Our past so often defines who we are. Many of us accept this and acknowledge today’s personality and behaviors and see their link to the past. Sometimes, we fight against the past, not letting it control us but rather, we move beyond it so that we can become the person we want to be in spite of our past. Whichever way we handle the past, our experiences do impact us and contribute to the way we see the world and the way we interact with the world.
One defining part of my past is that I never got saddle shoes*. All my friends had saddle shoes. I wanted a pair so that I could be like my friends. Who doesn’t when they are young and care about being the same and being part of the group? Well, I didn’t get a pair. Did I feel sad? Yes. Did I feel angry? Yes. But, life went on and I was okay.
Let me provide some context. My father was the sole breadwinner in our family. He had a stable job that he worked in for over 60 years. He supported our five-person family. We had a roof over our heads, we had food, and we had all the necessities in life. There was little extra for whimsy. I had shoes so why did I need another pair … just because all my friends had them? We didn’t travel other than our annual 2-week summer vacations at the beach where we went to the ocean every day, played in the sand, and went for walks in the evenings (usually on a boardwalk). This was my life and it was fine. I shared a bedroom with my sister and together with our brother, we shared a tiny closet. This was my life and it was fine. But, I never got those white and blue saddle shoes – that one stung. That said, I survived and I learned that you can’t have everything you want in life or certainly, not everything you want immediately.
Fast forward to today. I am okay with not getting everything I want – my father taught me that. Yet, I frequently see people who want and are not willing to live without. They cannot fathom not having everything they want. Indeed when you are never told “no” you can’t have something, there is a risk that as an adult, you can’t handle disappointment. It may heighten anxiety and instill fear because how can you survive without this particular item you want? You need it (so you think). And without it, what will you do?
As a young child, I didn’t have options available to me regarding those saddle shoes. But in many situations, there are options. You may not get what you want instantly but you can move toward your goal in an intentional way. Start with a plan. For example, upgrade your skills to enable you to seek the job you want; save money so you can buy that item without going into debt; put in time and effort to improve relationships and make them more meaningful.
My father grew up with nothing but a stick to play with. He lost his mother at a young age and he learned to manage with his father and two sisters. He was in the Canadian army during WWII – an experience that taught him to (i) make the most of what you have; (ii) learn to handle life’s and downs; and (iii) appreciate what you have.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my father instilled in me an appreciation for what I do have, not to focus (for too long) on what I wish I had, and to adapt to life’s curve balls. Appreciating what one has in life and not focusing on what one doesn’t have makes for an overall happier life.
And regarding those saddle shoes – I am looking into current day versions to see if they still interest me!
*Saddle shoes are named for their separate (2-tone) cut, which resembles a saddle on a mount. They were developed in the 1900s and were popular throughout each century reaching the height of their popularity in the 1950s. They were often worn with bobby socks and poodle skirts. They remained popular in the 1960s, the 1970s, and beyond with today’s versions incorporating a modern variety on the classic 2-toned Oxford style.