Personal Interviews: The Empty Swing

“I felt like my brothers and sisters relied on me to establish this form of unification among the members of my immediate family–how could I let them down?”

After having lunch with my mentor, she noticed that I wasn’t acting like myself–as if something was wrong.  I told her that I was really stressed about school and my upcoming exams.  She had this gut feeling that there was something more than just the stress of college exams.  I started to talk to her about more personal issues dealing with my parents–I’m glad I opened up to her because it seemed like she felt this sense of empathy for me, and after listening to her past experiences, I began to realize why.  This is her story.

She grew up in a normal-sized house in Central Jersey, with a jungle gym and a swing-set in her backyard.  She never really had a fun, innocent childhood, though.   She was the oldest of six kids, and was basically the “mother-figure” of the family after her mom passed away (due to breast cancer) when she was about 17 years old.  She mentioned that her parents would fight a lot and disagree over everything–she would feel hopeless at times because she felt as though she was stuck in the middle.  Should she defend her mother or her father? Should she move out to avoid all of the constant drama at home?  If so, who would look after her siblings?

Until this day, she does not regret sticking with her family and fighting through all of the family fights.  “I felt like my brothers and sisters relied on me to establish this form of unification among the members of my immediate family–how could I let them down?  I wanted to give them the opportunity to actually have a fun-filled childhood–to hang from the monkey bars and to play in the jungle gym; to hear laughter and to see smiles for once; to have the chance to swing on the swings that I never got to swing on.”

After hearing her story, I was truly inspired by how she spoke about her family and how she didn’t feel sorry for missing out on her own childhood–if missing out on being a kid meant providing a bright future for her siblings, she was perfectly fine with that.  Her strong leadership has led her family to become the successful individuals that they are today.   People, especially those part of the younger generations, ought to learn from her story.  We as young leaders often forget why we do the things we do in addition to what has put us in the position we find ourselves in today.  We should not allow our obstacles get in the way of our self-determination and our main focus of the “why” and the “how.”  We are leaders for a reason–we’ve earned our positions and we have the support of those around us.  So, think twice before giving up because you are not just letting yourself down, but also an entire multitude of people who once believed in you.  Just as my mentor put her family first, we must also remember our main purpose, putting others first, and ourselves second.

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