Friday, June 26, 2009

Genetics Isn't a Choice

My mother and I didn't have a great relationship, and I've worked relatively hard over the years to create space between her legacy and my own character. There was time that I bristled with resentment simply because somebody remarked that my wavy hair reminded them of my mother's. Emotionally volatile, occasionally abusive, and self-absorbed to the point of narcissism, my mother was a troubled personality any way you look at it. I've lived my life trying to be different from that example, though I was never so naive as to think I've escaped those genes entirely.

The ferocity of that insistence has lessened a bit as I grew older, but it's not gone away. I like to pretend that my own habits and personality are more like my father; to say I am like my mother always feels like something of an insult to me. Even now, 13 years after her death, this is true for me.

Yesterday, though, somebody I work with mentioned that one of the key to my modest success in this particular little corner of the business world is that I have a "big personality" that can hold its own amidst some very dominant personalities around me.

It startled me, at first, because I am first and foremost a shy fellow, and it surprises me when people see me as a forceful personality. But I was also startled because I recognized that there was some truth to this, and that this particular trait is one I owe to no one but my mother.

My father has always been, and always will be, a very unassuming and retiring personality. While he was quietly successful as a small town school teacher, it's not likely his character could have succeeded in the world of frequent business trips and meetings with corporate executives.

There are lots of ways I'm exactly like my father, and I'm thankful for them. But there are also lots of ways I'm like my mother, and after all this time, it's kind of silly to keep thinking this is a bad thing. What choice do I have, after all?

At 53 years of age, is this a sign that I'm growing up?


Michelle O'Neil said...

To take those simmilar traits and run with them instead of against them (in a healthy way), that is true expansion.

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