That Moment When You Realize You Have to Turn Your Back on Where You Came From

No one loves my family more than I do. But it’s time we all accepted an uncomfortable truth: I’ve outgrown it.

Dew Drops

It sounds drastic but I think it’s actually quite universal. And more than that, I think it’s necessary for true growth. Before you hyperventilate (especially if you’re a family member of mine), let’s pull apart exactly what sort of betrayal I’m advocating.

I grew up in New England and moved to the Seattle area when my dad got a job at Microsoft. My mom and I traveled back east frequently to visit our wonderful patriarch, my grandpa, and the grandma, aunts, uncles, and various degrees of cousins in the area. In the past I would’ve said that they nurtured me into the person that I am today. But that’s where the whole betrayal thing happens.

It’s dawned on me that they haven’t. Certainly they nurtured me into the person I was, the young adult who most strongly identified with her extended family. And there are many core attributes and facets of her that I retain. But I’ve shrugged off so much of that person, molted so many times now, that in order to be me, I can’t be them. In order to be true to myself, I have to turn my back on where I came from and embrace who I’ve become.

This was an uncomfortable realization. Suddenly my goals and priorities were different from theirs. I was the outlier. I had changed. I had evolved. When I went back home they were all still the same – same routine, same house, same street, same family, same rituals. And I think they expected me to be the same.

Now let’s be clear before the masses start chanting “Traitor!” I still adore them. I still miss them. We all have the same sense of humor, enjoy the same pastimes, and have years of kinship that bind us strongly together.

But in the interim I had traveled overseas, gotten married, and broken out of some of the boundaries my family had laid for itself. Like the inability to cross the SR-520 bridge, for example. Sorry Mom. 😉

I had become adventurous, ambitious, and more optimistic. I found these changes a bit at odds with my family, which likes to stay within 20 miles of home, not put too much on the proverbial plate or aim too high, and enjoys commiserating. And none of those things are bad. But they aren’t me anymore.

So I had to make a choice. Do I embrace the newfound me, turning my back on my past? Or do I maintain this important connection in every possible way I can, including rejecting these new attributes? Well the answer was clear. Growth requires change. Sometimes change requires discomfort.

And besides, I like the new me.

Embrace change. Embrace broadening your horizons. Embrace the person you discover, even if she isn’t who you expected.

I’ll leave you with a TED Talk, because you know how I love those! It’s by Derek Sivers, and in two minutes he encourages us to shrug off our preconceptions and embrace a whole new way of looking at the world. Which, I think, is the springboard of change, and, if you’re having trouble embracing a “you” that’s in conflict with your family, this should ease your anxiety.

I love that sometimes we need to go to the opposite side of the world to realize assumptions we didn’t even know we had, and realize that the opposite of them may also be true.”


2 thoughts on “That Moment When You Realize You Have to Turn Your Back on Where You Came From

  1. I don’t believe you don’t have to shrug off who you are unless it is keeping you from growing. Who we were for me at least offers key insights into some of triggers or patterns in behaviour and helps me decide where I want to go. I come from a nomadic family, we’re talking three generations of migratory types but I have married into a family that likes to travel but finds it odd that we move country every two years – maybe it is. What I adore about my family is that they cheer you on even when they are down and because we have been nomads together at one point they get the way I live to some extent not fully but all that matters is they root for me all the way. Growing pains are absolutely part of this journey and sometimes people grow with us, other times it’s enough to love what we had, fall into a role when you’re visiting and know they do love you even if they don’t get all of it. Have you read ‘Never Eat your heart out’ by Judith Moore, she writes a great chapter on moving away and coming back, what that feels like, that people feel like you left them behind. It was the first time I understood why sometimes people don’t want to know too much when you’re back from being out there because you left them or because your life could be saying something is missing in theirs or they are doing the same old thing, no one wants to feel that. For me I always say I love the travel but the inbetween are rather ordinary. Anyway, off my soap box. Goodluck on your journey as I am on a similar quest myself. Growing pains I guess:-)

    • I definitely agree with you that remembering where we came from and who we were gives us insights as we go forward. That’s kind of universal, I think, and why studying history is so important for humanity in general. But as you said, I think it was definitely a matter of “growing pains” for me; I wasn’t just remembering who I was, I was holding onto her fiercely, afraid to let go!

      But I am learning to embrace change and that leaving “where I came from” behind, though remembering it fondly, so that I can go forward may feel like betrayal, but it’s just a part of growing up and nothing to feel guilty about. 🙂 Thanks for such a well-thought-out comment, I really appreciate it!

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