I remember a day back in grammar school, possibly sixth grade, when the homework assignment was to write about someone we admire, who we look up to and aspire to be for whatever reason. And for whatever reason, I drew a blank. I remember telling my mother about how I was struggling and that “I guess I’ll write about Tata”. The look in her eyes at that moment, that was probably the first time I realized I hurt my mother. I’m sure she was shocked that I wouldn’t write about her. How could I not admire my mother and aspire to be more like her? Even at the age of 35 I don’t have an answer for you or for her. But honestly, I just never wanted to be like anyone else, not on a deep level and almost never on a superficial level and you know what? That’s due to my mother. My mother did and continues to teach me life lessons. The six lessons my mother taught me as a child and now as an adult are:
- There is joy in everything. This lesson is what still brings me joy to this day. I remember my mother cleaning on the weekends and cleaning was fun. Fun?!?! Believe me, I know it’s definitely a chore and I can’t stand doing it, but my mother always had music blasting, singing and dancing as she dusted the tables and vacuumed the carpet. She would make us get up to dance with her even when my brother and I didn’t want to and it was fun. As a single mother who worked two jobs, if there was joy in cleaning a messy house caused by your two children who didn’t clean up after themselves, then I know there is definitely joy in EVERYTHING.
- Life is good. This seems odd coming from a girl who was raised by a single mother in the projects but, I never thought my life was lacking anything. I always had food to eat whenever I was hungry, toys to play with, good friends. My mother never exposed me to the negatives. She only ever showed me the positives in life and that was all through her own actions. She seemed happy and like life was good, so why would I think otherwise? My mother was and still is my foundation.
- I am more than enough. I remember looking at old photos of my mother when I was younger and one day she told me about a call back she had for a foot cream ad. She was so nervous and insecure because she thought she was not pretty enough to compete with the other women waiting alongside her, that she turned around and left. She didn’t model again. But with that, she told me how she didn’t appreciate her beauty. Not in the way that you would think. No, she wasn’t regretting that she wasn’t more stuck up about her looks. She was regretting that she never realized that no matter what, she was more than enough. She let looks define her and therefore hold her back and she told me,
“you may be pretty but there are also girls who are prettier. So what?”
Basically, it doesn’t matter if I think someone else is prettier or that other people might think someone else is prettier. That does not mean I cannot do anything and everything I put my mind to. I’m so grateful for that because even on those days when my insecurities sink in, I have that voice that says, “so what?”
- Always be truthful. Oh, the cardinal sin in my house growing up – telling lies. That was the most crushing thing to my mother. Not even a “white lie” was tolerated. My mother never got mad, she just got crushed and hurt if anyone ever told her an untruth. I think that’s why even to this day I can’t play practical jokes that require tall tales. I just feel dishonest. But it’s definitely a great life lesson. How can we build a relationship with someone if that person lies to us? Even if it’s a “white lie”. But that is what helped me to have integrity. Integrity in my work, my life and everything in between.
- Always be one step ahead. This is a difficult one to sum up. Being one step ahead is not about being conniving or selfish or about playing games. This truly is about preparation in life in a way I never knew before. This is not about an action, but a result. You see, my mother taught me to always learn from mistakes – my mistakes and those of others. But she also taught me to never give up. If I was not able to accomplish a goal, she just had me try another way and said I could find myself ahead of the task if I took the time to observe mistakes around me so that I could avoid them and push forward. Maybe I should really have this life lesson read “be observant” or “be prepared”, but I feel even those are not telling the full story behind what my mother taught me and the great lesson I learned from her.
- True love is acceptance and support. I remember one day getting called to the principal’s office in grammar school and being questioned about something I did not do. Of course the principal didn’t believe me because someone said he/she saw me, “Melissa”, and so that was that. I was told that the principal would call my mother and when I got home I was so scared I would get into trouble for something I did not do. My mother asked me three times if I was telling the truth. She wasn’t mad, just stern in her questioning. And she kept saying, even if you did do this bad thing, tell me the truth and I will still support you. In that moment, she showed me that real, true and honest love is 100% acceptance and unconditional support. No matter what goes wrong, that moment built a foundation of trust for me. My mother will always be there to support me and to fight any battles with me.