didn't correct her memory or get upset or yell. We agreed that she wasn't judging me (in 2011), but that she was being a typical Chicagoan pragmatic.

After she was done, I said "Mom, I'm tired of making decisions based on money. I have enough money in the bank to live for at least a year, plus I have my freelance income coming in. Do you not think I'll be able to find a job? I have an MBA. I've always found a job within a few weeks."

"I went to Florida with no extra money in the bank, no job, and I got one in a week. Have I ever asked you for money?"

She sighs and says "No. No you haven't. And thank god because I have the other two. At least I have one that hasn't given me a lick of trouble."

I don't bother to correct her and tell her this isn't true. No child or human is perfect, but I've always paid her back or have just found a way to manage things on my own. I know this is the role I play in my family and in her mind: "the perfect overachiever."

This is the role that I have to take personal responsibility for. It's the self-concept that led me to this company and this job in the first place. It's what molds every word and phrase in to what seems like judgment when it might just be concern and a mom being a mom.

There's a quote about forgiveness that says it's about letting go of the idea that the past can be changed. When I was seventeen and about to graduate from high school, my mom asked me what I wanted to do with my life. It was in the evening, the sun was setting, and we were sitting in the upstairs living room. She on the couch, me on the rocking chair. She was frustrated because even though I'd done what she'd asked and got accepted at the local university, I wasn't excited.

I told her I really didn't want to go. I told her that I wanted to write. She got a look on her face and in her eyes that I remember as a mixture of bewilderment, frustration, and disgust. I was seventeen. To her I probably wasn't wise enough to guide myself or make a good, practical decision with at least some sort of guarantee. But if I stop for a moment, take off my seventeen year old lens, and put on my thirty-four year old one, maybe she was just trying to be a mom then too. They worry. They want the best. I get it, sort of. I don't really know. I'm not a mom. Maybe I myself shouldn't judge in return.

However, there are a few things I have in 2011 that I didn't have in 1994: complete individual power and freedom. Power and freedom allow you to take responsibility for what's causing your unhappiness. It allows you to recognize that the consequences for not doing anything about that "something" is far greater than risking the illusion of security.

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