This weekend, as my wife and I were driving to Atlanta, we were having a discussion about the parenting book we've both been reading. Being the introspective (some might self-absorbed) person that I am, I commented on what I saw in the book about my own childhood.
And I had an epiphany. Before I explain, I want to be clear: I am not trying to pass judgment on my parents for what I'm writing. I simply realized that one of the ways my mother responded to my efforts had a profound influence on my entire character. I was, and in many still am, insatiable. One reason this book would suggest as to why was the way my mother was never complimentary to my grades. If I got a 93, she would ask, "Do you understand what you missed?" If I got a 100, she asked, "Was that the highest score possible." These were neither preceded or followed by any form of of the phrase "job well done."
I have no sour grapes over what she helped make me. I became a child who wanted to always do my best and even then I wasn't necessarily pleased. I was a very successful student as a result. I looked for new and better ways to improve myself and my outputs. I was able to use what I learned and what I became to pay my way through my Bachelor's on scholarships, and then get paid to get a Masters and now to get a Ph.D. I see no reason to complain about my psyche in this regard. I would say I did teach myself to deal with doing less than my best, but it still involved coping rather than being satisfied. I have never liked grades below A for myself. At least not in subjects I care about. So yes, I am grateful that the desire she instilled helped make me a success.
The problem is, my insatiable nature was not limited to school. I am overweight. One reason I am overweight is I do not have something in me that says "I am no longer hungry." I wonder if one reason for that is the fact that I was treated as a disposal by various family members (not always my mother) as a child. If there was just a little left of something, I was expected to eat it quite often. If I had not broken my leg at four and been more involved in sports in my early years, then it might not have resulted in my becoming overweight. Still, I can see how some elements of my weight stem from the same insatiable personality. If I had learned to stop myself, I might not be so big. It's something I will struggle with for the rest of my life, I am sure.
So what am I saying? No, I am not saying "it's all my parents' fault." What would I be blaming them for, exactly? I have a wonderful family, I am generally successful in life, I am a happy person most of the time, and I am about to pursue a lifelong dream with the support of a wonderful wife who has urged me to do it. So maybe it is my parents' "fault" that I love education, and their "fault" I am so successful. They certainly deserve a lot of credit for the good in me, so this is not a negative post. It was just something that I've thought about many times in the past - how I was raised - and I realized a lot of who I am could be tied to that one word. I'm not sure I'd change it, either. I just need to be aware of it, and manage it wisely in the places where it can hurt me. As for it helping me in my career... I can't say I will try to rein it in at all.