Throughout my entire childhood and teenage years, there have been quite a few people that helped me with my studies. By help, I mean financial help. I come from a poor family, so relatives have taken upon themselves to help me get out of the small village I was living in and get proper education, because they saw potential in me, they saw how much I loved learning new things and how I wanted to make it out of there. Or at least, that’s what they told me at the time.
I’m 24. It’s been 13 years since I left home
My father’s sister took me in her home in a small town for four years, until I graduated 8th grade. Afterwards, another aunt of mine convinced her parents to support me financially throughout high school in Iasi (the city where I live now), which is about 700 kilometres away from my natal village.
I was lucky enough to have a handful of people helping me – either give me money for my studies, or lending me large amounts for my summer trips to the US, or just offering me advice and guidance. All this time, my parents have struggled to help me as much as they could and not let the others pay for everything. They supported me emotionally all the time, they encouraged every decision I ever made. Even if sometimes I blame them for letting others take care of me, I realize this couldn’t have been easy for them either.
Now that I’m a grown up, I see things differently, I realize what huge a responsibility must be to commit to raise and take care of another person’s child and I’m afraid I’ll never be able to do the same for a child that is not mine. I learned a lot by living in someone else’s house, I was put down often for trying to speak my mind, I learned to agree and be respectful no matter what. Humility even became my second nature and I learned people have terrible demons and they can lash out without any reason at all, just because you’re a stranger in their lives and you’ve invaded their privacy.
I learned to cook when I was 12, I started doing my own laundry around the same age, I always cleaned after myself, I learned to sit in a corner, invisible, just making coffee for the adults. I learned to consider myself the poor relative that must never speak or act in some way that might hurt my benefactors. I found great refuge in books and I started dreaming about escaping the stupid world in which I was always humiliated and advised to keep my head down. All this time, my only thought was to help my family and be a good person, but others told me I should study hard, work a lot to show my gratitude towards the people who helped and I should do whatever they asked from me, because I OWE it to them.
I don’t OWE anything to anyone
I didn’t ask for their help, I was a kid when they said they would help me become a great person. How would I know that implied so much effort on their part? How would I know that once I started growing as a person and as a social entity this would make them develop ridiculous expectations from me? Why am I suddenly responsible for their unhappiness? How come I should stop living my life and start living theirs? Is this why they helped me, to later be able to use me for their needs? Does my happiness and success not allow them to have a good life? How come I’ve become responsible for their decisions?
I graduated high school, I finished college and I’m going to get my Master’s Degree next summer. In the meantime, I travelled a lot, had a handful of jobs, voluntereed, studied and recently got married. I now have my own little nest with my husband, a good job, I study, I write whenever I get the chance and I make home decorations for me and my friends. Every now and then (especially during happier times, such as my wedding) I hear from one or another of my benefactors . They accuse me of being ungrateful, of forgetting where I came from, of laughing in their face now that I’m finally out of the “poor” social blanket. I am to blame that they didn’t do anything with their lives or careers, it’s my fault they’re reaching 40 and have family/marriage problems, I am so selfish and blinded by my evil husband that I don’t help them overcome their troubles.
Guess what: my life’s not perfect either
I don’t always sleep well, I often feel guilty for not being the way they want me to be, for not cleaning their houses every Saturday as a sign of gratitude. Whenever I hear them criticising my life, I try not to beat myself up too much because guess what: my life is not perfect either. But I struggle to make it as good as possible. I wake up and smile everyday, I pray for them, I try not to judge anyone, I fight to build beautiful relationships, to create beautiful things, to be grateful for what I have, to cherish my family and friends. I work to pay my own bills, I try not to spend too much on unuseful things, I prioritize needs.
I will probably never stop feeling guilty that I’m not showing my benefactors the gratitude they expect from me, but sometimes, when I think of what I could do to make it up to them, I realize there’s nothing I could do to meet their expectations. So, lower your expectations for me and start building your own lives! I’m not responsible for you and never will be. As I accepted that I must build my own future and expect nothing from others, it’s time for you to accept it’s your job only to make it happen for you.