What experiences made you what you are?

Paper is the bane of my life. I have five four-drawer filing cabinets—that’s a total of 20 large drawers. And I have file folders for everything, from appliances to recipes.
My recipe folders go from appetizers to soups, but my appliance folders are more numerous. There’s a folder for each appliance we own, whether a coffee pot, an electric toothbrush, or a washing machine.
I have separate folders for each of the more than 700 weekly columns written in the last 15 years, as well as a drawer of folders for column ideas waiting to be written.
But even with good organization, I often feel terribly overwhelmed by paper. So last week, I looked through some obscure folders, hoping to toss lots of paper.
As I leafed through the folders, I once again remembered why I have so much paper. The most interesting thing I found was an undated sheet of paper entitled “Important themes of youth that made me what I am.”
This introspective piece was written more than 20 years ago (I know because it was printed on an antiquated dot-matrix printer).
I had eight points that “made me what I am,” with the first one being “Happy/everything was fun.”
Then I went on to say money and happiness are not connected, and that it’s a “good idea to be a little extravagant even when poor.”
My parents bought a farm just before the stock market crash of 1929 and they never fully recovered financially. But being strapped for cash didn’t affect the happiness of my young life a bit.
Eating an “Eskimo pie” after a fishing trip or roller-skating to visit our neighbours was enough happiness for me.
As the first grandchild on the maternal side, I had a “world of significant adults.” I thought I was special to my grandmother, but it may just have been her way of making everybody feel special.
Aunt Naomi and Uncle Lee, aged 16 and 13, were delighted to have a baby in the family. But at the same time, I had “No pressure to perform. The important people in my life liked me for being me, not for what I did.”
As a result, I didn’t do very well in grade school or high school. But my internal controls took over later, and by graduate school I was a straight ‘A’ student.
There were very difficult experiences. Like the time my four-year-old brother was hit by a car and I felt guilty that I hadn’t stopped him from crossing the street. But still, I prefer to focus on the happy times.
In my world view, happiness is not connected to great riches and people are more important than their accomplishments.
What were the early influences in your life? Why not make a list of “Important themes of youth that made me what I am.” Were you happy, or did you have some scarring experiences?
Did you grow up poor or affluent? Did you love school, or was school hard for you?
No matter what the answers, think about how those experiences shaped your life and influenced how you see the world. If some of your experiences make you feel bad, decide to focus on ones that make you feel good.
Then build on those positive memories to create a wonderful NOW.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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