Growing up, we all sought knowledge from our elders. We believed, maybe for just a short time that they had all the knowledge in the world, and that you could ask them anything and learn it, no matter what. I know I certainly felt this way about my parents and my grandparents. Anytime I saw them do something or say something new to me, it only fed the belief that they had all the answers.
Turns out, that was mostly true.
I learned more about life and adulthood from my family then I ever would have imagined to be possible. As an adult, I often reflect back on the lessons my family taught me. It felt like I was always seated somewhere with my father going over his many “isms” about what he believed made up a good person, whether that was the importance of buying fresh vegetables at local markets or buying your books secondhand. I carry many of those words with me now as an adult making my way through the harsh and troubling world.
Of course, I also learned a great deal about the world from my teachers who taught me that spiritual growth resides in reading or that math is all around us and music can be made with the wind. But the lessons I gained from my relatives truly grew with me and are now values that I uphold every day.
Your Parents Taught You Nearly Everything
The most obvious informers of my adulthood were my parents, for very clear reasons. They are the adults that you arguably spend the most time with as a kid, and they influence much more of your behaviors than you might have previously thought.
You see, when my father was teaching me how to drive a car for the first time, I thought in that moment that he was just teaching me how to drive. Turns out, he was teaching me about survival skills, about self-care, he was teaching me caution and defensiveness. He was even teaching me how to think about and care for people around me who I may not even know.
When my mother sat me down when I was 18 to go over all of the methods available to me for paying for college, I thought she was just teaching me about paying for college. In reality, she was teaching me about fiscal responsibility, debt, budgeting, research, finding resources and so much more.
I look back on purchasing my first cell phone with my dad and think, man, I got the new iPhone, and it was so cool. But, in actuality, my father was teaching me about the importance of communication, technology, and responsibility for oneself and one’s expenses.
I wasn’t just growing up learning skills, I was growing up learning values. These values now play a huge role in my decision-making as an adult as well as how I view my place in a world filled with people.
The Oddities From My Sisters
I was shocked when I realized the abundance of valuable information I gained from my siblings. Mostly my sisters, but of course my brothers contributed to my education as well. My baby brother maybe didn’t teach me things in the sense of an elder teaching you something new, but he certainly helped me learn how to care for people younger than me and how to put others above myself — a lesson I will always thank my baby brother for.
My sisters really taught me the value of myself, of being a woman and of maintaining self-esteem and self-efficacy. When I had my first “bad” relationship, where I wasn’t being treated the way I wanted, my oldest sister taught me about valuing myself and deserving more than what I get from boys.
I also have the infamous hippy sister — the free spirit, wild child. She was always travelling and meeting amazing people growing up. She got to have all of these amazing adventures because of the free soul that she was. She taught me the values of being healthy — both mentally and physically. She taught me about balance and love, acceptance and regulation.
Grandparents Are Old School but Still Relevant
Despite being out of touch, culturally, my grandparents always had life lessons to share with me to help me grow into a more well-rounded adult. Aside from learning the value of walking to school, working at 10 and eating grits, my grandparents also taught me some things that I still carry with me today.
I remember starting high school. My grandma came over for breakfast on the first day to see us off. She sat me down and said, “Honey, you’re in high school now. So people are gonna pressure you to smoke.” She had this lingering fear that I would turn into a smoker, like she did at that age.
She warned me of the effects of smoking on your teeth, even going as far as showing me pictures from a dental magazine. Aside from the obvious “don’t smoke” agenda she was pushing, I also gained the much-needed lesson of learning how to care for your body and making choices that benefit your health instead of deteriorate it.
My grandpa taught me more than I could ever begin to write in a single story. He showed me how to change my oil, how to chop down a tree and how to take care of a dog properly. He taught me how to till soil, how to tie knots, how to feed pigs and how to rotate my tires. He even taught me how to grow marigolds. In all of these lessons, I gained one important value. The value of hard work, of self-reliance and efficiency.
My grandfather had so many skills, and it really taught me how to be better adult and how to gain more experience in the world. Surprisingly, he taught me the most about the power of the female body and mind and the abilities we have despite being torn down all the time.
I know that my life is far from over, and that I have many lessons to continue learning from professionals, peers, and coworkers, but I am so happy to have been able to gain so much valuable insight in the small amount of time that I was living among family. Being on my own certainly means figuring out more for myself, but without the insight I gained growing up with some of the greatest people I know, I doubt I would be as successful at life as I am today.