How 10 Months With My Grandma Taught Me More Than 20 Years With My Parents
In my last article, An Open Letter To My Mom, I mentioned how my grandma had helped me. I thought I would elaborate.
On August 2017, Grandma heard Mom was having trouble with me. Mom had told her and the rest of the family about our problems. Despite this knowledge, she offered to let me live with her for the foreseeable future. For this, I owe her my life.
In the previous three months, I got kicked out of my grandparents’ house and my parents’ house for the second time. I thought I had used up all my family favors and would have to strike out on my own. This was something I was not ready for.
My mental illness is severe enough to make cashiering and food service jobs stressful enough to land me in the hospital. I was not qualified for any other job. Therefore, striking out on my own was impossible. Not to mention I couldn’t handle school and a job at the same time.
So, when Grandma offered to take me in, I saw it as a Godsend. I was determined not to mess it up.
I felt nervous and excited when I arrived from the airport. From the get-go, Grandma stated the ground rules. First, always be honest. When you have a problem with something someone else in the house is doing, say something. Second, everyone contributes. You can cook dinner, wash dishes, clean, vacuum, anything as long as you contribute. No one will nag you to do things. You must do them of your volition. Third, we help and support each other. If you need something, tell the household what it is and how they can help.
These rules changed my life. Instead of having someone nagging me to do my chores I would have to remember them. I was in an environment where no one told me what to do. This was revolutionary to my personal growth. I was now treated as an adult and forced to be responsible for my actions.
Making Decisions For Myself
I still hesitate when making big decisions. I’m used to being told what to do. Instead, Grandma asks me questions about things to consider before I make my decision. She teaches me to evaluate the possible outcomes and consequences. I am learning to take responsibility for my actions.
I quit my job back in February. As I mention in my article, Why I Quit Work For My Mental Health, I quit over the phone, with no notice. Grandma disagreed with my choice and said she didn’t support it. But that’s the beauty of it: I have learned to make the best decision for myself, despite what others may think or say.
The first time I decided for myself was in September 2017. I had moved a few weeks before and was tired of the freedom of having nothing to do. So, I went back to school. But I didn’t want to go to college at the campus an hour away. So, I enrolled in an online program. It was the best decision of my life. I learn and retain information better. I understand the concepts better. Most of all, it has led me to make connections with other students and to become a contributor here.
I started out majoring in an Associate’s program for Liberal Arts and General Studies. After a trimester passed, I did something radical. I changed my major to a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing.
You may ask why I call this radical. It was the first time I had followed my gut since childhood. It is the first time I listened to my heart. I chose what I wanted to do based on my passions instead of financial security or salary. The first time I stood up for myself and did what I wanted to do.
This action has had a domino effect. I quit my job when I knew others wouldn’t approve of the way I handled it. I started a blog even though I was scared. I joined Coffee House Writers and Functionally Fictional as a Content Writer. I started a freelance editing business for some income. I applied to remote writing and editing jobs, even though I am under-qualified.
What I Learned
In short, I am taking risks. I tend to err on the cautious side of things, but living with Grandma has taught me three things:
- To take responsibility for my actions.
- To do what I want, regardless of what others think.
- To take risks because “Life’s full of adventures, but no one promises they’ll be good,” and “Why not?”
Grandma has fostered an environment conducive to my personal growth. She gives me books such as Healing the Child Within by Charles Whitfield and Becoming Your Own Parent by Dennis Wholey. These books make me think and help me examine my upbringing. They also tell me how to heal from the damage my childhood caused.
I owe Grandma a lot. She taught me and helped me grow as a person. She helped me start the journey to heal from my childhood. She prepared me for becoming an independent adult in the past ten months more than Mom did in twenty years.
When I asked how I could repay her, her response was, “You’ll never be able to repay me. Share what you learned with someone else. Help others the way I have helped you. Pay it forward. That is the best kind of repayment there is.”