In my day job, I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently about personality styles and response traits. What makes one person respond one way and another a different way? Same circumstances. Different responses.
So, of course, I started to think about me and how I respond to things. A memory comes to me. I’m in the sixth grade and I’m eleven. It’s winter. I finished swim practice (Lake Erie Pepsi Cola Swim Team; freestyle, back and breast strokes). It’s six thirty p.m. and very dark outside. I am standing waiting for my mom to pick me up. Everyone comes and goes, and then I’m the only one left. They lock the building and I’m standing there, with wet hair, freezing. And, I wait. I have no coins for the pay phone; cell phones aren’t even an idea in some smart person’s head yet.
I’m not sure how long I wait. But in the end, I start walking and trudge home with frozen hair crackling and tears running down my face. Maybe it’s a mile. I would like to say it was five miles, but that would be a lie, so we’ll say a mile.
Here is what I realized. There were alternatives. Walk up to a house on the way home and ask to use their phone? Jeffrey Dahmer was not on anyone’s radar back then. Stop a car and ask for a ride? Wait? Eventually, with my big mouth missing from our family dynamic, someone would have realized I wasn’t there, right? But I chose walking myself home. I don’t remember weighing any alternatives. Mom not there. I’m freezing. Walk home. Would others weigh the alternatives and then decide which was the best course for them in that moment? These are questions that keep me up at night.
Basically nothing’s changed. I live alone contentedly. Run my own company. Very independent. Rarely ask for help, not because I’m the martyr type, but rather, it just never occurs to me. I sort of like that about me. Let me tell you what I didn’t like way back then. When I arrived home that night fifty years ago, no one thought it was such a big deal. “Oh sorry, we forgot.”