It’s a cliché for Lifetime movies and B-list HBO short series everywhere: realizing that a family member has been affected by your actions, or lack thereof, is the epiphany a person needs to shape up.
You likely don’t have to think very hard for incidences of parents quitting smoking to extend their lifespans to increase the probability of seeing their kids grow up, or of people breaking up with their significant others for their families’. But it’s seldom as simple as TV often portrays it.
Background: I am sitting in Starbucks during my senior year of high school. I’ve gained thirty pounds on my once athletic frame, and my eyes are always puffy from either exhaustion or crying. A former teacher of mine and I are having coffee, and she is attempting to persuade me that my home life will not always be as poor as it is. She says that I need to wait it out, that I will succeed with or without my family’s assistance, and that I should not feel alone while enduring it.
I’m 18, I smoke cigarettes in my rebellion to my father’s position as a physician, and put forward effort into being a normal young adult. It’s always been evident that my parents’ wrongs are usually done with good intentions; they, in all candor, believe that what they have done and continue to put me under is the best for me. This fact is little consolation to me, and I end up with multiple breakdowns as a teenager. I give up, and try again; give up, and try again; give up, and try again.
At some point, I started working towards all the wrong things. I don’t know it yet, but the amount of exertion I put into partying and being “normal” is extraordinary, and incredibly far from normal. And yet, I more or less survive life’s trials and tribulations while depressed, resentful of my family, and passively (later, actively) suicidal in my reckless endeavors in the city and outside of it.
My father does not react well to my moving out. He falls into a deeper depression, and becomes nearly obsessed with my daily life. My mother adapts by effectively ignoring my absence and my existence; perhaps, as a result of my sister growing into my role as the elder daughter struggling to find meaning in anything. They blame me for these developments; rather than going somewhere my pain can be remedied, I have left it in my parents’ home to fester. Neither turn out to be true; I took my hurt everywhere I went.
Fast forward two years: my sister is in college while living at home. My parents let her drive, let her wear shorts, and don’t make her abide to an 8pm curfew. She struggles in her studies, and they try to help her in whatever she pursues. My youngest sibling is treated normally for a high schooler. Without going into any detail at all, my mother and father are good to them. And they are good and kind to me. I am no longer angry – I have lived through more than someone my age should have. We have all changed, for better or for worse.
Writing this is not meant to trivialize those with abusive families, nor is it meant to dramatize the tension that all families undergo when during adolescence. Rather, I write this to point out that in addition to circumstances changing, people do indeed change for the better, despite popular belief. We learn from our mistakes. My parents knew that if they maintained their rearing methods, my sisters would struggle, and leave, the way I did.
I love them more than anything, but love is not enough to maintain such relationships, even within families. But love is enough to force people to change, and to forgive. We forgave each other (or at least I like to think so). It is unbearably hard at times to move on at times, but it almost always the best option.