my July is hectic – high season for trainers. Just closed hosting the EBTA Summer Camp 2017 and I’m already delivering a new one – On Arrival European Voluntary Service Training. 13 wonderful young people from all over Europe eager to contribute to the community by doing volunteer work. This time in my hometown, where I spent my childhood.
My mother had it far from easy with me. I was a terrible hard-to-get-on with teenager. We had an intensive love/hate relationship. Though I had a very happy childhood on a farm with my grandmother and grew up among dogs and woods, I hated my town where I went to elementary school. I did not feel well among its people and always felt an outsider, be it due to wearing glasses or being talented in music. So with 13 years I moved out and it was one of the best things I’ve done. But I experienced hard times in the capitol of Slovenia, because I was talking differently, behaving differently, looking differently, which is all of crucial importance for a 13 year old. So it took some extra efforts to establish my space in “the big city” and to find my identity.
With runaway from my hometown, my world expanded massively and eventually even Slovenia became too small, so I moved out of the country for a while, thus becoming a world citizen. So here I am now, returning back to my hometown which I used to hate and was happy to have left behind. But now I saw a completely different picture. On my usual morning run, I visited all the places that marked my childhood – the statues symbolising war victims where I spent hours playing hide and seek with my father (see the pic below), the pub my dad brought me to spend time with his drinking buddies, the park I used to cross almost every day cycling to the music school, the square where I gave my first speech in front of several hundreds people when I was 7 at Pipi Longstrump festival, the promenade where I regularly had the best ice cream covered in chocolate (still there, same ice cream, same topping, same kind service), the kindergarten where my mom used to work and I used to eat, my elementary school window where our class once escaped from, etc, etc. Visiting all those places, some exactly the same, some slightly modernised, brought back sentimental memories. And I realised my memories of the city were happy ones. I had great times in places with people that marked my early life and helped me become an adult I am today. Some of they played a more, some of them less positive role. So I called my mother this morning, told her where I was and thanked her for her hard work, for all the efforts she made trying to be a good mom. Of course she failed. And yet she has done the best she could. Like every parent ever.
So today I am embracing my roots and I am proud that I spent my early years in this city. And I realised how important it is not to deny your roots, whatever they are. They are yours, they helped you grow up, offered you lessons you took (or did not), provided opportunities to learn (or not) and helped contribute to your development. Nowadays sometimes I meet young people who are embarrassed where they come from, ashamed for who their parents were, what house they live(d) in or how much money their parents earned.
Of course most of us have mixed memories and feelings about our roots. And probably most of us have had experiences from the past that we’d rather see hidden. And I guess denying your roots will not help you develop further, because you are denying your past, which has contributed to your present whether you admit it or not. I’m also guessing that embracing your past by remembering the happy memories can help you walk with more confidence into your future.
So be thankful to people from your past. Your parents. Your neighbours. Your (mean) peers. Your friendly postman or waiter. Your teachers. Brothers or sisters. Long forgotten friends. Ex boyfriends or girlfriends. They all left a footprint in who you are today. The choice of what kind of footprint they left, is yours.