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Becoming your parents

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MARCH 10, 2023

I was recently on the phone with my younger sister when she told me that I was turning into Mom. Initially, I was insulted. I mean, who wants to be compared to their mother? It sent me down an endless internal spiral on how exactly I was beginning to resemble my parents. I diligently combed through all childhood instances that left a lasting impression on my personality today.

If people used one word to describe me, it would definitely not be calm. One thing I certainly inherited from my dad was his anger issues. His inability to sit still and listen to fast food workers messing up his order is a feature of his I’m still not too fond of. When we get into arguments, he becomes a master manipulator, knowing perfectly what to say to get me riled up.

I had fooled myself into believing I was nothing like him. It was only until recently in my adulthood in which I’ve realized I’ve become his spitting image. I catch myself in arguments with close ones utilizing the same manipulation techniques my father does. Reacting with identical outbursts, I seem unable to control the anger that consumes me. Quite frankly, I’m not too proud of it. 

My mother is a woman of power and respect. Raising six kids on her own while trying to build a future for her family, she has had enough success to justify her grand pride. In short, my mother has never let any man put her in her place, and she took immense responsibility in the household after separating from my father. Figuratively speaking, she has assigned herself to be the “man” of the family. 

However, this same ego contributed to my mother’s lack of understanding when it came to being sympathetic toward our failures. Growing up, my siblings and I were consistently reminded of the sacrifices our parents endured to ensure the stability of our futures. There really was no space for mistakes. Being criticized for any wrongdoings growing up fostered my unhealthy need for validation through academic and professional success. As I grew up with perfection as a standard, I held everyone around me to the same expectations. Without fully understanding my own actions, I often found myself criticizing my sister in the same manner. That’s when it dawned on me that I embodied the person I so firmly believed I wasn’t.

But this wouldn’t be an honest and all-encompassing perspective of my childhood if I didn’t emphasize the important, positive characteristics I took from my parents as well. My father might be a skilled gaslighter, but above all, he has one of the most caring souls I’ve ever seen. He selflessly puts others needs before his own and prioritizes the well-being of his children. Even when money was scarce, he scraped the edges to give us what he could, no matter what. 

From him, I learned to mark the sky as the limit when caring for those important to you. My father showed me that selflessness in this world is a rare find and possessing it made one irreplaceable. I am proud to say he served and continues to serve as my role model in becoming an unconditionally supportive person.

My love and support come in many shapes and forms. One of those is being able to utilize my voice to stand up for those around me. My mother would never hesitate to defend her loved ones and she never failed to speak up for those who couldn’t do it themselves. I admired her resilience and only hoped that I could grow up with her confidence. I now use her as an exemplar when debating my conscience on whether or not I should speak up in certain situations. I think it’s safe to say that with her in mind, I always make the right choice. 

In my transition from adolescence to adulthood, I’ve found it nearly impossible to avoid letting my past dictate my future. It’s so easy to hold my parents accountable for traits of my own which I find unbearable. But I truly would not have the range of unique aspects that make me who I am to this day without them. I would not be hardworking without the arduous experience of working at the age of 15. I would not have such an empathetic approach to others if I didn’t personally watch my parents go through similar challenges. They ultimately piece everything together, uniting all the admirable traits, weird habits and strange mannerisms into the adult I’ve become.

A majority of us could so easily blame our parents for any shortcomings we realize about ourselves in our adulthood. I’m not here to say those thoughts are completely invalid, but what we inherit from our parents is completely what we make of it. These aspects and characteristics are simply family heirlooms — allow them to be used entirely or ignored completely. Just because we were raised a certain way doesn’t mean we have to reflect as such in our adult lives. We can pick and choose what we take away from these experiences — all the good and the bad. I believe this is called growing into yourself and I personally believe it’s a journey worth taking. 

Keylin Vasquez writes the Friday column on being a person of color at UC Berkeley. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.

MARCH 10, 2023